Several weeks ago a woman wrote to Dear Abby wanting to know if there was something wrong with her because she felt disappointed if she looked at the obituaries in the newspaper and found no one she knew. Abby wrote back and told her it was kinda weird, but I think I know specifically what this woman’s problem is: she’s addicted to drama.
You know the kind of person I’m talking about — the one who plants themselves in every tragedy, goes on and on about their own lives, which they liberally embellish, and well, they’re tiring, quite frankly. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of flat affect/virtually comatose and hyperventilating hysteria, when it comes to external events.
But we all have an internal struggle that for the sake of simplicity, I’ll call “head drama” — those little scenarios, what ifs, and self derogatory lies we create in our minds that distract us from the business of living and steal our joy in the everyday. Here are some ways we can redirect our thoughts and thus keep the trauma of head drama at bay:
- If you’re ruminating over what “might” happen, remind yourself that the storyline in your head is pure fiction; it exists nowhere else but between your ears. Certified Life Coach Melanie Rudnick reminds us that worrisome thoughts are just that – thoughts.
- Do something that requires mental effort. In other words, crowd out the noise by learning something new or through reading, solving a crossword puzzle, writing a letter, etc. One of the things I love about writing is that it fully engages my mind; if I’m going to produce something half-way readable I’ve got to drive everything else out.
- Take the word “perfection” out of your vocabulary; fretting over every little mistake and imperfection will drive you nuts. There’s a huge difference between pursuing excellence and chasing perfection. My family once lived next door to a gentleman once who spent about 5 hours on his yard every weekend. He was a mean old cuss, too. He demanded perfection not only of himself but of his family as well, and it took its toll — his wife had an extended happy hour that began in the middle of the afternoon most days of the week, and his son got kicked out of school for bullying. He tried bullying my nephew once, but after dealing with me, he lived to regret it, but that’s another story.
- To bring yourself back into the realm of the here and now, notice your surroundings, whether it’s a beautiful sunset, the smell of a freshly mowed lawn or the sound of children laughing in the distance, take in what’s going on outside of yourself. My friend Debbie literally “shakes off” her negative thoughts — the first time I saw her do it I thought she was shivering because she was cold. She explained to me that by physically shaking her body, she’s better able to free herself from any thought that threatens to hold her mind captive.
- Do something nice for someone else. Studies have shown that people who volunteer are more satisfied with their lives than those who do not.