You know when you have that regularly-occurring circumstance that you just know is going to throw you for a loop? Insomnia, overeating, an uncooperative spouse, to name a few examples. You feel the signs coming, you spring awake at 2 a.m., you’re eating past fullness, or your spouse isn’t talking to you again.
These things are very real: overeating, insomnia and marital discord happen. But then, we do what I call the spin-out which only serves to make things worse–for you.
Here’s how the spin-out goes:
Spring awake at 2 a.m.
Think: Oh no! Now I’m never getting back to sleep should I take a sleeping pill maybe I should read I hate it when this happens now I’m going to feel like crap tomorrow why does this always happen to me now I’m not going to sleep for days I should try to relax but I can’t relax this is a curse what is wrong with me I should’ve taken a pill before bed did I drink too much coffee today.
Repeat about 10,000 times until morning.
You may not be able to change the circumstance–but you can certainly stop yourself from making things worse by spinning out. There’s a part of our mind that thinks spinning out on our problems will make them better. It’s our mind’s way of trying to solve the problem, but the focus is on the wrong place. When you spin-out, the focus is on the problem. Expecting it to be bad, asking why it happened and worrying about unknown consequences will keep you awake, eating and angry at your spouse.
Here’s how to stop the spin-out:
1. Stay in the present–don’t project about what’s going to happen in the future. If you think you’re never going to be able to stop overeating or that you and your spouse will never be close again, then that’s what’s most likely to happen. Our minds are very supportive, and when you think thoughts like this, your mind will help you make it happen. Hence the expression, “What you think about, you bring about.”
2. Avoid “Here we go again”–be open to the idea that things could turn out better than they have in the past. After all, you’ve been open to the idea that this will be the worst night/overindulgence/fight, isn’t it just as possible that this time could be different? Which way of thinking makes you feel better? You may think that this is just a form of BS’ing yourself, but you don’t have evidence that it’s going to be worse or better–so why not choose to believe better?
3. Don’t ask why–asking “why me” is going on the road to nowhere and does not yield any useful information.
4. Interrupt the spin-out–the best way to stop the spin-out is to find a very simple better-feeling thought, almost like a mantra that you can repeat to keep the litany of mental BS from kicking in. Some ideas: Just now, What’s the solution?, Relax, I’m ok. Find what works for you.
5. Stop resisting–ok, so you overate, you’re awake, your spouse isn’t talking to you right now. Can you handle it in this moment, without all the spin-out thoughts? The spin-out is a form of resisting what is happening, when you stop resisting, you’re in a better position to see the situation clearly and take care of yourself around it.
6. Ask yourself better questions. The spin-out is about the problem, stop the spin and turn your mind toward solutions with better questions.
Instead of “Why me?” ask, “What can I do to take care of me?”
Instead of “It’s going to be bad.” ask, “What can I do to feel better?”
Instead of “I’m out of control.” ask, “What is within my control?”
I’d love to hear how you stop the spin-out. Feel free to comment and share.