Eight tips to do when things don't go to plan
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things just don’t work out the way we anticipated and planned. And, in these situations, it is easy to let the circumstances dictate our mood and behaviour; revert to catastrophic thinking, self-blame, blaming others and circumstances and just let our fears play havoc. In this state, we are not in the best mindset to make optimal decisions.
A few months back, I had a week where it seemed everything was not going to plan. By the end of the week, I started to get frustrated and overwhelmed. It felt as if nothing was working out the way I wanted it to.
I noticed myself getting irritable, found it difficult to make decisions and worried I had made the wrong ones. What was happening was that I was letting the external circumstance clog up my mind with worry and, in return, the worry was blocking my access to my inner wisdom and flow.
Thus, the first step is to notice that the circumstance has now affected our mood and behaviour. Spot what is building up in our minds, and then help ourselves back to our calmness and centeredness, where we can start to solve any problems, through tapping back into our wisdom. Once I realised this, I reverted to my strategy for ‘when things don’t go to plan’ to get my mind back on track.
Having a ‘when things don’t go to plan’ strategy pre-planned, ahead of time and preferably written down with a step by step guide in place (and knowing where to find it quickly) is really useful. Planning this ahead of time will give you a smoother ride through the troubled waters and also give you the brainpower to focus on what to do better next time.
Below I have collated a list of tools I have found really useful in circumstances when the mind has taken over.
1. Writing it down (the good and the bad)
Many times, in situations like these, we are told to only write down the good things that are happening in our lives. I disagree with this. Writing down the problems releases our brain of the negatives and sheds light on them - enabling us to question the reality of these thoughts. Sometimes we might just ruminate about something for no good reason, only working ourselves up into a panic. Having them 'outed' on paper will put them to rest and out of your mind.
So start by jotting your areas of worry down on a piece of paper. Don’t go into too much detail - just give them short headlines. On the reverse of the sheet, do the same with all the good things that are happening in your life, the big and the small. Because the truth is, there always is good happening, we sometimes just fail to notice it.
Once everything is visible on paper, this enables your subconscious mind to free itself of the internal negative monologue. You are not only able to question the validity of the negatives but also apply focus more on the positives.
2. Put things into perspective
Look at the sheet with all your problem or worries. Are these things the end of the world? Will you still worry about them when you are 70? If the answer is no (which it usually is), this can be another way to relax those brain cells and let the solutions flow back in.
3. Target solutions
When we’re stressed or worried, the natural reaction of our brain is to focus on the problems and forget that you do have all the solutions in you to any problem. But, to be able to get to the solutions, our minds need to calm down. When we are in a tricky situation, it can be easy to let the focus be on the problems.
Once you have written them down turn the page and further expand on the positives that are happening in your life. Writing it down is part of the solution. Really immerse yourself in all the good ‘the big and small’ in all areas of your life.
Now turn back to the problem side. What solutions could you find to each one? Go through each one at a time. What would be the easiest thing to action? Give me three solutions for each issue.
4. Focus on the goal at hand
Once we have started to create solutions, the next step is to focus on creating small and doable action steps we can take forward quickly, which will get the ball (or should I say the brain) back running again at optimal speed.
5. Find the good in the situation
Now this one can be pretty difficult but it is possible! Following on from the above exercise, go back to the problem page and under each header write the good that can come out of these situations.
What can you learn and how you can work it out better next time?
6. Contrast is good too
If everything went smoothly all the time, there would be no contrasts of the opposite experience and we would become complacent and take things for granted. When tough situations or just small problems arise, we can also see them as reminders of what we do have and have had so far. It is possible to get back there - as we already skilfully managed to do.
7. This will pass
Reminding ourselves that the situation is not permanent and things will start moving again soon, in the direction we intended, helps. Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out.
Repeat to yourself: “I am a success. Things work out for me with ease. I now relax and open the door to my wisdom. The right answer comes to me with ease.”
This is you telling your mind to relax and believe things will be alright. And they are alright; we just have let our mind take over in this moment of upheaval. Speaking to your mind with kindness and affirmations enables the door to be opened back to your wisdom. Try it!
In life, as we know, things pass. Situations resolve themselves one way or another. Keeping this in mind is helpful as it allows you to go back to focusing on the bigger picture and not leave everything else aside while this crisis is happening.
8. Time out
And when I say time out, I mean it. This is a skill to be practised and is within everybody’s reach. Even when things are really tough, finding a safe space you can go to and take some time off everything that is happening is so beneficial to our mind. I cannot recommend it highly enough. These days, research confirms that stress in itself is a choice, so why not use this approach here too. It can be your choice not to lug your troubles with you all the time. I give you permission to do it and let go!
Starting this exercise at times when things are running smoothly paves the way for it to work in crisis even better as we are prepared. For me, walking, cycling or my exercise time is a place where no troubles are allowed to enter, in any state of mind. Immersing oneself in pleasurable activity is also a way of releasing the brain from the throes of a crisis.
Once you have released your mind from the throes of a problem situation, this enables you to faster revert back to your natural, healthy, functioning self. Where solutions come to you with ease and you have access to your inner wisdom and solutions.
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