The other day I woke up with an ache in my neck. It was a familiar pain, I’d experienced it in the past when I hadn’t been practicing proper ergonomics and I ended up having to do 4 months of physical therapy to get it to subside.
And there it was again. Despite the fact I know better, I’d been doing all the things I shouldn’t. Sitting hunched over at my computer in bed or on the couch because I was too lazy to go to my office. And forget the maintenance exercises I’m supposed to do each morning. Who has time for that?
Well, it came back this time with a vengeance. Pain like I’d never felt before. So painful I couldn’t sleep at night. There I was, lying in bed on a girl’s weekend to Marfa, Texas with my best friend, awake in agony for the better part of 3 nights.
The spiral loop of doom
It was the last night of the trip that I really started to think myself into jail. My friend had left me alone in the hotel room so I could go to bed early and get some rest. Except rest was not to be had. My mind was spinning. I knew I had to calm myself down, but I was off to the races…
The day after we get back I start teaching a new leadership program for a client.
What if I’m running on no sleep to do that?
What if the pain doesn’t go away?
What if I’m not firing on all cylinders and have difficult participants?
What if they think I’m an idiot?
And then that will just set off a chain reaction to affect every other session I have with these people, who will now just view me as some kind of overpaid talentless hack who knows nothing about leadership?
Why does this kind of thing always happen to me?
It’s amazing where one’s mind will go when it has the opportunity to run free. Mine is typically off the cliff in 10 seconds or less. My mind was caught in what I call a spiral loop of doom – you keep replaying worst case scenario over and over again, and your anxiety rises and rises. Eventually you end up in a state beyond fight or flight, where you literally freeze, start to dissociate and shut down.
I started opening all the tools I have in my mindfulness toolkit. I tried meditation. No dice. I tried breathing techniques, but again, nada. The loop of doom had grown too strong. And then I remembered a little phrase that my cousin Margaret had mentioned years ago when she was trying to quit smoking. “This will pass.” Her trick was to repeat it out loud to herself when she would get the compulsion to light up a cancer stick. “This craving will pass. This moment will pass.”
The calming beauty of a simple phrase
The beauty of that simple phrase is that I’ve never come across a moment, a physical ailment, a feeling, a craving in my life that didn’t eventually pass. And normally, while things can be intense in the moment, they have a pretty short shelf life.
Alls to say that pretty much everything in life is just a temporary state of being. I started thinking in that anxiety ridden moment when I laid in my overpriced room at the Gage Hotel of all the times I’d managed to hurt myself and I eventually recovered. All the times when I thought I’d embarrassed myself in front of a client or made a boo boo at work, and now I look at these things as learning moments or frankly, just no big deal at all. All the fights I’ve had that are now resolved, or even if we went our separate ways, I can see how it was for the best. I can see how much I’ve grown, and how much I’ve learned.
When you start to realize that life is just a collection of very temporary moments all strung together in a very beautiful necklace, there is strangely something relaxing about it. And then, finally I nodded off for a few hours of sleep.
What in your life in this moment might you be holding too strongly onto? What if you thought about, “This eventually will pass?” How might that change your perspective?
Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!