Navigating Mental Roadblocks

My mental struggle this week started on Sunday morning when I set out to do a 20-mile run, but only made it to about 18.5. I have been training as hard and often as my career and personal obligations allow, but between the South Florida humidity and my mental breakdown, I decided to cut the run short.

Some people might wonder what’s the big deal here because I was only 1.5 miles short of my goal. However, the problem in my case is that I am admittedly a stereotypical Type- A personality person. I tend to over-achieve, never quit, love to win etc. Therefore, the mental struggle I had in not finishing the last 1.5-mile of my race affected my whole week.

I processed the how and why of it over and over again and even questioned if I should put off my upcoming marathon in London until next year. Then I started feeling demotivated altogether about everything, and on top of all of that had so many obligations to fulfill at work. I also looked at my “to-do” list and saw that it was getting out of control, so overall I was feeling like I wasn’t accomplishing much at all. Cranky, bothered, annoyed, frustrated, but still pushing through, that was me all week.

See, while this was all triggered by my disappointment with my run, we all get into this unproductive mental place for different reasons. Deal fell through, didn’t get a job offer or raise, lost a case, kids not acting right, staff under performing, need more income etc. Fortunately, I’ve been in this unproductive mental space before, so I knew exactly how to find the exit door.  Below I’m sharing some practical steps below for you to find it as well.

Put things into perspective. Are you having a bad day or two? Or are you having a bad life? When a disappointing event happens in our lives we tend to allow it to taint our entire life, instead of just looking at that one disappointing event in isolation. Even if the disappointing event happens over the course of months, take a minute and focus on the accomplishments you’ve had in the past and direct your intentions to the ones you will have in the future. The disappointment you are experiencing in the present is just a moment in time that will pass too, like everything else.

Understand your personality. This one was big for me because since the day I realized and accepted that I’m a Type A person, I never looked at my challenges the same. Why? Because I know exactly what causes me to feel the way I do when I have to face a disappointment or challenge. Somehow, by knowing this I can unpack my struggles with so much more ease. So for example, with my 1.5 mile short run, I know I beat myself up about it so much because I’m an over achiever, and in that instance, I did not achieve. I felt better right away by understanding and accepting that simple reality instead of spinning my mental wheels trying to figure out why this 1.5 mile short run bothered me so much. Therefore, I was able to immediately shift my thoughts into how I can improve my future performance. Although I gave an example with my training run, this process also applies in my personal and professional life. Spending time with yourself to understand your personality type and how it impacts you and other people is a game changer!

Faith. Function by faith and not by sight. We’ve all heard it, but do we apply it? I’ll be the first to admit that this one used to be hard for me to digest because as a lawyer, I always want the proof! However, that’s just not how life works. You have to put in the work, let go of expectations, and then simply trust that you will eventually reap the reward of your labor. When I reflect, some of the most miserable times of my life was when I was all hung up on how I wanted certain things to go. It is such wasted energy. I’m not advocating being nonchalant. To the contrary, if you’re all hung up on outcomes as well, redirect that energy into the actual daily grind. If it works out the way you hoped, great! If it doesn’t, also great! See how powerful that is? When you function by faith, YOU take control instead of making a disappointment or challenge control your mental space.

Power thoughts. Have you ever caught yourself speaking negatively over an issue you’re facing? I think we tend to do this way too automatically. When I say power thoughts I’m talking about speaking whatever you hope to accomplish into existence. Not being hung up on it, which I banned you from doing above. Instead, just consciously say positive things about whatever it is that you are personally or professionally working on. So for example, if you are writing a book, you would say: I am going to write the best book ever written. Instead of: This book is so hard to write and I don’t even think anybody will buy it.

Calculate your decisions. It is said that for every action, there is a reaction. If you don’t put in the work, you don’t get the results. It is usually that simple. Oftentimes we complain so much about how things aren’t going our way. However, step back and question, are you really doing everything that should be done for the desired result? When I suggest that you should calculate your decisions, I am talking about on an actual daily micro level. As an example, if I’m trying to lose 10 pounds but decide to have a 500-calorie donut, I’ll be 500 calories behind on my weight loss goal. If not being 500 calories behind on my weight loss goal is more important to me than the short-lived pleasure of having the donut, then I won’t have the donut. End of analysis.   I apply this same mental process at work. As an example in that context, if I need to file a motion by next Friday, I don’t wait until the Thursday night before to work on it because that will raise my stress level. If you make it a habit to sit and process the outcome of your decisions this way most of the time and conform my behavior accordingly, your mental health will surely improve.

Like most things you want to get good at, these suggestions take practice to become perfect.  Be patient with yourself as you use these suggestions to arrive into a healthier, more productive mental space.