Don’t Worry, We’re All Broken
A quick reminder that as of December 31st ‘Aligning With Your Core Values’ will no longer be available.
If you’d like a copy of a book that represents the best work I do for clients AND get a huge discount into the bargain, click here and then use coupon code gratitude when you check out.
You can also request a copy of ‘How To Be Rich and Happy’ into the bargain!
Now over to Mr Rob Collins who has supplied me with what may very well be the very last guest post I ever run as I plan on a break from running any in 2017.
Don’t Worry,We’re All Broken
No matter how long you’ve been learning about self-development, your life will never be perfect.
I should know, I’ve been at it for over 20 years and still have plenty to learn!
I’m not a fan of so-called experts who claim to have found the answers to all life’s problems. Instead, I like to hear about other people’s fuck ups.
This isn’t because I’m a heartless bastard! It’s simply that I find it reassuring to remember that no-one is perfect and therefore I don’t need to be perfect either.
Life feels much more comfortable when we stop putting so much pressure on ourselves.
We all struggle, we all make mistakes. We’re all constantly learning lessons, forgetting them and then re-learning them later.
To that end, I thought I’d write about just three of my current struggles. Believe me, there are plenty more, but to avoid writing War and Peace, I’ve stuck to just three!
My hope is that you’ll be inspired by reading about my own struggles.
Struggle 1 – Maintaining Energy Levels
I have depression, though fortunately most of the time it’s pretty mild. However, I have been suicidal a few times in recent years.
Did you know in the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 35? So it’s very important to me that I carefully manage my health (physical and mental) to minimize this risk.
I’ve done a lot of experimentation over the years and gradually built up a personalized toolbox of techniques and strategies which help keep me mentally healthy.
For example, I’ve found that my energy levels are closely linked to my mood. High energy levels tend to equal good mood, and vice versa. So, the natural question to ask is: what keeps my energy levels high?
For me, there are 3 core components: exercise, sleep and diet.
These days, I aim to do a 25-minute high intensity workout 5-6 days per week. I’ve pretty much nailed this. The key for me was finding exercise I actually enjoyed… well, exercise I didn’t hate immensely, anyway.
You see, I don’t particularly like exercising, but I LOVE how I feel afterwards.
When looking for a suitable exercise regime, I wanted to maximize the bang for my buck. I needed a workout which was hard and short.
I wanted a full body workout and I wanted a routine which I could modify depending on how strong I was feeling on a given day.
I also wanted a workout I could do from home to save time traveling to and from the gym… and avoid having to deal with crowds of other people, many of whom have intimidatingly perfect bodies!
I started with “The Power of 3” workout DVD by Davina McCall. It’s fairly gentle but still a decent workout. As I got fitter, I wanted something harder, so I moved onto “30 Day Shred” by Jillian Michaels.
It has the right balance of “hard-but-not-too-hard” for me. And I feel amazing afterwards.
Seriously, exercise probably does more to boost my energy levels and mood than anything else, even anti-depressant medication.
I aim to get at least 7 hours sleep every night. I manage this most nights at the moment. One important tactic is to force myself to go to bed by midnight.
However I’m still only managing to do this about 50% of the time, meaning I need to lie in for longer in the mornings to compensate.
The thing is, late at night I have peace and quiet and can indulge in whatever geekery I like without being interrupted.
I find it incredibly hard to make myself go to bed on time, even though I know it would be in my best interests.
Plus, the more tired I am, the more I rely on caffeine to get me through the day. This can become a vicious cycle, so I try not to have more than 2 or 3 coffees per day.
After trying various diets unsuccessfully, I realized my sugar consumption was having a big impact on my energy levels.
So, these days I aim to consume only moderate amounts of sugar. This helps avoid the rollercoaster of energy highs and lows.
However, I this is one of my biggest challenges right now – I regularly binge eat late at night.
My binge eating problem follows a familiar pattern: I tend to eat pretty healthily during the day, but then late at night, I get tired and then the sugar cravings start.
Tim’s Note: This is called ego depletion and is a very common phenomenon.
Soon I cave in and start eating large quantities of food, especially ice cream. The next day I feel terrible!
My energy levels are low, my stomach is upset and I top it off by beating myself up. I keep shouting internally, “Why am I doing this to myself?!”
Now, I already know one simple solution to this: go to bed earlier! However, as described above, I find this difficult.
I’m currently investigating an audio programme called “30 Day Lift” by Karly Randolph Pitman. Rather than relying on willpower or attempting to control our eating, Karly’s approach is radically different.
Instead, she focuses on improving our relationship with ourselves.
The idea is that when we have a more loving and compassionate relationship with ourselves, problem behaviors like binge eating often disappear all on their own.
If, like me, you feel highly skeptical about this kind of emotional therapy, you may be reassured to know that there’s a decent body of scientific evidence supporting this approach.
I know because I asked Karly myself and was impressed by her detailed reply, complete with evidence, research and references to eminent psychology professors.
Wish me luck tackling my binge eating!
Struggle 2 – Managing Emotions
For a while now, I’ve been wondering about the following question:
“When we feel bad about something in our lives, we can make improvements in one of two broad ways: either we can change the external circumstances, or we can change the way we think about the external circumstances.
But how do we know which of these two approaches is best suited to any given situation?”
Now I think I finally have an answer, thanks to a recent post on PsyBlog.
If the event/circumstances are within your control then use whatever emotions/energy you’re feeling to motivate you to make changes.
But if things are outside your control, trying to change them just feels like banging your head against a brick wall. Instead, it’s better to change how you feel about the situation.
The best tool for this job is reframing. And Tim Brownson happens to be something of an expert in this area.
I’d like to think that over the years I’ve gotten much better at it too, partly thanks to Tim.
It’s so liberating when you realize that EVERY situation can be reframed to enable us to feel better about it. In fact, reframing can be a lot of fun.
The next time you find yourself having a moan about someone cutting in front of you in a queue, have a think about how you might view that situation differently.
However, even with reframing, I still struggle to manage my emotions in certain circumstances.
Typically this happens where I feel I’m being treated unfairly. I fill myself up with righteous anger and become combative against my “enemy”.
I employ the full force of my intellect and writing skills to prove how the other person is not only wrong, but stupid too. Yeah, I’m embarrassed to admit that.
Unfortunately this aggressive approach only escalates situations and ultimately harms me and the other person.
I’ve found the best solution for me is to be more aware of my emotions and particularly keep an eye out for this righteous anger.
I use mindfulness techniques to pay attention to how I’m feeling and simply accept those feelings without giving in to the urge to act on them.
I recognize that I NEVER handle situations in the best way when I’m in the grip of strong emotion. For me it’s much better to wait 24 hours and think carefully about the best way to respond.
I’ve known about this particular flaw of mine for at least 15 years. It’s cost me several friendships and at least one job.
Once the dust has settled after my latest destructive “Rob Moment”, I always swear it’ll be the last time. I suppose life keeps re-presenting us with the same lessons over and over until we learn them!
Struggle 3 – Being Kind To Myself
My mother was an alcoholic. She was often verbally abusive to me and other family members.
Unfortunately, as a child we tend to internalize some of the nasty things directed at us and we unconsciously accept them as true.
It can take a long time (or a lot of therapy!) to unlearn some of our negative beliefs about ourselves.
One of my core limiting beliefs is that I’m a “stupid boy”, as my mother was fond of saying.
Despite a tonne of evidence that I am most definitely NOT a stupid boy, there are times when I still feel very small, inferior and have low self-esteem.
These beliefs are often irrational and operate at an emotional level in our psyche.
One of the keys to overcoming these limiting beliefs is to learn how to be kinder to ourselves.
So these days, when I realize I’m speaking to myself in a harsh way, I imagine how my best friend might talk to me instead.
They’d be supportive, kind and caring. And that’s how I want to behave towards myself too.
Monitoring our internal monologue (and replacing it with better thoughts) is one of the greatest keys to happiness.
Another way to feel better about myself is simply not giving too much of a shit about other people’s opinions. It’s done wonders for my confidence!
I remind myself that what others think of me usually isn’t important – it’s my own opinion of myself that is really important.
(Note: I don’t mean this in an arrogant way. I still keep myself open to feedback from others – it can be a great way to learn and improve.
However, I now spend very little time worrying about what other people think of me.)
I’ve also found it helpful to stop watching the news or read newspapers. I also intentionally try to avoid as much advertising as possible. News and advertising just make us feel bad.
Also, every day I try to find small ways to feel proud of myself, even if it’s something as simple as making the bed in the morning.
This habit has actually helped immensely with my depression.
That’s because when I’m depressed I tend to feel completely worthless, and finding small nuggets of pride is an antidote to this.
There is definitely still scope for me to be kinder for myself.
For example, on the morning after a sugar binge, instead of beating myself up, I’m trying to give myself a break. I remind myself that I’m not a bad person, I’m just a fallible human like everyone else.
So, I hope I’ve suitably demonstrated that NOBODY has their life all sorted out. Even veterans of self-development still have parts of themselves they are working on.
Remember that life isn’t about having fewer problems, it’s about dealing with them in the best way we can. And there will never be a shortage of problems to solve!
I’d love to hear about your own experiences. Which parts of your life have you nailed? Which parts are you currently struggling with? Don’t be shy, share!
Rob Collins is The Depression Man. He aims to help people to live well with depression by sharing the tools and techniques which he uses to maximize his own wellbeing. He has a very scientific outlook because he believes that science is the best way to understand the world. He has given up his career in IT for a slower paced life – he now has a humble job delivering pizza, but he’s never felt happier. Rob has a deep love for video games (currently playing Hitman), dance music, psychology, science and technology.