Madaleine {part 5}

In this post Madaleine shares her experience of a busy daily life completely taking over, a sense of falling back into old “negative” patterns and renewed attention on what helps her stay resourceful. Previous posts about Madeleine’s coaching journey can be found here {1}, here {2}, here {3} and here {4}.

I have chosen to write about my last two coaching sessions together as they were so contrasting in mood and content I found it helpful to link them. The sessions were a week apart but I couldn’t have been feeling more different in each one. During the first session I was full of positive energy. I was excited by the changes happening in my life. Energised by my achievements over the past two months and filled with renewed confidence in myself, I was feeling extremely positive.

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When I first met Bonnie and I was in a very emotional and negative state I talked to her about having ‘lost my sparkle’. By ‘sparkle’ I mean that bit of me that makes me ‘me’. It’s a mixture of confidence, sense of fun, sense of humour, desire, excitement about life, ability to be loving and positive. It’s the way I feel when I’m ‘deep down’ happy. Even if I have had a rubbish day that ‘sparkle’ is still there because it’s like a store of positive energy and light.

Over the past few years I felt that this store has been gradually used up without being replenished and hence the feeling that I have ‘lost’ or ‘run out of’ my sparkle. When I feel like this, negativity creeps in and I begin what I refer to as ‘spiralling’.  This is when I feel myself losing that positivity and gradually becoming sad, unhappy, miserable and at the worst times deeply depressed. When I feel like that it is as though the ‘sparkle’ has been replaced by a dark, heavy, grey clogging substance. The difference between sunshine and grey clouds; Light and dark; Diamonds and stone; clear and muddy waters – you get the idea!

Unfortunately the second session consisted of “grey skies and muddy water” feelings. I considered cancelling the session in the morning because I felt so overwhelmed by everything I ‘needed’ to get done that day. But I stopped myself and said “no, this is important”. I reminded myself of Bonnie’s powerful question to me, “what would happen if you put yourself first” and I did just that!

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I was acutely aware during this session that I was right in the middle of the problem of my negativity, one of the key reasons for beginning this process. I could feel myself reverting to old patterns and behaviours which occur when I feel stressed. I then turn in on myself. I respond emotionally to problems and become overwhelmed by the ‘big picture’ and focussed on every detail of the ‘to do lists’ leading up to the end point. This could be seen as a really good attribute as it means that I do ‘get things done’. The problem is, that I don’t pace myself and end up feeling exhausted, stressed and ‘burnt out’.

My pattern of behaviour when I feel like this is to become so focussed on the ‘thing’ ahead, whether it be a new house, a new job, a new project, that I am consumed by thoughts of ‘what needs to be done’ and eventually I become extremely unproductive, stressed and unhappy on a daily basis until the new ‘thing’ begins or is achieved.

I found myself humming one of my children’s songs to myself and thought, “yes, that’s it, I’m stuck in a bear-went-over-the-mountain’ scenario”. There is a children’s rhyme which goes like this, “ the bear went over the mountain, the mountain, the mountain, the bear went over the mountain to see what he could see and what do you think he saw? The other side of the mountain? And what do you think he did? the bear went over the mountain, the mountain, the bear went over the mountain and what do you think he saw? The other side of the mountain and what do you think he did? Oh yes The bear went over the mountain etc etc etc.” That is what I do. I am so busy trying to reach the mountain and get over the mountain that I don’t enjoy the walk and as soon I’m at the top, despite being exhausted I’ve got my sights set on the next bloody mountain! Aaaargh, help, mountain rescue urgently needed!

In order to break this pattern and to enjoy my day to day life more I want to learn how to accept that although the goal or the task is important it must not become the only important thing. I seem to enter a kind of paralysed mind-set when I get like this. If I have got ten very important things to do I get side-tracked and distracted by one very unimportant thing and for some reason I then can’t stop doing it. Even though my brain is saying “you need to do these other things – why are you spending an hour designing a photo-mug when you should be sorting out your mortgage and phoning the solicitor”. I cannot stop – I get stuck.

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Bonnie showed me a ‘tool’ during this session to help me prioritise more effectively. It is a grid where you write down the things you want to achieve. They are categorised as being either important, not important, urgent or not urgent. I have seen and used this format in a work context years ago and found it useful then. However, what was different about the way that Bonnie suggested I use it was that I didn’t just plot my to-do list onto it, but that I carefully consider what is really important to my resourcefulness and my well being. For example – eating well, getting enough sleep, spending time playing with my children, relaxing with my husband are all things I rarely prioritise when I am busy and stressed.

I left the session committed to spending the rest of the day only doing the things which really were important and making sure that I enjoyed doing them and allowed myself time to relax. It felt great and it was achievable, satisfying and nurturing.

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