“I decided that I was going to use this as my success story and not my stuck story” Chris Kenney
And there it was. A few months back, and after a week of intensive screen time, I was on yet another Zoom call (welcome to the age of Covid). But this one was different. Because, when I heard these words, something really hit home.
It was a talk by Chris Kenney of Chris Kenney Coaching, and he was sharing his story of growing up. As a young kid his parents were drug addicts, and he lived in a home that offered little hope for a bright future. Needless to say, he found himself facing each day with apathy and hopelessness.
But then something happened. And the happy ending we all want to hear is that he turned his life around and made a success of it (whatever success is of course).
But that’s not the interesting bit. The interesting bit, is HOW did he do that? What happened? What made him realise he could change things?
Making the Decision to Turn Things Around
On being asked this question, he rather directly said:
“I realised that no one gave a shit. No one was coming to rescue me. Only I could do that. So, I could continue to feel sorry for myself or I could do something about it.”
Now, it may be rather brutal to say no one gives a shit about you, or me, or anyone else. But the truth of the matter is, that whilst people may care, he’s right in saying there is only one person that can save us, and that is ourselves.
And what’s even more inspiring is this idea of choice. In Chris’s case, he chose to use his challenges as fuel to drive him forwards, rather than hold him back. What if we could do that in the context of our own lives?
When Adversity Hits
Let’s face it, when the shit hits the fan, it can feel as if we have no choice. And it can become all-consuming. Because, it feels like we’re simply on the receiving end of what life has thrown at us.
But whether it’s past trauma, a difficult relationship, a business challenge or a national health pandemic we always have a choice about how we use these life challenges.
The irony is that we spend most of our lives trying to change things that are out of our control and not enough time working on the one thing we can influence.
Tackling Lockdown Fatigue and Other (Not So Lovely) Things
Right now, we’re at the tail end of a year in recurrent lockdown, and there’s a general feeling of just being quite fed up and frustrated with the situation.
And this is where we have influence. Because whilst we can’t always change the situation, we can change how we respond.
There are a number of exercises you can do, to really get your brain consciously exercising choice. And, the first one is a simple exercise you can add to your morning routine.
If you’re like many people out there right now, chances are the first things that come to mind on waking will revolve around current life stresses.
Perhaps it’s all the work you’ve got on your plate, or maybe it’s worries about someone close to you. If you have health issues, it will most likely be your symptoms, and if you’re generally feeling fed up – it will most likely be just that, ruminating on how demotivated and fed up you are. So let’s change that.
Exercise 1: Opening Up Choice Through Your Morning Routine
Rather than waking up and thinking about all the ‘gunk,’ you want to start consciously directing the brain into a different direction. And the way you do this is to start each day, by asking yourself the question “How do I want to feel today?”
It could be that if you know you have a busy day, that you want to move through your day from a place of calm. Or if you have a big work meeting, perhaps you want to connect with the feelings of confidence. If you know you are feeling demotivated, you might want to start thinking about the excitement of what life will be like once we’re out of this, and how you can best prepare for that.
The world is your oyster as far as feelings and emotions go.
(Neurologically) Juicing it Up
When you’ve got your feel-good emotion, have a think about how your day will unfold when you are operating from this place.
How different will it be doing your morning routine; managing the home schooling and sitting down for dinner in the evening? How will you feel at the end of the day looking back on your achievements?
You can either think about this or journal it out, but don’t underestimate the power of such a simple question.
It really is just taking your brain to the gym. And all too often we talk about taking our bodies to the gym, eating healthily and getting in some relaxation time. But what about our lovely brains?
We don’t need to accept the autopilot route of where it is used to going. We absolutely do have the capabilities to train it into a different direction when we know how.
And when we start to expand on the idea of what it is to be calm or confident, by really envisaging it in detail, we are activating the neurology (and thus neurotransmitters, hormones and physiology) that go with it.
Targeting Problems Through Choice-Making
The other exercise is a little more involved, but will enable you to actively target the ‘triggers’ that send you into negative thoughts and feelings.
At the end of each day, start by identifying the things that have triggered you or made you feel bad, then ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the objective situation? I.e. Someone walked close to me in the shops today
- How did I feel about this at the time? I.e. Stressed about catching Covid and fearful of what it might do to my health
- What would be a more useful feeling or thought? I.e. I want to trust that my body is healthy and capable of looking after itself, and I want to feel like everything will be okay…
- What can I learn from this? In the future, I may choose to go shopping at a time that is less busy, or I may simply just choose to trust that my body is resilient and will look after me. I will also start being more present and grateful for what I have ‘in the now’ rather than thinking about what could happen in the future.
The more you do this about the things that are triggering you, the more you will start to recognise where you have choice. It’s worth noting that, to start with, it may take a bit of getting used to, and that is okay. There’s a reason we call this stuff brain training.
A final note on why this stuff is so important.
Everything on this site, comes back to the way in which our brains affect our nervous system. So if we are consistently feeling depressed, anxious or otherwise on a regular basis, then we will be triggering neurotransmitters and hormones that will be activating our sympathetic nervous system.
And that is the very thing responsible for the stress response, and subsequently reduced physical function. If it is activated regularly enough, it can become wired into a chronic stress response as a way of being, and this is where you see things like insomnia, fatigue, burnout and other chronic issues.
If on the other hand, we use tools and techniques such as the above, we are training our nervous system to activate the parasympathetic response, which is responsible for optimal body function and general feelings of wellness and health.
So the more we consciously manage our feelings, the better that will be for our physical health.
As always, if you have any questions or are struggling to notice changes with the exercises in this article, please contact me directly, I love to hear from you and am always happy to guide.