Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the busyness, the constant hustle and bustle of life, that we forget to check in with ourselves.
Am I feeling okay? Am I happy? Am I making healthy decisions? These are questions we should be asking ourselves on a daily basis.
Instead, we zoom past any sign that we’re not okay, and before we know it, everything has piled up and increased in severity. It’s then that we’re forced to deal with the mess.
One of my favorite quotes is, “Deal with the big while it is still small.” In a nutshell, this means that you should address everything as it comes—if you don’t, it will become a much larger issue later. Consider this mantra in your everyday life and make it a priority to check in with yourself on a regular basis. Doing so will not only help you get to know yourself better but help you to make healthier choices. Registered Psychotherapist Becky Howie backs this practice and has a few simple techniques to offer for implementing it:
1) Get curious about your motivations.
First, she says to explore what you do and why you do it: “So often we do things on auto-pilot or say things from a place of reactivity, rather than taking a moment to check in with ourselves about what’s really going on. Maybe you have a habit you dislike or don’t understand… get curious about what you get out of continuing to do this thing that you do. Perhaps it started as a coping mechanism that worked at the time, or as a way to fit in/connect with others, but now it isn’t working for you anymore. Be gentle with yourself and what you discover, in this and all things. This is just a way to gather information and with that information, you can start to make more intentional choices.”
2) Check the story.
Howie says you should also do some investigating into your “internal tape” or self-talk. “Have you ever had a really strong reaction to a situation or something someone said or did, but weren’t quite sure why? Or perhaps you avoid certain situations for reasons you don’t understand? If that’s the case, check the story that you’re telling yourself,” she says. “If the internal tape is playing a story of doom and gloom, or victimization, then it’s no wonder you might be feeling terrible. My personal favorite is when Chicken Little starts running around in my head telling me something catastrophic is going to happen, when in all likelihood, the worst I’m in for is someone saying ‘no’ to me, which—last time I checked—won’t kill me. Check out what story is playing on your tape and then take a moment to do a reality check and see if it’s actually true.”
3) Journal without judgment.
Another effective strategy is journaling, as this will help to reveal deep, underlying feelings. “Sometimes we feel a certain way inside and can’t figure out why. Often, we feel hesitant to share or talk about what’s going on if we don’t fully understand it or suspect that something shameful might come out that others will judge us for,” she says. “If that’s the case for you, try setting aside some quiet time to journal and let what’s inside come out without worrying about how much sense it makes or who it might offend. Give yourself this opportunity to be honest with yourself on paper; you might be surprised by what comes up.”
4) Follow the breadcrumbs.
And lastly, pay extra attention to what excites you. “If you are feeling a little lost in life or wondering what next step you should take, one great way to do this is by paying attention to what you’re drawn to,” Howie explains. “Perhaps you continually fantasize about taking a vacation, but dismiss it as self-indulgent. Start noticing what it is about taking a vacation that appeals to you. Does it give you a sense of adventure to meet new people and visit exotic places? Or perhaps your body simply needs a break, some more sleep, and a chance to relax. It may not actually be about the vacation at all, but rather your body’s way of asking you to slow down. And once you’ve had a little R&R and feel more recharged, something new may bubble to the surface as your next interest. If you continue to follow the breadcrumbs, they will eventually lead you to discover your deepest desires underneath and help you live life in a way that is more aligned with your values and priorities.”