Dahlings! An Announcement!A year ago today I just Got The Bloody Thing Done and launched the podcast I had been threatening and longing to do for years. And on it’s first birthday I am thrilled to announce that I’ve got another bloody thing done! Something I’ve wanted to do for years! My amazing friend Tamica Sears who is a successful HR manager and corporate coach has graciously invited me to be “The Softer Side of Sears” and by offering my services as a life coach. One Inch Past Scary Life Coaching and Consulting is officially launched and you can check out my services and book a free consultation to see how I can help you to remove the barriers in your mindset and get on with feeling fulfilled and energized.
I have learned so much over the course of my journey out of PTSD and I’m delighted that the last somewhat dramatic year was recorded for posterity in more or less real time as I reached the tip of the ice burg (after a lifetime of building and working to move beyond the trauma that was holding me back). This year may have seemed very distressing and chaotic and often it was but what remained when I finally really had the refining fire was all the good stuff. Healthy boundaries, great relationships and the freeing up of a lot of energy to move beyond my own healing, my own story and use all I have learned to be able to meet others where they are and help them to use the tools that have given me so much freedom, clarity and peace after all this time.
So without further ado here are some of most important tools I use every day. For as long as I can remember I have been a Ruminator of note. By “ruminate” I mean I had the tendency to get stuck on a negative thought which would swiftly lead me to massive downward spiral. I talk about one of the more ridiculous spirals I used to regularly find myself on today’s podcast and youtube vid.
Here are 5 ways To Be A Ruminator Terminator
1.Pay close attention to the physical sensations in your body and respond proactively.
Your body will send anxiety messages via physical sensations before your brain registers anxiety. If you notice them and respond to them proactively before your brain starts to create stories around them you can absolutely avoid an anxiety attack, a depression spiral or even just a bad mood from escalating. If you notice a weird feeling in your stomach, a clenched jaw, fists, clammy palms, sense of dread etc head it off by responding with messages to your nervous system designed to switch off the cortisol/stress response. Some of my favourites include “sleep breathing” (I will breathe in for 1, 2, 3, 4 and then out for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.) All of our stress responses are primal. Our body doesn’t know the difference between immediate physical danger or emotional upheaval, the stress hormones it releases will be the same for a sense of rejection as they would be for running away from a saber tooth tiger. Likewise, if you breathe in a way that mimics deep, relaxed sleep.. your body will almost immediately get the message that you are indeed deeply relaxed and it will stop releasing the stress hormones. Cortisol can only be released in 90 second increments so once you notice it and respond to it proactively you can absolutely stop that physical spiral. Since our brains love and need to match their conscious observations with whatever we are feeling physically, it will also be a lot more likely to stop scanning it’s “database” for bad news and reasons to validate the body signalling that it stressed and upset. This will allow you to snap out of the spiral and become aware of your present non-life threatening reality. Remember, practically nothing actually is a life or death situation. Almost every circumstance can be solved, sorted out, fixed, adjusted or improved. We can stop our body from bathing itself in life-or death hormones on a several daily times basis if we just use physical cues to make it chill the hell out already. It honestly is as simple as that. Truly.
2. Do not let your phone dictate how your day is going to go.
So many of us greet the day with our phone in hand. Often a coping response to a downward ruminating spiral is to numb or distract by picking up our phones. Honestly? This not the best idea. Remember how your brain is all about the confirmation bias? If you are in a triggered state, feeling anxious or negative and spiraling down and your grab your phone and start scrolling you are looking at two possible scenarios. At best, your phone is just going to put off dealing with the inevitable leaving you to confront it later, that much later for work/school/life . But the worse scenario is more likely. That negative filter which caused you to grab your security blanket/distraction phone in the first place is going to stay on as you scroll. And everything you see on your phone will only serve to provide “evidence” for those negative feelings. If your physical sensations trigger a negative thought pattern, the bombardment of stimulus from social media, texts and emails in that vulnerable state will only provide evidence to confirm that your negative feelings are valid. For example, you wake up with a stressed out stomach, you start to ruminate about a test you are unprepared for, you start to spiral into feelings of inadequacy and self loathing, you hop onto social media. Everyone else appears to have their shiz totally together in sharp contrast to you. Suddenly everything you see is reinforcing your sense of failure, anxiety, being left behind and thus you spiral further.
IF you absolutely must start the day by staring at your phone screen I highly recommend having something ready to go that you know will help you to break the spiral of rumination if necessary and can be trusted to help you to shift into a good mental state. A podcast, self help book, uplifting youtube video or music.
3. Feed and Water Yourself!
People are dehydrated long before they even feel thirsty. Most people are dehydrated at this very moment. Your body knows it long before your mind has processed that message and it starts to send up anxiety and agitation signals which you won’t process as thirst until a lot later. Sometimes you can interrupt a downward spiral by just watering your body! Think about how quickly a plant perks up on a hot summers day with a little water. Your nervous system calms down even faster when it is hydrated. Just the act of drinking will also signal to your body that the fight/flight hormones are not currently needed. Your body knows that it can’t be drinking water and fighting off a bear so if you are drinking water or sipping tea there is most likely no emergency and no need to keep pumping stress hormones. Likewise, if it’s been a while…Eat Something! Low blood sugar makes us crazy. I have seen people go from suicidal to stable after their blood sugar stabilizes. I have gone from suicidal to stable after getting rehydrated and fed. Take care of those things early and often.
4. Change your scenery.
Most rumination happens in bed so a really good way to break the cycle is to simply…Get out of bed (this is why I recommend putting the phone on the other side of the room if you use it as an alarm) . If you possibly can…get outside. Being outside is clinically proven to soothe and reset your nervous system incredibly quickly and effectively. It is much harder to ruminate if you switch up your environment. If you are truly serious about intervening before rumination sprirals out of control do some simple stretches, a quick yoga flow or a brisk walk. I can’t think of a single time I didn’t feel significantly better after simply walking outside.
5. Give yourself permission to come back to it.
If all else fails and you are already on the Rumination Ruination train to hell, tell yourself that once you have counted backward from 5 you need to hit pause, and super deliberately hop onto another happy/neutral thought train for at least 5 minutes and then you can come back to it. Trying to stuff a stressful thought or ban it from your mind it will only lead to significantly more anxiety and the likelihood of that thought becoming even more insistent, but there is no harm whatsoever in hitting pause, taking a break from the spiral by giving yourself full permission to come back to it. Doing some deep breathing and exercise, changing scenery, eating and drinking or focusing on something positive (writing down 5 things you are grateful for) in the interim will often cancel the need to revisit it or help you to keep things from spiraling as quickly and as far.
None of this is revolutionary stuff but it is all backed by hard science and using these methods every day has transformed my life. At first it was really hard to break the patterns and habits but now these strategies are kicking in more and more automatically. It should be noted that dealing with truly intrusive thoughts and flashbacks from PTSD or OCD requires the care of a therapist specializing in those areas but anyone can employ these methods to manage a spiral in the moment.
Do you have any other tactics that work for you?! Don’t forget to check out the full episode on my podcast/youtube channel for more ideas!
Til next time!