I’ve recently started using Uber.
My brother, who lives in the US, convinced me to try it and I loved it, so now I’ve become an avid customer.
Recently I had to go to the airport so I decided to rely on my newfound friend. I ordered my Uber a few minutes later than planned, but no worries, I had plenty of time. Then I got the notice that it will take 13 minutes to arrive; again, no worries, I still wouldn’t consider myself late.
we hit traffic. Putting all the little things together – the few minutes late in ordering, the 13-minute wait, the drawn-out goodbye with my kids – I ‘d eaten away the cushion of time I ‘d given myself and BAM, traffic got added to the mix.
So I panicked.
Yeah, that’s right. In that moment, any faith I have in the Universe and the concept that everything happens exactly as it should, instantly went out the window and disaster scenarios started flashing before my eyes… running through the airport, long queues at security, my gate being the furthest one away… arriving at the gate right after it closed.
So yes, I was stressed.
My body seized up. I couldn’t respond to the driver’s sense of humor – in fact I found it rude considering my life was falling apart in my mind – and I know this sounds a bit weird, but I could feel my executive function start to shut down. My body was so tense it was like standing eye to eye with a tiger and my very existence was under siege.
All because I was in an Uber. In traffic.
In my work, I tell people to ‘Catch Yourself’, and this is a perfect example.
I was completely grumpy and miserable in the car. I wanted the driver to say ‘We’ll absolutely get there on time.’ which of course he couldn’t. Instead he chuckled at the state I was in. My anger inside flared and the moment happened…
I caught myself! (Phew – practice what you preach and all that!)
I said to myself ‘hang on’. I did a quick scan of my body and to be honest I was surprised at how incredibly tense it was, particularly considering how utterly relaxed I had just been. I think I used the word ‘giddy’ when texting my husband moments earlier.
How does that happen? Obviously, it’s our physiology. We’re programmed to go into survival mode when our lives are in danger, but the worst thing that could’ve happened was missing a flight, how is that putting my life in danger?
It isn’t, but it sure felt that way.
It was such an eye-opener to realize how much mental, physical and energetic turmoil my mind can create all by itself. Nothing was wrong. Nothing had happened and nothing was inevitable. I wasn’t late (yet), I hadn’t missed my flight (yet), I didn’t’ know how long the traffic jam was (yet), the flight had not left (yet).
It turned out that I got to the airport with plenty of time, easily got onto my flight and was even able to stop at the duty-free shop before leaving.
So why did I put myself through that?
Because our mind is a powerful place and left to its own devices, doesn’t distinguish between predictive thoughts and reality.
This brings us to living in the now. Gosh, it seems so easy and straight-forward, but dang it’s hard… you’re not late until your late, you’re not running through an airport until your running through an airport, and you haven’t missed a flight until you’ve missed the flight.
The best tip I can offer to alleviate unnecessary, self-inflicted stress in your life that you can start using right now is Catch Yourself.
There are more methodical and concrete tools out there. Mindfulness, for example, is a far more comprehensive version that I would encourage you all to read up on it or take a course on, that produces fantastic long-term results, but in the meantime, catch yourself can be quick and effective – especially with practice.
How does it work? When you feel a knot in your stomach or your body seizing up in panic – catch yourself. Ask yourself ‘has something actually happened, or is my mind creating this?’
If it’s just a perceived threat, ask yourself: ‘Do I need to put myself in this state right now?’ and ‘Is being in this state going to bring me closer to success?’. Couple that with 3 deep breaths to disconnect yourself from, well, yourself.
Awareness is (almost) everything.
If we can become aware of our thoughts, we can do something about them. We can start to change them. And when we change our thoughts, we change the way we perceive the world… and that, my friends, means we see opportunities and create possibilities.
It’s hard to stop random or panicky thoughts from entering our mind, and we can’t stop our body from automatically responding to these thoughts. What we can do is exercise the power and discipline of our mind to stop allowing our imagination to get away with us.
Don’t get me wrong, imagination is a wonderful thing.
By all means, be frivolous with it. Allow yourself to fantasize about your hopes, dreams, desires and goals. By letting your mind go wild about what you want in life, you might just see opportunities differently and turn your dreams into reality.
But when it comes to creating disasters… catch yourself.
Your mind is your most powerful tool. If it goes unchecked, it will create all kinds of ‘un-realities’ that will affect your body, thoughts and life in a very real way. By catching yourself in those moments, you’ll start to be able to master them. You’ll learn that life is full of choices.
You can choose to mindlessly allow your subconscious to dictate your choices, or choose to be aware of your thoughts and direct them.
While I sat in traffic in that Uber, missing my flight or not missing my flight was not a choice I could make. The choice I had was how I spent the next 45 minutes – seized with panic, fearing disappointment and heart-ache, or filled with thoughts of my upcoming adventures.
I took 3 breaths, laughed at my attitude to the driver, and chose to focus on how excited I was about my upcoming trip – after all, it’s not every day you turn 50!
Are you an EXPAT SPOUSE and in need of practical advice and top tips on navigating your expat life, check out my facebook page Unpack – the book. There you’ll find out more information on my book ‘UNPACK – A guide to life as an expat spouse’ will be published in October 2017 – WOO HOO!