Burnt Out? How to Beat a Case of the ”F**k Its”
We’ve all been there! It can come on fast - or boil up from a slow brew. There are things to do - goals to be pursued - tasks to be managed. But every ounce of you wants to avoid, procrastinate, and plain old throw in the towel!
Your mind starts offering you one hundred different ways to feel better NOW! All the usual suspects come into awareness: what you can eat, drink, smoke or literally fornicate to feel good, or at least less bad. All the while, these thoughts seem to smother your awareness of the likely consequences of pursuing them.
When this happens, you, my dear, have a serious case of the "F**k Its"!
This autopilot habit can be ohhh so compelling. The instant we commit to the very idea we feel relief from the pressure that was on us. “Yeah!” your mind tells you, “I could do that if I really wanted to!” When we actually take action on the thoughts (eat the whole tub of ice cream, tell off that idiot who has been bugging us, quit our stressful job, or just plain check out of our life and our goals) we can feel, not only relief, but also reward.
A double reinforcement whammy!
If you have been reading prior blogs, you know what happens when thoughts and actions are reinforced…… They become habits! So, how can we work through the impulse to give in to this very dastardly autopilot and prevent the derailing aftermath?
Rule 1: Know Thyself!
Awareness is always the first step. I have actually grown to dislike this expression, because so often this is where clients get stuck. Awareness is only the first step. But it is also an important one.
The important thing is to distinguish between a minor need to throttle back on pushing yourself too hard, versus a more serious case of self-sabotage! Here are a few questions to ask yourself to know if you are in danger territory.
1. Do I do this frequently?
2. Is this an emotion driven decision that derails me from my True North?
3. What is the longer term cost of thinking and acting this way?
4. Is the outcome of this impulse really worth the short-term relief/reward?
Rule 2: Use Your Skills!
As we have discussed previously, moving from awareness to action skillfully includes 3 Core Skills: Validate, Check, Change. Here’s how they apply to the "F**k Its".
Step I: Validate Your Feelings.
Ask yourself; “What is the difficult experience I am wanting to avoid?” The key here is to slow down enough to really reflect on the unwanted emotion and bodily sensations. Are you feeling frustrated, helpless, or powerless in your pursuits? Is your body tired, hungry, or tense?
THE SKILL: Acknowledge and honor whatever the discomfort is. As best you can, let go of judgments for having the difficult experience. Research shows that judging our discomfort as ‘wrong,’ ‘bad’, or ‘unfair’ only makes it worse!
Turn your attention inward. Scan your body for tension and discomfort. Label the physical and emotional distress. Say to yourself: “I am noticing the feelings of ____________________ _____________________________.” Repeat this slowly in your mind’s eye.
Step II: Check Your Thoughts.
When we get the impulse to indulge the "F**k Its", particular types of thoughts are likely. Popular on the ‘greatest hits’ are:
• “I can’t,”
• “Not fair,” and
• “It doesn’t matter" or "I don't care."
When these show up step back and observe these common types of all or none, judgment, and minimization thoughts. Can you see how these types of thoughts get you really hooked into the all or none impulses?
THE SKILL: Find a more balanced thought, which also feels true to you. Use AND to see both sides of the equation.
Try these alternatives:
• “I’m having a lot of trouble with X AND I can keep working at it a bit.”
• Beware of the Blame Game. Try this mantra: “I wanted more AND I had enough.”
• “It doesn’t matter.” AND “It does matter.”
Step III: Change Your Actions.
Okay, this is where the rubber hits the road! The only thing in your control is right here in your actions. Once you get though steps I and II, you should feel a little less driven by the emotion.
THE SKILL: Take the Middle Path. Can you commit to increasing or decreasing behavior in the direction you want to go by some small percentage? Try these strategies to improve your odds.
• Delay the "F**k It" behavior by 10 minutes
• Do just one thing before deciding if you do another
• Can you do 20%, 10%, or 5% of what you need to do?
We all have times when we feel a strong impulse to give in to emotion driven thinking and behaving (i.e. autopilot). This is simply how our evolutionarily hardwired mind-body vehicles are built. The key to not letting this pull derail your life is to not reinforce it by giving in to it too frequently.
Everyday, moment-to-moment, each of us is challenged in small and large ways. At the end of the day, maybe the "F**k Its" is just a sign our vehicle is begging for attention: Kind, compassionate, non-judgmental awareness and attention… not just another distraction away from authentic needs. This week, may you listen to your authentic needs, and meet those needs with skillfulness.
If you have questions about how to be skillful in your life, I hope you will send me a message in the comments section! Or sign up for the Mindful-Mastery SKILL WEEKLY newsletter, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.