Week Eleven / Day Two – Psychological Stress – My life has not gone to plan


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It may seem very logical and perhaps even slightly insulting to teach you that the conclusion that we draw that lies behind pscyhological stress is “My Life is not going to plan”. You may be thinking well, der…..

However, what causes your stress, is not just the observation that life hasn’t gone to the plan you had in mind, but more what you now perceive about your life and yourself now that it hasn’t gone to plan. It is the attachment you have to life going to plan. It’s believing that life has to go to plan in order for it to be successful.

In today’s lesson, I’m going to take you through the Mind TRACK to Happiness process to help you to stop any psychological stress that is occuring in your life right now. Let’s start with the first step:

Step One: Thoughts

The first step on the TRACK process is to identify your thoughts about the situation. What are you thinking now that life hasn’t gone to plan? People stress over many different things because of how they are perceiving the situation.

Remember, the keys to this step are about awareness and detachment.

Take a moment to reflect upon the current situation causing you stress and ask yourself the following questions. Pause after you read each of these questions and see what answers come up. Write them down if you want to, because sometimes that can give you even more insight into what is going on in your head.

Being aware of your thoughts about your ‘stressful’ situation

  1. What are your thoughts, opinion, feelings about this matter?
  2. What does this new situation mean?
  3. How is this situation effecting your life?
  4. Why is it such a big deal that you are now experiencing this situation instead of what you believe you ‘should’ be experiencing?
  5. How are you attaching your self-worth/quality of life to this situation?

NB: Don’t spend a lot of time on this first step – thoughts. You’ve already spent a lot of time with this kind of conversation rolling around in your head. You don’t need to rehash everything you are thinking. Quickly jotting down your general thoughts, beliefs and feelings will adequately remind you of where you are at. The important thing is to acknowledge your thoughts, detach from them by remembering that this is simply the habitual thinking that you are trying to change, and then move onto the second step on the TRACK process – Reality

Here are some examples of common situations and how these questions may be asked:

“My child is misbehaving all the time – tantrums, back chat, crying all the time etc”

  1. What are your thoughts, opinions, feelings about this matter?

    My son is constantly pushing the boundaries at the moment. Every time I try and do something, he wants me. When I try to do things with him it always ends up with him throwing tantrums every two seconds and I just hate it. I don’t want to deal with his whingeing and crying all the time. I just hate this aspect of being a mum. He never lets me just finish what I need to do. I’m constantly getting interrupted and I resent having to deal with all this day in, day out, never getting a break to myself and always being the one who has to deal with everything. I just want some time to do something meaningful for me, for once.

  2. What does this new situation mean?

    It means that I’m not getting things done. It means that I’m not getting any time out and that I’m missing out on being able to enjoy my little boy. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I mean I knew that there would be challenges but I didn’t think that I would feel so stressed out. I just want to enjoy being a mother but it just seems like I’m getting angry and frustrated all the time and not giving my son the love that I want him to have

  3. How is it effecting you right now and why?

    I don’t feel like I’m getting the time out that I need. I don’t feel like I’m giving my son what he needs. I wanted to be a good stay at home mum but now I’m feeling like the worst mother in the world. I just don’t know how to deal with him when he gets this way and all I want to do is just run away from the situation.

  4. Why is it such a big deal that you are now experiencing this situation instead of what you believe you ‘should’ be experiencing?

    Because motherhood shouldn’t be this way. I should be able to enjoy my time with my son. He won’t be young forever and I don’t want to waste this time being angry and horrible to him. I want his childhood experience to be a good one, not filled with memories of ‘mummy getting angry’ all the time.

  5. How are you attaching your self-worth/quality of life to this situation?

    I guess because I am wanting to be that ‘good mother’ where my child never gets yelled at and I only want my son to have the very best childhood experience. I never had a good childhood experience, so I’m determined that he does have a good one. So far I feel like I’m not being that mother that I wanted to be. Also, I feel like my life is suffering because of having to deal with him day in, day out. I want to feel like my life is worthwhile and not just about dealing with the endless demands of my son.

Within the answers to these questions you can see all of the thinking that is in direct conflict with reality – the reality of the present situation, the reality of being a parent, the reality of life and the reality of self-worth.

Let’s look at another example of a situation that could cause stress:

“My whole life is chaos right now”

  1. What are your thoughts, opinions, feelings about this matter?

    I feel like I can’t handle all of this pressure anymore. I had an unplanned c-section which has left me feeling traumatised and leaving me very sore. I have a newborn and a toddler to deal with, my husband is hardly ever home to help because he works so hard. We have hardly any money to pay the bills, the house is always a mess and I just can’t seem to get on top of things amongst all the tantrums and running around after both of the children and I just don’t seem to be able to come up for air. I feel like I’m drowning in this motherhood role and I just don’t know how to change this situation. This is not what I had expected for my life!

  2. What does this new situation mean?

    It means that I am struggling. It means that I can’t pull myself together and get things to function the way that I wanted to. I should be able to organise the running of the house and deal with the demands of these two children. I should be able to find a way to cope like millions of other mothers have in the past. It’s not like I’m the only one to have to juggle all this. I mean other women do this and run a business or work a job. Why am I the only one who can’t?

  3. How is this situation effecting your life?

    It’s effecting the time, energy and love I give to my children. It is effecting my marriage because when my husband comes home, I’m just unloading all the day’s stress onto him, I’m in a foul mood and I feel like he has become the ‘relief worker’ when he walks through the door, rather than the man that I love. Also, it’s effecting my self-esteem. I don’t feel like I’m capable of doing this for much longer. I feel like I have too many demands going on and too many things that are going wrong. I just need a break.

  4. Why is it such a big deal that you are now experiencing this situation instead of what you believe you ‘should’ be experiencing?

    Because I keep thinking that I should be doing it better. I should be able to get everything to function correctly. Motherhood should be about loving and nurturing your children, not stressing out about housework, bills and getting frustrated by the amount of work there is to do

  5. How are you attaching your self-worth/quality of life to this situation?

    I don’t feel ike a very good mother/house wife. I feel like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing the best way that I can. I feel like I’m letting my husband down, my children down and not getting the life that I wanted to have.

Writing down your answers to your questions is going to highlight all of the thinking that is going on in your head causing your stress. It is also going to help you to address these thoughts as we move into the next step and the most important step on the Mind TRACK to Happiness Process – Reality.

Step Two: Reality

In this step you want to begin challenging and changing your thoughts by using the reality thinking model. Upgrade your thinking by first looking at:

  • The reality of the situation – what is actually happening right now is what is happening. You cannot change how the past has unfolded and you cannot move forward with your future until you accept the present.
  • The reality of being a parent – there are going to be ups and downs as a parent. There are going to be times where your child is going through a developmental stage that is challenging and hard to deal with. This is not a reflection on you, this is the natural process of how a child develops. You did it to your parents and every child under the sun has gone through challenging periods in their life. We still go through challenging periods in our own personal growth, why would our children be any different? As a parent we are constantly growing, learning and adapting to how life is unfolding. This is a continual process and requires constant readjustment of thinking and actions.
  • The reality of life – Life too will have periods where it is smooth sailing and times when it feels like everything is not going to plan. These challenging times are not reflective of your entire life experience though. It is only reflective of right now. This is simply your time to learn and grow, and perhaps it won’t be so enjoyable, but not everything in your life is unenjoyable. This is where you need to start searching for the value in what happening, the benefit that is adding to your life, not detracting from your quality of life. What are you grateful for? Where is the ‘hidden good in the bad’? Expand your thinking about your life right now to consider what is going well in it so that you are not consumed by these tough moments. They are not ALL that is going on in your life.
  • The reality of self-worth – Your worth is not defined by experiences, it is defined by existence. Being a part of this world and this journey through life means that you learn, experience and develop and then pass on a part of you to the lives of other people and participate vital roles in their development. You don’t have to be, do or have anything in order to be 100% worthy. You already are because you are here now, doing what you do and being who you are.
    The trick in this part of the reality thinking model is to look for how you are contributing to your world and how you are learning and growing as a person which then benefits yourself and others.

    Let’s see how you would use this reality step in the context of our two examples:

    “My child is misbehaving all the time – tantrums, back chat, crying all the time etc”

    • The reality of the situation – My son is being challenging right now. This is where he is at in his development. There are going to be times when he is going to unreasonable, demanding, angry and disrespectful and I am going to have to find ways to deal with this, as it is not likely to change on its own, unless I accept this situation and work on actively doing something about it (steps 3-5 of the TRACK Process).
    • The reality of being a parent – Not everything will be rosey all of the time. Sometimes I’m going to experience ups and downs with my child and that’s normal. Just as there are unenjoyable times, there are enjoyable times to. There was that nice cuddle we had this morning when we woke up. Yesterday we made cakes together and that was nice [before it ended in a tantrum]. He laughed really hard at my silliness today and I really enjoyed listening to his laugh. Not everything about my experience with my son is bad. I need to be able to look at the whole picture, accept that he is learning and developing and at a challenging (and emotionally confused) age. It is not reflective of my entire parenting experience
    • The reality of life – What’s going on right now with my son is only a small part of my entire life, not the whole thing. It is a big part of my life right now, but it doesn’t define my existence. There are other parts of me that exist too. I have good relationships with my girlfriends, I have a partner who loves me, I have a home and food that I can appreciate. There are loads of things going well in my life too and my son’s behaviour does not make up everything that is going on in my life. There are ups and downs in my life in general and they are really just teaching me more about life. The hidden good in the bad is that when I learn how to deal with the behaviour I will be teaching my son appropriate behaviour which is going to assist in his development as a boy and as a man. I am also learning that I need to take some time out too and do things for me that help me to see that these times with my son do not make up all of who I am
    • The reality of my self-worth – I am as good a mother as I can be with the information that I have. I am always trying my best and am always learning how to be a better mother with every new challenge that comes my way. In terms of my son’s quality of life, he is getting what he needs for his development. I have been trying to give him the ‘perfect life’ because I have been perceiving that my childhood wasn’t that way. However there have been some great lessons that came from the childhood that I had. I learnt resilience, personal strength, self-reliance and how to be creative because I often had to go off and do things for myself. Just as there were good parts to my childhood, there will also be good lessons and experiences in my sons. Just like everyone else in the world, my son’s life will be full of ups and downs too. My job will not be to teach him to always need his life to go to plan in order to be worthy, but to teach him how to deal with his thinking when he doesn’t. This is my current lesson in life and I will learn it for myself and also be teaching it to him by being a part of his life. My self-worth is defined by the lessons I learn and by contributing to the lives of others’ (my son, partner, friends, family and even strangers too). I am a continual works in progress and am 100% worthy right now.
      Spend lots of time going over many different ways of looking at this challenging experience you are having right now. The key part to this reality step is to expand your mindset away from what is just happening right now. You need to accept what is happening right now, put it into perspective of your entire life (the goods and the bads), and find the value in it, all while reminding yourself of what truly defines self-worth.

      Let’s look at our second example of a ‘stressful’ situation:

      “My whole life is chaos right now”

      • The reality of the situation – There is no doubt about it. These are trying times right now. Everything does seem to be going on at once and sometimes that happens in life. The reality is that my children are at young ages where they are learning what is happening in the world. Because of the choices we have made for me to stay at home, instead of returning to work, we manage on one income which means a lot of financial juggling. In order to meet these needs, my husband is working long hours. Also, having two children is new to me and I’m learning how to adjust and manage everything. This is the present situation right now.
      • The reality of being a parent – These kids don’t know anything until they learn. They are at a challenging and demanding age because they can’t fend for themselves. As their mother it is my responsibility to teach them and help them. There are good times throughout motherhood and there are bad times where I’m not enjoying it. The bad times don’t define being a parent, they make up just a part of being a parent. I enjoy the sibling bonding of my toddler’s [sometimes] gentleness to his little sister. I enjoy cuddles, laughs and the times where things are running smoothly. Finally, I am learning to adjust to having two children and currently working on how to manage sleeps, house cleaning, being attentive, loving and also giving myself the time and attention I need. It’s not going to be forever that it is all chaotic. It’s just for now while I’m learning how to adjust.
      • The reality of life – Remember last year when we had that unexpected tax refund come in and we were able to go away for the weekend and relax? That formed part of my life. That weekend we had a ball. It was a temporary release from the financial pressures that were going through. My whole life has not been about struggles and demands. It’s just where I’m at right now in my journey. My children are young, we’re on one income and this whole experience is new. It won’t be like that forever. Eventually the kids will grow up, go to school, I’ll be back at work and things will return to normal. Right now though, I am fortunate to be home watching my children grow. I am grateful for being able to afford a home, have a husband who is working for us and providing the financial basics for me to raise our children without having to put them into care. There are lots of things going well in my life that I can be grateful for and I can see how this time in our life is beneficial because of what we are learning; time management, organisational skills, patience, enjoying the small amount of quality time my husband and I do get together, learning the value of a dollar because we are limited to what luxuries we can buy. In fact when I look at it, there are loads of things that I can appreciate and see value in.
      • The reality of my self-worth – I am always doing everything I know how to do with the information that I have. Right now I am learning how to juggle many responsibilities and that takes time. It’s not because I am not a very good wife or mother, it’s just a new period of my life that I’m adjusting to. I am still contributing to my child’s life and my husband’s life and their experience of me will influence their life and development. How do I know that my influence (whether I perceive it to be good or bad) isn’t actually teaching them something really valuable for their life? Not everything good means that my children will take away something good. There is value in everything, so all of my experiences with my children will provide some value for their life’s journey. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to work on my organisation and patience. It just means that right now, as I am learning all of these new ways to be a mum and a housewife (which is very different to my corporate career life) I am giving them the best I can and there will be value in that. My life, my child’s life and my partner’s life is always 100% worthy and all of us are always learning, growing and contributing no matter what is going on in our lives. There will always be ups and downs in all our lives. The down times do not reflect our life’s worth or our self-worth. They are simply moments in time that contribute to our overall learning that we receive by experiencing them, just as the good moments do too.
        I could spend pages and pages writing upgrades to the many different challenges and stressful events that occur in your life. However I have only showed you two examples for the purposes of time. When you do your own upgrading of thinking, if you get stuck, please head over to the Q&A Forum to ask your questions. Sometimes it can be difficult to get on a roll with the upgrades and you just need someone to start you off. I am here to do that for you, so please don’t do it all alone. I have developed this reality thinking model and still need to ask other coaches how I can look at a situation differently. Sometimes an objective perception of a situation from an outsider can tell you the most obvious and helpful things that you may have never seen.
        Now we get to the solution-focussed steps of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process. What are you going to do about your present situation. Now that you have accepted it and changed your perspective on your self-worth and can acknowledge the potential value in the situation, you now want to start doing something about it, so you can accelerate the amount of time spent enduring this challenge.

        Because the most important steps of this process are steps one and two and because I have spent quite a bit of time on our two examples already, I will only gloss over these final three steps and give you some general ideas (in relation to our examples) of what you could do. Go back to Weeks Seven, Eight and Nine to revise on how to do these final steps, or head over to our Q&A Forum to ask a question on how these steps relate to your specific circumstances, if you are unsure.

        Step Three – Aim

        What do you want? Now that you are faced with this current situation, what is the ideal scenario here that you can begin working on?

        In regards to the example of the challenging child, a good starting point would be to learn how to manage your child’s behaviour when it does become inappropiate.

        In regards to the ‘chaotic life’ example, this one would need to be broken down. There is the organisational aspect, the financial situation and the relationship aspect. All three of these would need separate aims to work on and find solutions for.

        Don’t forget in this step that it may be necessary to look over your aims and ask yourself our two key questions:

        • Why do I want it (this aim)?
        • Is my aim in conflict with reality?


        Step Four – Choices

        Where can I resource the solutions to get me to my aim? Book stores, parenting forums, videos, experts, other people who have been in my situation, online resources etc. Remember that there may not be just one solution. Perhaps many solutions integrated together will form the pathway to your aim.

        In regards to the example of the misbehaving child, resourcing information in regards to disciplinary techniques would be primary.

        In regards to the example of the ‘chaotic life’, I would resource the individual solutions for reaching each of these aims, then I would resource how I could incorporate all of the choices I made for getting there, into a time schedule so that I felt like I was organised, managing my time with the kids, the time given to housework, time with my partner and time for myself. NB – You can find out how to do this in the chapter under time out in The Happy Mum Handbook PDF you have access to as part of your membership

        Step Five – Know your Plan & Action it

        Put all of the choices you have together and create a step-by step plan of action that you can follow, measure your results, recognise your wins and move you out of this challenging situation and towards your goals.

        Make sure you remember to incorporate mirror affirmations to get rid of those unproductive memes that prevent you from getting what you want and remember to stay aware of your thinking so that you can continually realign your thoughts with reality and continue towards your aim.

        Stopping yourself from experiencing psychological stress is all about changing your thinking and finding solutions to your problems. Eliminate the self-worth component by accepting and understanding that these events that you feel are contributing to the stress, are only moments in time along your journey that is fiiled with good times also.

        The quicker you adopt this new reality thinking model-type approach to your challenges, set your aims and continue to work on them, the quicker these challenging times move on and you have more fun times to experience.

        In tomorrow’s lesson I will teach you how we can apply the Mind TRACK to Happiness process to Depression.