By Ms. Lynn Biella, 103rd Airlift Wing, Director of Psychological Health
/ Published October 23, 2014
BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE - East Granby, Conn. -- Do you find yourself stuck in a situation or pattern that you really want or need to change and don't know how? If you are unsure if the situation warrants change, ask yourself what advice you would give to a friend if they were in the same situation. Typically, taking the personal connection out of the equation makes it much clearer.
Most times we know what we need to do but bringing ourselves to make the necessary changes is the challenge. Fear stands in our way. You can take away some of the power associated with the fear by asking yourself, "What is the worst thing that could happen? And if that happens, what is the worst thing that will happen?" Chances are great the worst thing will not happen and if, it does, by giving it a little thought ahead of time you can develop a plan to deal with it. Talk yourself down from the fear-based place and understand that we all have to take action despite some fear.
Acceptance is the next hurdle to overcome. See the situation for what it is, not what you wish it was or what it was in the past. We tend to have glimpses of insight that we then talk ourselves out of. Don't over analyze! Try to take the emotional element out of it. Making a list of pros and cons can really be helpful. Keep this list and if you find yourself waning, read the list repeatedly, if necessary.
In most situations the action steps that need to be taken are clear. For example, if your job is making you miserable and you are unable to change the elements of it that are causing distress or you are unable to find a way not to be negatively affected then start looking for a new job. If you are in a relationship that is causing you harm and to change this requires your partner to make changes that they are unwilling to make, end the relationship. Take action, keep the resolve and manage your emotions.
Change is stressful. Commit to self-care measures to decrease the stress. Exercising is a great way to burn off anxious energy. Spending time with friends and people who love you also helps. Do not to spend the whole time talking about what is upsetting to you as that keeps you stuck in the same feeling state rather than changing it to something better. A healthy level of distraction is in order. Be mindful of your alcohol use. It can be tempting to tune it all out with significant intoxication. This is avoidance not distraction which can interfere with effectively dealing with the situation and can create new problems.
Sometimes stress escalates to significant symptoms of anxiety or panic. We tend to work ourselves up with our thinking and worry about things that have not happened and may never happen. Breathe! Take a deep breath in to the count of eight, hold it for a count of four and exhale for a count of eight. Do that at least five times and your body will begin to calm. Practice the deep breathing when you are less stressed. Like anything else, the more rehearsed something is the easier it will be to do during periods of stress. There are a number of other distraction techniques to de-escalate anxiety and panic. I would be happy to teach them to you and coach you on their use.
Finally, focus on what it is that you do want in a reality-based way. For example, if you are in a toxic relationship focusing on changing your partner is not realistic. We cannot change others. What is realistic is to desire a loving relationship that is nurturing and respectful to all involved. Your job is to be clear on your intention and open to receive.