Just Keep Swimming
As Dory said in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming” doesn’t mean ignore it and sweep it under the rug. If something bad happened to you or because of you, it still needs to be dealt with. The keep swimming analogy means you still have to participate in life, just don’t dwell on whatever happened.
Just because you are upset over something doesn’t mean you can stop brushing your teeth or going to the grocery store. It means don’t let it ruin your life or day. But do circle back to deal with it. When we don’t deal with things and sweep them under the rug, problems can occur down the road.
Tomorrow Is Another Day
For example, if you’re an easy-going person who found yourself in a relationship with verbal or emotional abuse, you might find it easy to block out the abuse and take the Scarlett O’Hara approach of “Tomorrow is another day.” You let the abuse roll off of your back and don’t let it consume you.
Maybe you’re so insightful as to realize that you can’t change or control the other person so the best that you can do (if you choose to stay in the relationship for whatever reason) is to ignore it. Don’t let it get to you, don’t let it ruin your day. Just move on to the next day. And the next and the next.
That’s one coping strategy. It’s neither right nor wrong but it is easier than worrying about it or trying to change the other person. It gives you peace of mind.
It Can Lead to Hyper Control
However, the destruction it’s doing to you may bleed out in other ways. You may find that you can’t control the abuser but you can control everything else around you, including your kids. You could possibly become mean or super strict to your kids, friends or other family members. Or maybe just a bit too bossy and controlling. You attempt to control their every move. Or order them around like little robots.
None of that behavior will lead to anything good. Your kids may end up resenting you or worse.
Maybe you become so controlling of your to-do list that you order everyone to get it done now. Your mission becomes “check this off the list no matter what.” No matter who you hurt or tick off in the process, just get it crossed off the list.
Your anxiety could go sky high because every little thing now becomes a big thing. Someone forgot to fill up the whatever or clean up the mess. Instead of taking the “clean it up and move on” attitude, you freak out whether internally or externally.
Then the Freak-Outs Can Occur
We all know what an external freak out could look like. Yelling, screaming, berating, accusing etc. An internal freak out looks different. Your anxiety goes through the roof. “This has to be done now” you tell yourself. “It has to be done this way” you berate yourself. Or you could silently accuse the offender in your head, all the while your tension is rising.
None of those behaviors could be likened to Dory’s wise words in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.” Those behaviors are more akin to George in the popular sitcom Seinfeld yelling, “Serenity now!” when something upset him. In an attempt to be calm, he yells at himself to be calm. Defeating the point there, George. But it was funny.
Notice, Notice, Notice
The point is blanking out our reaction to a big thing can spill out into the smaller things if we’re not observant. The best strategy?
Ignore what you cannot change but don’t let your feelings about it creep in such that you start acting negatively in other aspects of your life.
It always goes back to noticing, being self-aware. Notice how you’re acting in all areas of your life, especially when something is bothering you. If one day you start seeing how much you’re losing your temper with someone, stop right there. Losing your temper or patience is an obvious sign that your tolerance is low today. Why?
That’s when you can drill down and figure out what’s really bothering you. Are you still upset with your partner over that fight last night? Still ticked off that your boss won’t give you that new project? Frustrated with your kids? Keep digging until you identify what’s really under the surface.
Don’t Create Collateral Damage
Once you figure that out, you can adopt Dory’s advice of “just keep swimming.” Ok, so you’re still mad at your partner. It can’t be resolved this moment, so move on. In the meantime, though, don’t blow up at your co-worker or your child. Be thankful for the clues so that you can course correct your behavior. Now you see what you’re doing and why. Now you can do your best to move on – for the moment. The underlying issue still needs to be resolved but since it can’t right now, don’t acquire collateral damage aka don’t upset other people in the process.
Completely ignoring something is akin to “sticking your head in the sand.” While that’s convenient to do, it’s not dealing with it. It’s fine to utilize it to get through your day, but not in the long run.
Step by Step Process
- Notice when something is upsetting you.
- Drill down to find out what. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not, especially if you don’t like to deal with your feelings.
- Don’t create collateral damage just because you’re upset over something else.
- Make time to devise a plan for the problems that will work for you in the long run.
It’s when we don’t deal with those chronic life problems that our life can become a mess or we start racking up collateral damage everywhere we go. Someone’s big life problem can be someone else’s small problem. It’s all relative. Know your limits as to what you can or want to deal with. Then find a solution. Sometimes solutions can take weeks or months. In the meantime, stay self-aware and do your best to keep your temper in check and patience in hand.
And then, well….just keep swimming!
Want to get the inside scoop on why you react the way that you do? Or others?
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