Ep 52: How to stay flexible when you feel like you might snap

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This episode is where architecture, physics and mental health come together. 😂 The ability to stay flexible isn’t just about stretching and letting life contort you in fourteen ways.

If you want to be able to bend and flex with what comes your way, you have to learn how to keep things balanced, too.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to stay flexible.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

Understanding  your thinking errors is a great way to stay flexible, too. If you missed my series a couple of weeks ago on how thinking errors can stress you out, check them out all in one place.

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes of Mental Health Moment wherever you are! 

Full transcript 👇

Ep 52: How to stay flexible when you feel like you might snap - Woman pulling leg over her head

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

One of the attributes given to me in most places I’ve worked is that I’m flexible. Now, isn’t that fun?

Who doesn’t want to be known as the flexible one?

Bold, innovative, take charge, sure, those sound exciting.

Flexible?

Um…okay if you just can’t think of anything else. I’ll take “Who is flexible for $300 dollars, Alex.”

I’m not sure when I became known as the girl who can adapt and go with the flow, but I can tell you it has served me very well.

I’ve learned excellent skills through the years to help me process my anxiety about change and help me find its place in my life.

Staying flexible and adapting to the situations around me has helped me weather professional changes and a fair amount of personal change.

You see, to be flexible you have to be willing to give just a little in places where it feels really scary. Maybe even especially when it feels scary.

If you know basic physics, and really who doesn’t, you know that what doesn’t bend will break.

My first experience with this was on the top floor of a tall skyscraper in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. A bad spring thunderstorm had just rolled in one afternoon with strong, howling winds.

While I was standing at the copier, I felt the building swaying back-and-forth. I’m sure it was only a couple of inches but it felt like 10 feet in both directions.

One of my coworkers must’ve seen my sheer terror while clinging to both sides of the copier because she quickly let me know that was perfectly normal.

The building had to move and sway a little so that it wouldn’t just snap with the force of the wind.

It turns out this is a deliberate and calculated architectural feat.

What keeps this sway under control in many skyscrapers is a kind of pendulum called a tuned mass damper.

This is a giant ball usually made out of steel that weighs hundreds of tons. It’s suspended on pistons and springs inside the building.

When the wind blows against the building, the damper moves the ball in the opposite direction to help balance the sway.

The building essentially becomes a giant tuning fork, bending and flexing with the waves coming from all directions.

And most importantly, the building is still standing once the winds have died down.

 

Taipei 101 Tuned Mass Damper

The tuned mass damper in Taipei 101 Tower in Taipei, Taiwan

How can you balance out the sway of change and unexpected events that happen in your life so you can keep standing?

One of the first things to ask yourself is, Is this even about me?

We talked a couple weeks ago about the cognitive distortion called personalization. This is where you make everything that happens a direct assault on you personally.

One surefire way to stay inflexible and rigid is to never look outside your own perspective.

There’s a good chance that this change won’t affect you, or it may affect you but have an even greater effect on others.

  • Ask yourself, Who else does this change affect most?
  • What ways can I serve others during this change to help make it easier?

It’s not easy to think about others when you feel that wave of anxiety and uncertainty. But it will take you out of your own head and give you something constructive to do while you don’t know what’s going on.

Another way to stay flexible is to go ahead and explore the worst possible outcome.

I call this playing the “What If” game.

What’s the one thing you’re worried about the most with this wind blowing? Go ahead and walk that outcome out all the way to its bitter end.

When THIS happens, then THIS thing happens and so on and so on.

Go ahead and be dramatic with where the story ends up.

When you get there, ask yourself if that outcome is something you can live with. Not if you will like it, but can you live with it?

Most of the time you’ll find you’ll have the resilience to deal with things even if they are difficult.

This kind of exploration takes some of the heat out of this moment because you find out in your little story that you have what it takes to weather the storm.

Once you know what you can handle, then what remains is choosing what you will engage.

To stay flexible you have to have the discipline to pick your battles.

Not every difficult challenge is worth all of your energy, all of the time. Sometimes you have to find the humility to let some things go or even better, let others discover what they can pick up and share with you.

This is where you let the pendulum swing the other way so that you aren’t bearing the weight of it all.

You give up a little control here but you gain so much more in peace. And in times of change, how much do you really control anyway?

So there’s that.

Learn to look outside yourself and make deliberate choices about what you choose to get worked up about.

Be the pendulum you want to see in the world, I guess?

Once you find what works for you, you may discover that you can take on whatever the wind brings you.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at LoriMiller.me. You can catch Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit LoriMiller.me for info on how to subscribe.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
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Help spread the message about good mental health!

 


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