Why am I stuck? Your brain has the answer.

I woke up feeling uncomfortable. Like my heart was unsettled. Do you know the feeling? Sometimes it feels like some doomsday scenario is upon me, like something got to be done right now, and I’m not doing it. All the negative thought patterns start coming up along with this feeling.

Has it ever happened to you?

The moment of discomfort

It will inevitably happen.

In every area of our life where we want to change, where we want to grow and develop beyond what is. Be that a new body we are building, a new level of income and career growth, or relationship status. It doesn’t matter. The brain is a lazy bustard that uses the same stuff for everything. That’s how with such a seemingly small thing (just 5% of our body weight) we adapt to millions of life scenarios that we haven’t ever experienced before.

As a coach, I get to take people through that stuff, those moments of discomfort that precede change. Not always the best moments of my job, to be completely honest. Sometimes that discomfort we feel, we put it on everything that’s immediately present, whether related to the cause or not — your spouse, kids, coworkers… or your coach you are talking to right now. That’s just how we are, nothing wrong with it.

(I drew this morning)

The choice

And then we have a choice: the old pattern that takes the itch away, in such a comforting way, that usually leads to the exact same places in our life; or a new pattern, that feels awkward and uncomfortable at first but always leads to new destinations, to us feeling better later, better about ourselves, our lives, our development.

The sweet stuff

(My old blog and 33rd birthday in Kuala Lumpur)

I used to eat sweets when I felt stressed, with too many uncomfortable emotions. I didn’t realize it at first that it was my way of dealing with stress and discomfort. I was unaware, that with some deep work lead me to being aware of the behavior that didn’t serve me, and that lead me, with more work, to learning new patterns of dealing with stress, and that led me towards my better self and future I wanted to build. I started a breathing practice, I listened to my favorite music, I moved. That lead to better fitness, better sleep, better stress resilience, so I could take on more challenges to achieve my goals in life.

The brain, cortisol and sitting with discomfort

I’ve just finished this book that among many other fascinating things and skills for a better happier brain talks about this moment, this discomforting now. And there’s a skill mentioned, an essential step to build new patterns, to break old ones, and arrive to new destinations — sitting with discomfort.

“The first step to happier habits is to do nothing when your cortisol starts giving you a threatened feeling. Doing nothing goes against your body’s deepest impulse, but it empowers you to make changes in your life. Once you do nothing, you have time to generate an alternative. At first, no alternative looks as good as the habit does, but positive expectations build if you give a new pathway a chance to grow. Each time you divert your electricity in a new direction, you strengthen your new circuit. It all starts when you accept a bad feeling for a moment instead of rushing to make it go away.”

This moment of discomfort is nothing new, humans have been experiencing it since our beginnings as mammals, this cortisol, stress chemical surge when we feel our survival is threatened by something.

What changed in our today’s reality — a lot of things trigger it, that cortisol surge, things, that have nothing to do with our immediate survival, and very often we choose the behaviors to address “the threat”, that also do not change anything related to our survival — it just help us to make more happy chemicals flowing at this moment. And as far as your brain is concerned — that all that matters, the happy chemicals, that mean, that perhaps, for the moment, the threat isn’t as threatening anymore.

Of course, if you are someone like myself, having used food to change how you feel, you know one thing for now — it doesn’t change your life or your problems, sooner or later, if you want a better or just a different future — you’ll have to deal with it.

Pain now? Or continuous pain later?

The tricky part, and why getting unstuck is so damn difficult

Realizing we have a pattern.

Usually that happens automatically with some self-awareness skills built-up through mindful practices like meditation or journaling.

Interrupting that pattern before we take action, that keeps us stuck, or even while doing that — that’s where the work is.

The best neuroscience-research-based tools?

Breathing — breathe in for 4 counts, breathe out for 8 or longer, box breathing is another good one 4–4–4–4. Music — put on your favorite song or 2, that immediately changes the way your neurons fire. Movement — walk, run, dance, roller-blade — whatever’s the easiest.

And then, celebrate it (the hack for faster wiring) — acknowledge it, you made a different choice. When you celebrate it, you actually speed up the wiring of the new pattern you choose.

The question that leads to change

And then, ask yourself, “What is the easiest step I can do right now to start climbing back up?” — the easiest, the smallest, something you can do right now, to go where you CHOOSE to arrive. And then you do it. And then you ask again. And then you do it. (This is from my new book “FIT-and-FOCUSED BRAIN-BODY BLUEPRINT for remote pros and digital nomads”)

And that’s how one moment of discomfort at a time you arrive in new destinations in life, fitness and business.

Why do we get stuck?

Because we developed these patterns at some point in our life without realizing it. It felt good, the brain built a pathway to fire neurons that way (because it felt good), the brain “built a road” to happiness, we repeated it a few times and now we have a solid “road” in our brain for dealing with specific situations, specific stressors, specific feelings in a certain way that keeps happy chemicals flowing. And that’s about it. You aren’t stuck, you aren’t broken, there’s nothing wrong with you at all!

Building a new “road” always takes more effort, and so your brain, while trying to save the effort, your energy and resources, prefers to use the old road, even though it leads to destinations where you no longer want to go.

Simple.

ROAD MAP TO GET UNSTUCK IN ANY AREA:

  1. Figure out the pattern you want to change — practice meditation and journaling, self-inquiry.
  2. When discomfort arrives, choose one of the pattern interruptos, and do it (or all of them).
  3. Ask yourself the question: “What’s the easiest next step to start climbing up?”
  4. Do it.
  5. Repeat till the old pattern is the thing of the past that no longer feels good. Destroy that road. Build a new one, more aligned with who you want to be and the life you want to live.

Some recent and exciting updates:

🎙️My new podcast series “Fit-and-Focused for Remote Work and Digital Nomads” is picking up! I have my recording schedule getting fuller and fuller — grab your spot to tell the world your story and help others on their nomadic/remote journey.

📘Pick up my book: “Fit-and-Focused…” All the lifestyle and work research-based foundational routines to keep yourself remote and thriving.

🧠Take my “Cancel Brain Fog and Get Focused” 5-day challenge, starting July 4th, for purpose-driven entrepreneurs, where for 5 days I’ll be teaching you in game-like workshops over zoom how to make your brain happy and productive, keeping yourself super fit and energized. (Get in touch for details)

❓And as always — ask questions, post comments, share your stories, share the post if it was helpful for you, and you’d love to live in a world where people know and practice this.

Talk soon,

Your fit-and-focused brain coach,

Angela

🙂THANK YOU FOR READING! DO GREAT THINGS.

📘MY BOOK IS OUT “Fit-and-Focused Brain-Body Blueprint for Remote Pros and Digital Nomads: Neuroscience-based routines, hacks and habits to stay productive, healthy and fit anywhere”

BrainBreakthroughCoach.com

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Angela Shurina

Angela Shurina

Brain Coach for Techies. 🧠𝐁𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠: 𝐅𝐨𝐜𝐮𝐬, 𝐌𝐨𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐫𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧. https://tinyurl.com/brainupgrades