One of the most consistent and nagging struggles I deal with is getting stuck in my own head. I've always been difficult on myself (read: perfectionist), an over-thinker, and susceptible to analysis paralysis. Certainly, these have diminished in both frequency and intensity as I've begun practicing mindfulness, awareness, and gratitude, but they still rear their ugly heads (pun intended) every now-and-again.
For example, I just finished working with my wonderful wife Crystal on some video for the website. I had this fancy notion stuck up in my head that I'd be able to complete the entire video in one clean take, without any interruption along the way. Well, let's just say that I've got enough outtake footage to piece together a dozen gag reels. More than that, though, I found myself getting utterly and completely frustrated; I'd curse myself out or belittle my ability after every flub in my wording. It's silly when I look back on it, but in the moment, it felt like all-consuming frustration.
I had a number of supposed explanations for why I was frustrated the way I was:
I was certain I could pull off the video in one clean take, and refused to believe otherwise.
I didn't want to burden Crystal with the extra work -- she's the one who put the video together.
I "knew" I was better than I was performing, and felt some need to punish myself for not being perfect.
In the end, I have to credit Crystal for having the patience and wisdom I apparently abandoned in-between multiple takes. She reminded me that I wasn't "failing" or doing a poor job -- rather, that I was too stuck in my own head, and was making it almost impossible to succeed. She also brought up some very useful suggestions for how I could pull myself out of the tailspin I was experiencing; not that I was very eager to make use of them given my mental state at the time, however. Nearing the end of my figurative rope, I relented my stubbornness, and accepted the help she was very patiently willing to provide; I can happily say that everything worked out in the end.
Given some separation from the situation, with time to adequately reflect, I feel it's a great idea to pass along some suggestions for getting out of your own heads:
Take a break
We get so caught up in our heads when frustration gets to us, sometimes stepping away is what we need to do. Separating ourselves from the situation causing us anxiety can provide clarity, in that we can begin to look at it from the outside rather than caught right in the middle.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
There's a reason why actors, singers, and athletes rehearse and practice their craft. There's no guarantee that any situation or performance will go exactly as planned (and certainly not perfect), but preparation serves to quell the amount of anxiety you experience. I felt confident in my speaking ability so strongly, that I didn't write out a single line or thought for my video. Had I even put together a simple outline of how I wanted things to go, the experience would have been much, much smoother.
Change your physiology
Similar to taking a break, changing your physiology can have a significant impact on your mental state. When we're stuck in our heads, it's often negativity holding us there. Stand up. Jump around. Have a one minute dance party. Changing your physical state into one that promotes positivity will very quickly change your mental state to match.
None of us are perfect, and we all have our bad days. Remembering to embrace the concepts of mindfulness, awareness, and gratitude will help keep you out of your head more often than not, or at least reduce the time you spend when you're stuck in there. No matter what gets you stuck in your head, never forget that you also have the power to get out of it.
** View the video for this post HERE **