What do you do when you are stuck? Stuck in a meeting, stuck in traffic, in line at the store, stuck at home? The reasons for stuck-ness are many…mandated attendance, weather, the person in front of you can’t move; however the feeling is typically the same. Anger. It may start off as slight irritation, moving into annoyance and frustration before moving into full blown anger; however typically, being stuck makes us mad!
So how are we going to get through this UNENDURABLE situation? To start, stop exaggerating! It’s not unendurable. It’s not typically as bad as we make it out to be in our head. Let me give you an example: I like Starbucks (fact), but the line at the drive through is absolutely ridiculous (opinion). My problem solving skills lead me to park and go inside every time I go there. I was very content with this decision. One day, while inside, I was so excited to see that there is a screen for the baristas that tells them how long people have been in the drive-thru. I expected to see 10 minutes….15 minutes…FOREVER! To my amazement, the longest wait time was 2 minutes 45 seconds. Really??….the line was LONG when I walked in! Then it hit me: I’ve been inside for about 3 minutes too! Why is it that being trapped in my car causes me to perceive time moving so much slower? I felt stuck!
How to guide to get unstuck:
- Realize that the trick isn’t actually to get unstuck, it’s to change how you feel about being (what you perceive as) stuck.
- Stop judging. Words like should, always, terrible, OMG, worst, never…are typically attached to a judgment. Instead, be descriptive. Explain how you feel and why.
Ex: Repleace “this is the longest line EVER, I ALWAYS get stuck in long lines” with “I am sitting in line at Starbucks, this has happened before”
- Observe your posture.
Ex: Take your fingernails out of the steering wheel, let your shoulders fall from your ears back to their relaxed state, remove the scowl from your face…
- Consider other possible alternatives to catastrophizing
Ex: I finally have time to respond to those text messages (safely while not driving), I can plan the next few hours of my day, I can sit here and remember a positive memory to improve my mood, consider things you are grateful for.
- Stop fighting reality. In conjunction with #4, the reality is that you are in a situation that you can’t immediately get out of; catastrophizing is an example of the situation worse. Accept that you are where you are (this will reduce suffering).
I am wondering if you are willing to give it a try? It’s amazing what changing your interpretation of a situation will do for your mood!