Untangling Irrational Thoughts

Being irrational is any person’s Achilles heel. Losing all sense of how to logically work through a situation and exploding into a fit of retail therapy, or comfort eating, or having a relationship altering meltdown. Like ending a friendship, or ending in divorce.

Being accused of being irrational only exacerbates the situation. It’s the classic cheap shot that will send anyone over the edge.

But in those moments when I’m alone? When I’m not in a confrontation? When I could be thinking about how my cat Remmi has belly floof as soft as the back hair of angels?

There it is. The irrational thoughts creep in.

It’s no secret I’m taking time away from releasing any new stories for a while. I’m still writing and working on a project I love. But I’m taking a break for a while.

For how long? No idea. But it’s the best decision for me at this point in my life.

But then…there it is. Scrolling though social media, my peers, and their successes. Or my peers finally having their breakout moment.

Am I happy for them? Of course! I couldn’t be prouder for many of them.

But the sad fact remains, due to my irrational thinking, I’ve drifted from quite a few I was once very close to.

I’ve made up countless reasons why.

They’re too busy.

They’re popular.

They don’t need me to cheer them on anymore.

I’m dead weight to them.

These are just a few very real irrational feelings I have. And every time someone has a success, that thought takes hold, like some kidnapper holding my joy for ransom.

“You’re not good enough,” my mind tells me. “You’re not clever enough. Smart enough. Strong enough. Fast enough. You suck at everything.”

And I know—believe me—I know I’m being irrational. I know none of that is true. I know within the fiber of my being I’m making random conclusions.

Therein lies the rub.

I can verbalize all I want about my irrational feelings. Tell myself how silly I’m being. But those feelings don’t go away. They sit there, like 16 Buicks parked on my chest.

It’s paralyzing.

And I bet you’ve done it.

So we’re going to work our way through it. Together. But before we start, these are things that through trial and error, I found work for me, they might work for you, or they might sound awful. Here is a jumping off point.

Ready? Here we go.

  • Get off social media.

    Just do it. It’s the place causing you grief anyway.

    My therapist once said like happiness, grief is contagious. And actually, it’s scientifically proven. In 2012, Facebook staged an incognito social experiment. You can read the study in detail here. Where users were split into three groups. Some saw mostly negative posts, some mostly positive, and some saw a balance of the two.

    I was the unlucky one who only saw sad news at that time. I commented to a friend if I heard about yet another pet or relative dying, so help me…

  • Get up. Stand up. And walk around your house.

    Pace your living room. I do laps around our six-foot kitchen island all the time, much to my annoyance of my mother constantly asking if I’m in the kitchen. Go to your mailbox. Walk around your yard. Make a list of places you feel safe and can be okay unattended.

    Full disclosure, I’m somewhat agoraphobic. I don’t leave my house unless I know where I’m going is what my brain deems is a “safe” environment. Target (yes, the big box store) is one of my “safe spaces.” So is my therapist’s office, and a local museum. And if I’m traveling out of state? There’s a lot of back and forth about cancelling. I have to really want to go. I also really have to talk myself into the pros and cons about the experience. If I feel it in my gut it’s not a good idea, it isn’t. Listen to what your gut is saying.

  • Cook something.

    Even if you don’t cook, I bet you can manage a sandwich. Just the simple act of stepping away from grief and accomplishing something as small as a sandwich is something to be admired. Bake cookies! Bake a cake! Do something that keeps your hands busy.

  • Take a shower.

    My personal go-to and first recommendation to everyone. For those living with mental illness, bathing can range from a regular routine to a massive accomplishment. I actually fall into this category. But also taking a shower just because your brain has convinced itself you’re a walking trash heap works wonders. With the hiss of the shower, and the hot water on your body, the world falls away. You don’t even have to wash your hair. You can just stand there, or sit down, and let the water flow over you. Stay in there until it goes cold. I promise you’ll feel more human.

  • Watch Netflix or Streaming Service of Choice.

    I know most of you reading this prefer books, but sometimes, you have to change up the medium. I’m a painfully slow reader to the point that I’m intimidated by the commitment factor and the risk it might not be my jam. My mind wanders within five sentences and it’s impossible to get back on track. But take 90 minutes for a Disney movie? I can spare that! If I want to commit to something, I can binge on a show, or pace myself bit by bit. And if I don’t like it? I’ve lost nothing.

  • Journaling.

    This is an old tried and true. Journaling on pen and paper helps a person get inside their heads to suss out the issue. Write a letter to yourself, or the object of your grief, spit it all out. Get all your rage on paper. Say all the things you’ll never say. And don’t ever send it. I’ve written a number of these angry, cathartic letters.

But what if your irrational thoughts are from something that directly affects you? A business venture, a vacation, making plans, a life altering decision.

Delegating is your best friend. See if you can delegate the task elsewhere. You’d be surprised how many things are not in your control. If you think something is your sole responsibility, it likely isn’t. Like a computer’s hard drive, there’s a back-up for a reason. Someone can help and pick up the slack.

It’s okay to put it off, or hand off the job to someone else. Even if you detest the idea, because it might mean a missed opportunity or lost finances. But sometimes, you can’t deal.

But don’t let the issue sit there and simmer. Don’t let it become the monster in the room.

Let it become your ally.

What do I mean by that?

Let’s face it, this monster in the isn’t going to show itself the door. But you can learn how to sit next to him and do your work. He’s the irritating deskmate we all had in grade school.  But we didn’t let him wreck our day.

Face your issue when you’re ready. When you are thinking clear. And if you fear you may lose your cool, have backup of a trusted friend, family member, or a co-worker you can count on to be in your corner. Talk through it with your therapist. Have a plan. Stick to it.

What if your irrational thought come with a deadline attached? What if the decision has to be made ASAP?

  • Take a breath. Take all of them.
  • Concentrate of the task at hand. Call for back up. Call for backup. Call. For. Backup.
  • Take a walk, or just sit in the sun. Even your car. It doesn’t even matter if you’re at work or home, just sit in the car.
  • Don’t forget to breathe.
  • Make your choice.

Above all, life is difficult, and for people like us Dandelions, it’s full of pitfalls and also wonder.

Fear reminds us that we’re alive, and that we have something to lose. That thing should be treasured. If no one ever felt afraid, we’d never try.

So be kind to yourself. Reward yourself. Tell yourself, “Yeah, that was hard, but I survived to face my fear another day. I will persist like the Dandelion I am.”

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