I’m sure by now you have already started to become aware of just how much your thinking is contributing to your stress, depression and anxiety.
It’s important to understand that it is NEVER the events that cause you stress, it is how you perceive this event with your mind and what you perceive this event to mean about you (your self-worth).
If it were events that caused stress, then everyone who ever encountered the events you do (be it parenthood, relationship problems, challenges with your kids etc), would experience it the exact same way. But we know this is not always the case.
We all know that parent out there who seems to be born to do this role with ease, who rarely bats an eyelid over the things that their children do. They effortlessly go about the business of being a parent and nothing much fazes them. They are full of that love and natural parenting ability that we all wish we had. Do they come across challenges as a parent? Absolutely! But the thing that makes this parent different is simply how he/she thinks about those challenges.
They are not better than you! They have simply had different experiences that have left different memes (belief systems) imprinted on their brain. They are simply accessing different information in their mind when dealing with the challenges of being a parent.
You can learn to think in this way too. You have been gifted with an incredible ability within the brain to retrain yourself to think differently. Everyone has major adversities to get through in their lives, perhaps yours is postnatal depression, anxiety or parental stress. But you can get past this. I know you can.
Just imagine how empowered and proud of yourself you will be when you learn to conquer you mind, and overcome the feelings that may be tormenting you and causing you pain right now.
This week we are going to look closer at the specific thoughts that are causing your parental stress. We are going to do this by first becoming aware of how we feel.
Feelings are indicators that a belief has been triggered.
Why do we feel happy sometimes? Because we assessed the situation that we experienced and it aligned with our beliefs about what is good and what we like. We already had formed beliefs about how we would like life to be and this experience matched those beliefs. This thinking that agreed with the situation experienced, then caused the bodily response that we identify with as being happy.
Why do we feel sad sometimes? Because we assessed the situation that we experienced and it didn’t align with our beliefs about what is good and what we like. We considered this experience to be bad, painful and not how we would like it to be. This experience did not match our beliefs about what was ‘right’ or expected. This thinking then caused the bodily response we identify with as being sad.
Can you see that in both situations, beliefs were activated and these beliefs dictated how we felt about what we had experienced? These beliefs created a physical response in our body that we know of as our emotions. This happens whether we have an enjoyable emotion or whether we have an unenjoyable emotion.
Therefore, in order to help us to become aware of what we are thinking, we can use our emotions as indicators that a belief or beliefs have been triggered. We can start to become aware of the memes that are in our minds that are creating how we feel.
In order to have experienced an emotion, a belief has always been activated first!
Over this week we are going to look at specific things we say to ourselves that cause us to feel emotions such as anger and resentment, guilt, blame, fear, sadness and also self-criticism.
Don’t believe everything you think!
Stress occurs because we believe everything that is going on in our minds. We believe that what we are thinking is truth. We have become so conditioned by this thinking that it has consumed us and become how we identify with what is going on. We rarely consider the possibility that perhaps our thoughts are not accurate.
This may seem like a strange concept to you, however this is why I asked you to do the exercise at the end of last week’s lesson and do it daily over this week. Only by starting to become aware of your thinking and actively challenging it and analysing it, can you start to open up your awareness to all the untrue perceptions you have about life that are causing you to feel stressed.
If you can remind yourself that what you are thinking has often been set up by someone else, because of what their experiences have been, then you can entertain the possibility that what you are thinking just may not be all that true after all.
Conversations in the mind
Begin by noticing your reactions to your day to day tasks. Try to catch those little conversations about what is going on around you.
For example – observing the house work to be done. Take notice of the commentary that occurs when looking around your messy home.
“Look at all this mess. I’m never going to get the time to clean up all this mess. I’ve had enough of all this mess. I don’t even want to clean it up. What’s the point anyway? It only gets messy again. The kids have no respect for what I do around here. I just feel like a slave. All I do is clean up after everybody. What happened to the person I used to be…..?”
You will notice two things about this conversation. Firstly, it is conflict with the reality that the house is the way that it is. We cannot change what we are currently experiencing in each moment. The moment is what it is because of how everything has unfolded leading up to this present moment. If you are not accepting this reality and are entering into a conversation with yourself about how it’s not the way you would like it, then you are setting yourself up for stress and emotion (incidentally this conversation often ends up with the feeling of anger and resentment. I know it all too well from my own life).
Secondly, you may notice that what started out as a simple observation about the state of the house, spiralled down into meaning something about you and your life.
This is the pattern of thinking I want you to start to become aware of. It is this type of thinking that leads to stress. It is unconsciously allowing your mind to travel in the direction of being in conflict with reality and have it expand in that direction until you feel stressed or emotional. This is what is causing you all of your problems.
Conversations with other people
It is not just your thoughts that you need to become aware of. Listen to the conversations you have with other people. Do you frequently engage in conversations about how hard things are, how you are missing out on getting what you want? Do you frequently blame, criticize and judge either yourself or other people?
All of these conversations are also contributing to how you are feeling about your life. Start to become aware of these little conversations and comments that you make about your day to day life and they will bring you to an awareness of how often you are saying these things.
It can be really insightful to start recognising these thoughts you are having, and more so how often you engage them.
It starts to become really obvious why you are feeling so intensely emotional. If thinking about what is wrong, bad or missing from your life is the repetitive tape going on in your mind and within the conversations you are having with others, then you will continue to, not only see more and more evidence of this being true, but you will also continue to stay in this feeling of emotion and pain.
You have to become aware of what you are thinking and change it, before you can feel better.
Letting go of this kind of thinking
Sometimes letting go of having these kinds of thoughts and conversations with others can be difficult to do. This is not just because it is a habit and habits are difficult to break, but also because sometimes we have attached our self-worth or our identity to being this kind of person.
It sounds ludicrous in theory, but when you think about it, there is a dynamic within our relationships where we have set up how we relate and talk to one another. If you have a partner or friends who are constantly engaging in the same conversations about what is wrong in life, what you are missing out on and how hard it all is, then this is often how you relate to each other. You find comfort in talking about these things to other people because, oddly enough, it gives you a sense of belonging and acceptance.
Even though it consequently results in you feeling bad about your life and seeing more and more evidence of it going wrong, the priority (or the payoff) to holding onto these thoughts is about being accepted within your social group or family. This way of thinking has come to be part of how you identify with yourself.
If you really want to change how you feel about your life and live a happy life, then you need to let go of the attachment to thinking and talking that is aligned with stress and is in conflict with the reality of life.
This will often mean change amongst your relationships. At first people may resist your change in thinking and your change in reactions to what they are saying. Some people may ridicule your new reality-based comments and you need to be willing to accept that they are just stuck in their old thinking and that’s okay.
You may find that as you begin to change, people drift out of your life. This may sound a bit worrying, however what you will find is that you will be left with, deeper, more fulfilling relationships with people who are aligned with this new thinking too. The more you surround yourself with these people, the more you will learn and copy this new reality-based thinking too, making your path to happiness even quicker and easier, as you will be practicing more often.
Change comes with commitment
One last comment to make about your thoughts and conversations before we proceed: Within this process, you have the information that will enable you to stop doing postnatal depression.
But information alone will not help you to recover. You need to commit to applying this information so that you grow new neural connections in the brain which will make it habitual that you think this way. This only happens through repetition and consistency, the same way this destructive thinking was set up in the first place.
No one can do this for you. It is about aligning yourself with your higher purpose for committing to making these changes. Why do you want to change? Is it so that you can be happy? Is it so that your kids don’t suffer depression too by handing limiting beliefs down to yet another generation? What is your intense drive for getting better?
Because whenever you find yourself engaging in these destructive conversations with other people and whenever you identify them while just talking to yourself, you need to remind yourself of your bigger goal. Every single time you stop these thoughts, you are one step closer to training your brain to break this habit and habitually learning a new way to think that will lead you to happier times.
This is the only way that you are going to change. Commitment and application of the information taught in the coming weeks.
So the question remains; What are you willing to do to become the person and parent you want to be? How dedicated are you to following the practices you will learn in this program over and over again until they become a new habit?
The answers to those questions are what will determine whether you succeed in your mission to overcome your stress, depression or anxiety and be happy.
Tomorrow we will begin by looking at what thoughts cause Anger.