Post written by: Sara Hunter, Wellness Advisor at OITE
Fog can be eerie and all encompassing. It hinders our ability to see past a few feet in front of us, and it can make us question where we’re going and how we might get there. In many ways, the past year has felt like a never-ending fog, clouding our direction and blocking our connection to people and the things we care about. But like all things, including this pandemic and the political turmoil surrounding us, fog eventually fades. And on the other side of it we often find ourselves wondering, sometimes regretting, why we acted (or didn’t act) a certain way, why we didn’t get more done, have more compassion, take better care of ourselves and those we care about, or stay more grounded and engaged.
Whatever the thoughts or feelings, everyone can relate in some way because we all have seasons in our lives like this — when fog is the forecast for the looming days, weeks or even months. We can’t seem to find our focus, get things done, or gather our footing to really move in the direction we want to, personally or professionally. And unless we are intentional about moving out of these cloudier times of our lives, we can find ourselves becoming stuck which only tends to breed disconnection, self-criticism, and feelings of doubt and worry. So, as we enter a new year and hopefully brighter days, here are a few tools that can help us find our way through the fog:
Practice Radical Acceptance — This distress tolerance skill is all about identifying what we have control over, what we don’t have control over, and ultimately, knowing the difference between the two. It is not about resignation, letting people cross our boundaries, or giving up. It is about accepting the reality of what is, allowing us to be who we need and want to be in order to be as effective as possible.
Do one thing at a time – Sometimes when we feel uncertain or overwhelmed, we may fill our schedules to the brim. This feeling of being busy often appeases our anxiety or worry in the short term. However, this likely will contribute to more overwhelm and lack of accomplishment in the long-run. When we are constantly bouncing back and forth between tasks, we lose our ability to fully retain information and our productivity decreases. So, instead of doing more things at once, try sticking to one task at a time, and we likely will be surprised how much more we get done.
Contribute to a cause you care about — By stepping outside of ourselves to give back we can distract from feelings of sadness, anxiety, disconnection, or overwhelm. This process not only provides much needed perspective but also reminds us that no matter where we are at, we all have the capacity to give to others, whether that be through our time, our skills, or our money.
Become acquainted with your discomfort by ACTING OPPOSITE to your impulses — It can be helpful at times to change hurtful or overwhelming emotions by acting opposite to the urges associated with those emotions. For example, when we feel sad it is typical for us to withdraw and not engage in activities that encourage health and connection. Thus, acting opposite would entail resisting our urge to withdraw and intentionally connecting with people and activities that promote well-being.
Create a daily grounding ritual — Rituals are habits we form that create predictability. This can be as simple as: lighting a candle before bed every night; taking a walk every morning (despite the weather); taking three deep breaths before starting the day; creating a mantra we say when we’re feeling down or unmotivated; or engaging in a daily 5-minute journaling exercise. Typically, when we feel lost in the fog, our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings either tend towards rigidity or chaos. By finding a daily practice that grounds us in the here and now we can remember that this season, like all others, will eventually pass.
Use a forward focused approach – Instead of dwelling on where we’re at or what mistakes we have made, think about the potential solutions to the problems in front of us and who may be able to help. When we find that we are blaming ourselves or others, we likely are taking a backward approach which will create more frustration and feelings of being stuck. Think about what strengths you have and ways you’ve been resilient in the past.
Here are some questions to initiate this growth mindset if you find yourself getting stuck:
What else do you want to learn about this situation?
Are you proud of the end result? What could you do differently next time to make it better?
What mistakes did you make today that taught you something? How will you use those moving forward?
What skills/supports do you need to acquire to solve this problem? What did you do today that was difficult?
Are you prepared for the day? If not, what do you need to feel more prepared?
As a final reminder, the OITE offers a variety of wellness resources which you can find here.