A quick, practical way to regain composure
This phrase is applicable on so many fronts. As a parent, when you watch your kids grow up or do things that you warned them about. As a pet owner, when your pet is sick and you can’t figure out what is wrong or stop it. As a boyfriend/girlfriend when the other breaks up with you. As a spouse when you are going through tough times (e.g. divorce, separation). When you lose a loved one. These are just a few examples of when things are out of your control, but you just cannot stop thinking about them.
I have had people in my individual practice as well as my group who cannot focus on the task(s) at hand because their focus is on this life changing event. They are preoccupied to the point where their work or school work suffers. They cannot sleep, and their eating has increased or decreased dramatically. There are more symptoms, but this looks and feels like “I’m losing control”.
So, how does one regain control when these larger issues seem to predominate the majority of their waking thoughts? Please know that you are not alone in how you handle such situations. However, this helpful tip seems to have worked for many of my clients.
Commonly, I suggest to people to compartmentalize their “grieving/obsessing time”. For 30-60 minutes every day at the same scheduled time, they do nothing but think about the issue. They go into a room by themselves and listen to sad music, look at old pictures, yell into a pillow, etc., with the idea of getting it out of their system.
On the surface, this seems pretty concrete. But, if we think it through, the results can be very helpful. At the beginning, one would have a hard time stopping the emotional feelings at an hour, but will try to do so. The next day, they will control it a bit more. As time goes on, it starts to get tiresome where they don’t want to do that any longer. 60 minutes become 50, then 40, and so on.
This is not meant to downplay the issue. The reason that they have been preoccupied is certainly legitimate. However, it means that once they know that they have scheduled time to focus on the problem later, it becomes easier to complete the usual tasks during the day and maybe he/she might get tired of obsessing since it has gotten intrusive.
To conclude, what is being written is significantly easier said than done. However, compartmentalizing time to grieve, worry or obsess has been very effective when executed. If you are feeling “out of control” for one reason or another, you may be able to do something about it. You may be able to regain the control you are desperately seeking.
Please feel free to contact me with any further questions. Thank you for reading.
Michael J. Pollak, PCC, LICDC
Director, Dual Diagnosis Program