What I am about to say will sound really silly: sometimes I forget to tie my shoes. I can’t explain it, it’s weird, I don’t know why. We tie our shoes so often, mindlessly, that if I had to teach someone else to tie their shoes, my mind would go blank. Like a glitch in the matrix.
I think life can be that way sometimes, too. We get in routines and cycles and patterns and sometimes we don’t think about what we are doing as we are doing it. For some of us, that’s a source of privilege, to be able to roll through life without having to think too hard about it. For some, it’s a source of monotony and lack of intention, noticing the beauty around us.
I can relate to both. There are times that life feels like Groundhog Day; wake, eat, work, cook, clean, sleep, repeat. Then there are times that the next right step feels impossible to do. Sometimes that is eating, sometimes sleeping, sometimes hygiene, sometime leaving the house, things that are second nature that take a little- or a lot- of effort on my hard days.
Sometimes our automatic thoughts keep us stagnant. There are these things in counseling we call cognitive distortions. Essentially, they are unhelpful thinking patterns that lead us down maladaptive spirals or coping skills, like ruminating, or even self-harming. *See photo for a list of cognitive distortions*
The importance of identifying cognitive distortions is that we can identify and acknowledge when our thoughts are not 100% true. Thoughts may not be facts, sometimes they are 0% true, 100% true, or somewhere in-between. Oftentimes, me included, we accept our automatic thoughts as fact, that we are a burden, unlovable, too much, not worth it, etc. These, my friends, are false.
Back to the shoes…When I have a messy apartment, it usually reflects the messiness in my mind at the time. And when I see a mess, the last thing I want to do is clean. I’m clearly overwhelmed, often depressed, and the couch is singing me its siren song. My cognitive distortion: All or nothing thinking. I think “I have to clean all of this mess at once or I cannot clean it at all”. How true is this? 0%. I could clean just one thing, or one room, or for only 10 minutes. But getting moving is arduous.
Something that helps? I put on some shoes- slippers for the days my brain glitches- and I set a timer for 5 minutes. I often start with trash. Once those 5 minutes are over, I can decide if I want to stop, or I can go another 5 minutes. Often, I find that once I have started moving, the movement gets easier, and I build momentum. And, truly, I believe that the shoes help my neurodivergent brain process the mess. Again, I cannot explain this weird thing, but it works for me.
So, what is keeping you stagnant? What is your Groundhog Day? What can help you build momentum? I often tell people “Do the next right thing”. That “right thing” could be sitting up, putting on deodorant, eating a snack, calling a friend, or even taking a new way to work to see a different view on your commute. The idea: do something small to build momentum. And pay attention to those cognitive distortions that impact our momentum. So put on some shoes, tie them, slip them on, Velcro them, and do the next right thing.