Every therapist seems to tell you the same thing – use self-regulation and grounding techniques such as slowing your breathing, mindfulness, think of a stop sign before acting, etc. Supposedly these techniques work, so why don’t they seem to be making a difference for me?
It can get very frustrating when you do what someone says and don’t see results. Think about all the blogs about diet and exercise – I mean, really – how many blogs have you seen that tell you the 5 secrets to living longer, or if you eat properly and exercise you will lose weight, or the like? Then you see other blogs that say here’s a better way for women to lose weight. Or here’s a better way for someone on the go to exercise more regularly.
Advice is similar for stress management. There are a million blogs sharing all the benefits to using stress management techniques. Even more on some good ways to let go of anxiety.
With so much advice out there, you’d think it would be so simple. Just do this and everything will be better. Or maybe you’re thinking the therapists are just out of touch with reality. Nothing is that simple and if the therapist can do it, they must not be living in the same world I am.
I get it. Therapist’s are told not to talk about themselves. We are here for you; to help you. This is not a two-way friendship. In fact, it is harder to do therapy with friends because we cannot stay objective. As soon as a therapeutic relationship becomes a friendship, we cannot stay objective and help in the best way.
But therapists are people with backgrounds as well. Many therapists have actually been through their own stuff and been to therapy themselves. Many have been where you are now at one point.
What makes them different than you? Nothing. They went through their own frustrations and feelings of hopelessness that things will ever improve. They questioned whether they should continue with what they’re being told to do. They suffered through the emotional turmoil of working through their crap.
At the time it was just as difficult for them as it is for you now. When we do something, we expect something in return. Every action has a reaction. So when we are doing these self-regulation exercises, where is the REaction? Where is the improvement? It seems to go against what we know.
Eventually you wind up feeling frustrated and may even want to give up on therapy. What’s the point. It doesn’t work.
But the truth is, you are completely normal in wanting to give up or thinking it’s pointless. A lot of people struggle to stay with something long enough to see results. Whether it’s learning a new language, changing a diet and exercise routine, or going to therapy, it all takes time.
I get that you are feeling stuck and unsure that breathing and meditation will actually work. I get that you have a hard time being consistent with what your therapist is suggesting you do. However, if we understand the top three reasons we are not seeing results from the self-regulation techniques we are doing, it may give us that boost we need to continue the journey. When we understand something, it is entirely possible to change our outlook on it and start again with renewed energy and stamina.
Keep reading for the Top 3 reasons you are not seeing results from self-regulation techniques.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE A FAILURE OR THAT NOTHING YOU DO WORKS?
You are not alone! We all get that feeling and question why we’re doing something when we’re not seeing results from it. We second guess what we’re doing, or we find excuses to not do it any longer.
The biggest problem with this is getting stuck. You end up in a hamster wheel going around and around; trying something, giving up, trying again, giving up, trying again, giving up. Never actually getting anywhere.
At the very least, you feel defeated at times. Maybe you can push through those feelings of defeat for awhile, but strong feelings like that are difficult to push away forever.
Living this way gets to be frustrating. Not meeting your goals when you know what to do and you’re doing the right things can make us all feel tired and hopeless. We all want to see results.
WHAT IF YOU HAD IMMEDIATE RESULTS? HOW WOULD THAT BE FOR YOU?
Change takes time to adjust to. Think about climate. We have four seasons and as you go away from the equator, those seasons become more obvious. If you’re in the Northeastern USA, we have summer which transitions to winter via fall and transitions back to summer via spring.
What would happen if there was no transition period and climate went from summer to winter? The trees and other life won’t have time to go dormant. The animals won’t realize that lack of food is coming soon and they need to stock up now. A lot of life wouldn’t survive well.
If we make our own transitions too quick, we, too, would have a difficult time with handling that. Some of us may do better than others, but as a whole, humans would struggle with a quick change like that.
Think about people whose lives have been changed in an instant. Car accident, other trauma. It takes time to adjust to the new life. Everybody has a transition period there. Some end up in a depression. Some end up angry. Some just seem to deal with it. But each person is still dealing with that transition. Some will make it through and others will remain depressed or angry for a long time.
Even things that seem good – health for example, need a transition period in order for us to make sense of it and be ok with it. It would feel awkward to wake up tomorrow and go from flabby to muscular.
Furthermore, there are changes happening at a more cellular level than we are even aware of. Just because we don’t see the changes doesn’t mean they’re not happening.
When we understand the top three reasons we are not seeing results from what we are doing, it gives us the potential for a changed outlook that will help motivate us to continue what we’re doing.
TOP 3 REASONS WE ARE NOT SEEING RESULTS FROM SELF-REGULATION TECHNIQUES QUICKLY
I know you want to see results quickly. You want an instant fix. I get it. We all do. That is normal. Especially in the culture we currently live in. Computers go fast. Cars go fast. When something doesn’t work, we take it in to be fixed and get worried if it takes “too long.” We’ve become accustomed to quick fixes. Sometimes we don’t even bother to fix something; we just buy a new one.
The key to getting results from self-regulation is consistency. I know you’ve heard that before. This blog is not about telling you to stay consistent, but to help you understand the top 3 reasons you are not seeing results yet.
Understanding these keys will help you stay consistent, which is the ultimate key to success. The better we understand something, the more we’re able to make it work for us.
Take a look at these 3 points to learn what will help you feel confident on your path to feeling better
1: You’re under constant or frequent stress
One of the reasons you struggle with not seeing results is because you are under constant or frequent stress. When we are under stress frequently, the brain is constantly kicking out adrenalin or cortisol, which gets stored in your body. This keeps your body in fight/flight or survival mode.
Furthermore, when we’re under stress, every bodily system not needed for survival is turned off. Metabolism is one of those systems. If you are trying to eat healthy or exercise to loose weight, but you’re under a great deal of stress, you won’t see results quickly because metabolism is turned off.
It makes complete sense that you’re feeling frustrated. Unfortunately, all this does is continue the cycle of stress, thus not allowing you to meet your goals.
Solution 1: Take a look at how much stress you have in your life. How much do you have control over, how much do you perceive no control over, and how much do you actually have no control over?
Your job, for example, is something many people believe they have no control over. Whereas you have no control over other people or management’s plans, you have control over whether you stay there.
Maybe you have one year left to retirement and “I have to stay.” You still have control over whether or not you stay. In reality, you want to stay for a variety of reasons – pension, belief that no one would hire someone one year away from retirement, other investments in the company or in your own life, etc.
When we look at our situations from a want standpoint versus a need standpoint, it makes us feel more in control. We just need to have perceived control in order to reduce the stress in the brain.
When you start noticing where you have control, where you perceive no control, and where you actually have control, it helps you start to regain control in yourself, helping you feel more confident in yourself and your abilities.
2: You’re not practicing enough when you don’t need it
Another reason you struggle with not seeing results is you are not practicing the skills enough when you don’t need them. What happens to logic and ideas when we are upset? They disappear. Logic is turned off. We are not supposed to think when we’re in danger. Even though we are not in danger, the brain is perceiving danger, thus setting off fight/flight.
The amygdala is a primitive part of the brain set to survival. It notices something in the environment that it senses as danger and sends adrenalin into your body, first through the frontal cortex shutting it off, then into the rest of the body, shutting down systems not needed for survival and giving extra energy to your limbs to allow you to fight or run, and increasing your heart rate so you can act quickly.
Then the amygdala talks with the hippocampus which is the part of the brain surveying the whole environment, not just one piece of it, and tells the amygdala everything is fine. But, the fight/flight reaction already started.
You’re not supposed to think in danger; just respond. If you think before acting, it can mean the difference between life and death.
If you wait to practice these skills only when you need them, you won’t see results as quickly because you won’t think to use them fast enough, or even at all.
Solution 2: Practice the skills you are using to help with anxiety, anger, fear, panic, irritation 200 times per day.
Together with my clients, I help them do this. I help them find a way to make it second nature to them to use the skills so regularly nobody notices them using them.
When you start using these skills so frequently, you will be turning off the fight/flight so regularly, the brain will start to re-set itself. You will start to see results much quicker because the brain will realize that you are safe in most situations.
All using these skills really does is give you time. Using them helps the hippocampus tell the amygdala that right here, right now, you are safe and don’t need to send out any more adrenalin.
3: You’re sabotaging yourself with self-talk
This is a big one. One of the biggest reasons we don’t succeed at what we’re trying to do, or don’t see results quickly is because we’re sabotaging our efforts with self-talk.
When you tell yourself “This is pointless” or “I’ll never improve” you’re in essence helping the amygdala do its job. Each time you tell yourself “I can’t” or something similar, the amygdala activates because it senses something is wrong.
Remember the amygdala is set to survival and only looks at a piece of the environment, not the whole picture. When you tell yourself something negative, the amygdala senses something is wrong and sends out adrenalin, even if in only small amounts.
With the amygdala pumping out more adrenalin, even in small amounts, it will cause the body to have the stress response – going back to point 1: You are under constant or frequent stress.
Solution 3: Challenge your thoughts. Is what you are thinking based in fact or opinion? Are you thinking in all or nothing terms? Is there actual evidence, not opinionated evidence, to what you’re saying?
Even if your thought is based in fact, or you aren’t able to challenge it per se, how can you turn it around? For example, you hate your job, but have decided to stay because you’re one year from retirement. You recognize this is your choice, and not a “have to.” You notice that you’ve been telling yourself “I don’t know if I’ll last the year” – but you know you will no matter what. So this thought is just bringing you down.
Instead of telling yourself, “I don’t know if I’ll make the last year,” try telling yourself “I will get through today.” You know you will get through today. As bad as it seems, you know this to be true.
Challenging your thoughts will help you see alternative ways of looking at the situation, allowing you to open up possibilities, turn off fight/flight, and use your skills more frequently.
When you schedule a session with me, I will help you to look at your thoughts, which ones are helpful and which aren’t, allowing you to meet your goals quickly.
Achieving your goals and seeing the results from the action you take daily can be exciting or frustrating. It depends on several factors, and these three tips today, will help you make the journey exciting instead of frustrating.
You absolutely can meet your goals without the frustration and stress. Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC, is the place to go to reach your goals quickly and efficiently. Together we make a plan and take each day one step at a time, finding what works, and getting rid of what doesn’t for you individually.
Call me today to schedule an appointment. I look forward to hearing from you! 941-462-4807.