I’ve been thinking about the Yelling issue the last few days and about how, in my own life, that negative behavior can be blamed on the same thing a lot of my negative behavior can be blamed on: Acting Without Thinking.
I am the type of person who is constantly trying to better myself. I am also the kind of person who is often failing at trying to better myself. I like to think that makes me special. I often look at my failures and try to find common threads in them…maybe the root of the problem. What is it that makes me attempt these things and fail over and over again? And I realize that the majority of the problems in my life that I tackle over and over and over again – those problems could be solved if I would just learn to THINK before I act.
Let’s talk dieting. 2 weeks ago I proclaimed my joy over fitting into my size 8 jeans again. At that point in time I had lost 19lbs. Since then? I’ve gained 3 back. And let me tell you why: I’m to stressed/anxious/irritated to think before I binge.
When the thought occurs to me (often late at night) to indulge in something I shouldn’t…I immediately do it. I don’t think about why I shouldn’t…I just DO IT. It gets worse. If I can’t do it immediately – like if the thought is about french fries at the fast food place down the road – I purposely avoid thinking about it until I get there. So that I can eat it without feeling guilty first. Yes, of course I’ll feel guilty about it afterward, almost immediately afterward, but I’ll have already eaten it so – Too Late! Ha!. So sometimes I’m driving down the road to the ice cream place thinking, but not about the action I’m about to take. I’m thinking Oh! Pretty Tree! Funny Bumper Sticker! Ugly House! Dead Armadillo!, but I’m not thinking about the fried chicken tenders I’m about to inhale in 12.2 seconds. So therefore? No annoying subconscious to get in the way of my decision making.
But if I could just STOP and THINK, there are so many things in my life that I could change. STOP. Think about eating that browning before eating it…then maybe I can talk myself out of it. STOP. Think about yelling at my kids before I do it, then maybe I’ll come up with a better alternative. And then…here’s the big one: STOP. Think about any emotional response before I have it. Responding to anything with a boat load of emotion behind it? Always fails for me. Yet I do it ALL THE DAMN TIME.
Since Dad died, I feel like this bad habit of responding to a situation on fresh emotion? Has gotten much worse. And of course, when I’m responding off of emotion? There are probably tears involved. This never ends well. NEVER. I always feel like an idiot afterward, and usually my point doesn’t even get successfully made because the emotions block the path. If you start crying when trying to communicate with someone, the tears will either screw up the message, or the person on the receiving end of the message is so uncomfortable with the tears that the don’t pay attention to it. But mostly? I just look like an idiot.
One not-so-big-of-a-deal example is the day I got laid off. I was upset (obviously) and when I went to get the kids from daycare one of the directors had to remind me that I hadn’t paid my registration fee for the upcoming year. I was confused because I had thought it would just come out with tuition but it turns out they needed me to sign something to make that happen and I’m AWFUL about not reading the fine print. Well…I felt so stupid. I felt like a failure for getting laid off and then I forgot/messed up something for my kids. I hate being the parent that forgets stuff…so I kinda started crying. And then I wanted to convey that it was not HER making me cry so I said, “I’m sorry, I got laid off today…” to try to explain my tears. That didn’t help because then, of course, she thought I was upset about having to pay the late fee with no job. But that wasn’t it…I just needed to STOP TALKING and take several deep breaths and THINK. Because my emotions were screwing up what I was trying to say which was, “So Sorry! I’ll bring the check tomorrow!” and they were making her feel bad because she thought she was the one that made me cry.
See? STOP. Think. And more often that not? DEEP BREATHS. These things would come so in handy if I would just apply them.
So…instead of saying, “Back on track! I’ll lose that 3lbs!” or “Mom Mission: Decrease The Pointless Yelling!” – I’m going to try something different. I’m going to try to get to the root of the problem when I fail in my Many Missions To Improve Myself. I’m going to try to simply STOP. And then Think. I’m going to be deliberate with my actions. If I’m doing or saying something? It’s because I thought about it for a few seconds first. Maybe even a few minutes, if it’s a big thing. If I’m too emotional to respond in that moment, stop for a minute and breathe. Maybe don’t say anything. If I feel the urge to yell? Count to 10. Think about other ways of responding first. If I want that huge pumpkin muffin? Stop. Think. Maybe I want to walk around the block instead. Or do 5 push-ups.
For the rest of this week…that’s my goal. To be very deliberate in every step I make. I’ll kick start this by exaggerating a lot of the pauses in my mind so I can force myself into the habit. I’ll pause before EVERYTHING…just to get used to the feeling. Need to Pee? STOP. Think. Do I need to pee right now? Which bathroom should I use? Do I need to put on my shoes? STOP. Think. Which shoes should I wear? Deliberate on every mundane and stupid thing there is…just to get my mind used to the idea so that when the big things come up like the urge to scream, “I HATE YOU!” to my husband when he accuses me of throwing something away for the 10th time that day…I’ll know to stop and think and say something calmly like, “You know? You really make me want to blow my brains out sometimes.”
It’s always about the baby steps, right?
17 thoughts on “STOP. Think.”
This is a GREAT idea. I am much the same way. I lost my voice this week and it has taught me A LOT about the amount of yelling I do at my kids…and the futility of it as well.
I am also going to be deliberate in my actions. Thanks for this.
Too funny, I JUST left a comment on Marilyn’s site about “small” changes. I made a series of small, discrete changes over the summer and results have been amazing (I am happier, energized, I have lost over 15 lbs and am consistently exercising 3-4 times a week). I have a post brewing about it for next week , so it is interesting to read TWO posts in a row about this topic.
Can I suggest a crutch for this little experiment? Try wearing something that’s visible to you almost all the time as you go about your day (a bracelet works well for me, because I never wear them. Plus, I find them kind of irritating so I am always aware that it’s there). Then, whenever you catch sight of it, ask yourself: am I being deliberate right now? Am I paying attention?
It helps during that transition period when you are trying to retrain your mind to work that way.
I’m going to print this post out and put it in my ever-growing Why I Am Changing Things binder. You are hitting home with me a lot this week, and I want to thank you for being so honest.
I have the same food issue and I’m going to take this to heart, too. I think we’re so used to (as a society) getting what we want, like, NOW, that we don’t think about things. Other than, “I want that, and it shall be so!” And then next thing you know, I’ve gained 15 pounds.
Thanks for making me think about this… it’s great to be more aware!
you know you could have just written this about me…. and i understand completely the negative, instantaneous response that comes after tragedy; i know you’ve heard it before, but it will get better. what’s weird is i think i’m doing better w/ the yelling thing, but not w/ the binge eating. they’ll be my struggles forever, i’m sure. we need pumpkin coffee!!! maybe tomorrow?
I love this post because the thinking without acting is always what gets me into trouble. It’s the reason I eat bad foods, yell around my kids, everything you said. What a good idea, to make a deliberate effort to think through an idea before putting it into motion.
I am really feeling you these days, Zoot!
I loved this post. I can imagine getting laid off was hard (DH has been laid twice and I know that took it’s toll on me), the up side is that I’m totally enjoying all your posts. And I relate with the director issue and the dieting issue. Oh on so many issues. I guess that’s why you’ve stayed on my favourite list for over 6 months and I come religiously to read your posts daily…. and here’s the thing – As hard as it is on you I do love your parenting style. I have 2 kids 7months, and 2.5 years, and sometimes when I’m day dreaming I imagine they will love and adore me and think me cool, as much as AndyZ loves you. And I steal ideas from you too – Going back to cooking (only on the weekends – this sunday I’m making prawn chilly fry), and I’m looking for those butterly wings you have on in one of the pics…. do you mind sharing where you bought them from?
Aww Zoot, good for you for even being concious of your behavior and how it applies to your kids. Think of how many parents yell and never are aware of it. Only additional thought I had was to sit down with your family and tell them what you’re up to. Even your daughter is old enough to get what you’re trying to do. Or if you have to say, “NikkiZ, I need 1 minuted to think to myself. I am going to walk away from you for 1 minute. Then I will come back and we will talk about what just happened.” I’m rootin’ for ya and definitely have faith that you can make the changes you want.
Miss Zoot sometimes I think your so hard on yourself. I know its a good thing to look at yourself objectively and try to improve, else we’d never get anywhere, but along with your deep breath’s also remember your human and a good person too. You have two tots ( stressful enough although lots of fun too), a lovely teen and husband, and your were bereaved very recently. After my Dad died I think it took about two years for me to get back on the even keel. I look back at things I did and said and think now “wow that was weird”.
I don’t know about the yelling my mom rarely yelled ( I can’t think it was good for her blood pressure as she must have been repressing when we irritating) she had a certain look that guilt tripped you into behaving. I don’t know how she cultivated it but I think I may have inherited it slightly when I get my students to hussle down to work.
Regarding eating food before we think about it, honey I think most of us do scarf things down without thinking about it (I think it’s half the fun,) but I agree with you, that I need to think more before I eat, why I’m eating it etc. Sometimes I think its because I’m bored watching TV or comforting while I’m working on my computer late at night. I’m trying to drink each tea instead.
I think you rock.
And loosing 19 pounds pretty awesome. You can drop the other 3 next week.Get some running in before Halloween. Mercy all that candy ;)xxx
I win the prize for using “think” the most in one unstructured sentence. I’m taking a quick break while on a drawing marathon. Too stressed for grammar. 🙂
I have no advice, but I want you to know I could have written this post.
I think we all go through this- no matter which area of your life needs the stopping and the thinking. Mine will always be food or whatever else fits into my vice at the time.
If only excersize was bad for you.. I might get into it then. Hmmm. Maybe if I stop and think, I can convince myself of that!
I think I’m going to put a post-it on my fridge that says that. So many bad decisions are just not worth it in the long run.
Zoot, reading this is like listening to my own head–except you are already taking some well-thought-out steps to address the problem, while I’ve been just plain too lazy to get that far. I think I need to follow your example!
On the crying at daycare after being laid off–I think that’s completely understandable. It’s sort of hard to process things in a rational manner when your world has just been turned upside down, and I think most people would get that.
This is very very timely for me, what with the yelling at my little ones and the mindless comfort eating and the procrastination…
But! It reminded me, when I was in college, way back in the early nineties, our art department had one computer with Photoshop on it. As we were all amateurs, and our formidable teacher was not always around, she recorded a message somehow. Whenever we tried to do something, her voice would boom out from the computer “Stop! Think about what you’re doing.” I laugh now but as a student with an inferiority complex it was terrifying.
You’re not the only one who yells. Have you seen this article?