Stages Of Grief

Most people believe that the ‘Stages of Grief’ apply only to the death of a loved one, but this is far from true. It’s also a misnomer to think that the stages go in order, are progressive, or that you will ever actually be done.

We grieve for lost dreams, for job changes, relationship changes. We even grieve for changes in life that we deem a good thing. Graduating is a great word as well as a great example of a change that holds both the long sought goal of finishing something, but also the sadness that it is over. Done.

As a therapist, I cannot emphasize more strongly that each gain carries with it, losses.

To complete these transitions successfully, I believe that it’s essential to acknowledge the loss as well as the gain. In fact societies have created what are often called “Rites Of Passage” to assist us through these complex transitions. Examples include birthdays, graduations, wedding ceremonies, and of course funerals. These Rites of Passage are usually a public event, and have the potential of using the strength of a community to assist us through the change.
Some transitions, though, seem more isolating – divorce, a miscarriage, cancer, a break-up. With no cultural “Rite of Passage” in place, it often feels like we are alone

Yet, with knowledge of the grief steps, we can at least name the stage we’re going through as a way to help us make sense of the tumultuousness of our experiences. For example, I was diagnosed with breast cancer twmonth ago. My first response was shock (denial) followed by sadness and tears (depression). I felt like everything was going to fall apart. I didn’t want this to be my reality (anger)… “no…no no no…”, but alas, reality said “ cancer.” My mind argued with the next steps (bargaining), being mastectomy. I argued with the entire medical field! I said, “why do people jump to mastectomy with out checking lymph nodes first!” As if I were an expert they forgot about.

The next day I woke up ok! Sort of happy even. (Acceptance). I joked with myself, husband and friends that, “ yay! My boobies were too big anyway! Now I get a makeover!” Ha Ha Ha. Not true acceptance, more like another layer of denial.

Sadness isn’t the only stage of grief

The Stages of Grief

  • Denial/shock
    Most people report an almost out-of-body response to traumatic losses (shock). They also report speaking in the present tense about someone who is gone (denial).
  • Bargaining – Bargaining is when we plead with our God to back- up so the truth of the loss can change. It can sound like, “take me instead…”, or, “what if I…” I always envision the Superman movie, where Superman is capable of going backwards and saving Louise Lane, despite the fact that she was killed.
  • Anger – The anger stage can be towards self, others, even God. “why me/ him/ her??“; “This isn’t fair/ not the way it’s supposed to go!”. It can also show up randomly, like being mad at society, the internet, the utility bill.
  • Depression – This describes the feeling of hopelessness after a loss. Questions like “can I go on”, “I don’t know how I can get through this”, or even, “I KNOW I can’t get through this “.
  • Acceptance – acceptance doesn’t mean everything is ok in your world regarding the loss, or that you are now happy. It’s an amazing acknowledgment that you CAN get through this, and somehow you WILL get through it.

These stages are not necessarily experienced in order. In fact, you can triple-cycle through all of them in a matter of minutes. The thing to know, however, is that whatever craziness you feel in this intense process will change. And if you accept the experience, you will flow from one stage to another, even if over and over, until your process is willing to let you go. We can’t force it though. Observe it for a bit of sanctuary.

Reality Isn’t a Bad Place

Life happens.

It isn’t personal.

There are no judgements.

When you think something “should”, or when you think something “shouldn’t”, you argue with truth (and lose – only 100% of the time!) When we argue with reality, we suffer.

“So, are you saying I should be ok about everything?”

Oh sweetheart, only if you want to.

5 Steps to Overcome Procrastination

Worth Reading – from off the Web! – Tiny Buddha, by Sandra Wozniak https://tinybuddha.com/author/sandra-woznicki/

“You have criticized yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” ~Louise L. Hay

I dreamt of starting my own business for years. Ten years, exactly.

While there are a few reasons it took so long to take the plunge, procrastination is at the top of the list.

It’s hard work to change careers, uncomfortable to leave a steady paycheck, and nerve-wracking to think of failure.

Even after spending months and years learning, studying, and getting certified, when it was no longer a matter of having the skills, the uncertainty of success was enough for me to keep kicking the can down the road to start marketing myself.

I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of not being perfect. I was afraid that people would think I was a joke. And I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be capable of all the work it entailed.

So I dragged my feet and kept passing my work off to “Future Me.”

I did this for everything, though.

“Tomorrow Sandy” can do the dishes. She’ll take care of scheduling that doctor’s appointment. Oh, and sign her up for that tough conversation I need to have with my mom too.

At one point I recognized that I often procrastinated because I needed everything to be perfect.

  • I wouldn’t work on a craft project or cook a new recipe unless I knew it would come out flawless.
  • Or I would keep tweaking projects at work up to the last second and beyond, at the sacrifice of getting more work done.
  • Or I would agonize over every text and email I sent, often opting not to send any message unless I knew exactly what to say.

But, as you can see, I’ve come a long way from that version of me.

I’ve since started my own business (and I’m loving it!), and I’ve pulled my best tools together on paper for how to stop procrastinating—even though I actually procrastinated on writing this post (ironic, I know!).

Today, I didn’t let my fear of “good enough” hold me back from sharing actual, helpful advice and mindset shifts to get moving and stop staying stuck.

Because when we’re stuck, we start telling ourselves stories. So that’s where we’ll start, with this story we tell ourselves about why we procrastinate.

What We Think Procrastination Is

We have this misconception that procrastination is laziness.

But procrastination is an active process. You choose to do something else instead of the task that you know you should be doing.

In contrast, laziness is not caring. It’s apathy, inactivity, and an unwillingness to act. It’s an “I could, I just don’t wanna” kind of attitude.

But when you’re procrastinating, you feel even more stressed because you do care about getting the task done. You’re just avoiding stress and having difficulty with motivation.

Because that is why we procrastinate.

What Procrastination Really Is and Why We Do It

Procrastination is a stress-avoidance technique. It is an active process to temporarily avoid discomfort.

We subconsciously are saying, “Present Me is not willing to experience this discomfort, so I will pass it on to Future Me.”

(We do this as though we’re asking a stranger to do the work for us. Researchers have seen on fMRI that when we think about our future selves, it lights up the same part of the brain as when we think about strangers.)

The really cool news is that by working toward overcoming your procrastination habit, you’re building your overall resilience to distress.

That is how I define resilience: a willingness to experience discomfort.

Examples of Procrastination

Procrastination is tricky. Sometimes it’s obvious that we’re doing it. Sometimes we don’t quite realize it (like when I had to water the plants right then and there instead of writing this blog post).

So here are some examples:

  • Scrolling through Instagram instead of getting started on important tasks
  • Putting off work assignments until the last minute
  • Wanting to start a new positive habit (dieting, exercising, or saving money), but repeatedly delaying it while telling yourself that “I’ll start soon
  • Wanting to start a business but wasting time in “research mode” instead of taking action
  • Doing an easy, less important task that “needs to be done” before getting started
  • Waiting until you’re “in the mood” to do the task

5 Steps to Stop Procrastinating

Now that we know what it is and why we do it, let’s look at how to stop.

1. Motivate yourself with kindness instead of criticism.

What really holds us back from moving forward is the language we use when talking to ourselves.

(Listen to your inner dialogue- it’s too revealing! I would never talk to another human being, dog, or plant, for that matter, the way I sometimes talk to myself!)

Thoughts like:

  • I don’t want to.
  • It will be hard.
  • I don’t know how to do it.
  • It might not come out as good as I want it to.
  • I’ll probably fail.
  • This will be so boring.

This is what we think that drives us to procrastinate. I mean, really, when you read those thoughts, they just feel so demotivating, right?

This negative self-talk has a good intent. It is trying to save us from discomfort.

Unfortunately, it’s achieving the opposite because it adds to the stress by making us feel bad.

If you speak to yourself with kindness, just as you would a friend, (or child) it will feel so much more motivating.

So think about what you would say to that friend. It might sound like:

  • I get it, it will be uncomfortable, but you’ll be done soon and then you can relax.
  • Once you get started, it will be easier.
  • You can do it!!
  • If it doesn’t come out perfect, at least you’ll have practiced more.
  • If you fail, you’ll have learned so much.

2. Create a pattern-interrupter.

That negative self-talk has simply become part of your procrastination habit.

Because that is what procrastination becomes—a habit—and habits are comprised of a cue, a routine, and a reward.

  • The cue is thinking about a task that needs to be done.
  • The routine is to speak that negative self-talk that leads to procrastination.
  • The reward is less stress. (Not no stress, because avoiding the task is still somewhat stressful because we know it eventually needs to be done.)

In order to break the habit and create a new one, you need to introduce a pattern-interrupter.

Mel Robbins has a great one she calls the 5 Second Rule. When you think “I should do this,” before the negative self-talk starts in, count backwards, “5-4-3-2-1-GO” and move.

I find this helpful when I’m having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.

If I’m having trouble getting motivated to do something difficult like write a post about procrastination, my pattern-interrupter is “I can do hard things.” Not only am I interrupting the pattern, I’m motivating myself positively as well.

If I’m having trouble doing a boring and tedious task like my taxes, I use something like “I’m willing to be uncomfortable now so that Future Me can be at peace.”

3. Break down the task.

One of the big drivers of procrastination is feeling overwhelmed. “Overwhelm” happens when we’re looking at a project in full scope, either not knowing where to start or feeling like all the work involved will be too much.

If the next task at hand is too big, or if you don’t know where to start, your first task, really, is to either 1) make a list, or 2) figure out the smallest thing you can do first.

For example, I have social anxiety and going to the gym was overwhelming to me.

So I broke it down into:

  • I just need to put gym clothes in my car, that’s it.
  • I just need to drive to the gym. I can turn around if I want once I get there.
  • I just need to walk in the door. I can always leave.
  • I just need to get changed in the locker room I can do that.

Honestly, I never turned around and went home. Because once I’d taken the small, easy step, the next small easy step was doable.

Which leads me to the next step…

4. Just commit to five minutes.

Studies show that if we commit to five minutes only, 80 percent of us are likely to continue with the task.

Five minutes is nothing. You can do anything for five minutes.

There is an 80 percent chance you’ll continue working once you put in those five minutes, but even if you don’t, you’re still five minutes closer to your goal.

And, you’ve taken one more step to breaking the old habit of not starting. It’s a big win-win!

5. Reward yourself or make the task more enjoyable.

Another problem with looking at a big task in scope instead of the next five minutes is that the reward is too far away or not satisfying enough.

When you’re trying to lose weight, twenty pounds is weeks and months away.

Or, when you’re putting off your taxes, if you aren’t expecting a return then the reward is “not going to jail.”

So bringing in more rewards sooner will fast-track creating the new habit of getting started.

But also, making the task itself more pleasant will make it a less monotonous task.

  • To write this post, I put on my softest bathrobe and got a tub to create an Epsom-salt foot bath under my desk while I write.
  • I’ll be starting my taxes in the next few weeks, and I already plan to have a glass of wine and super fancy cheese and crackers while I sit down to do them.

What Would Open Up for You If You Stopped Procrastinating?

We spend so much more time avoiding the discomfort of a task than we do stepping into what it will be like once the task is complete.

If you were to stop procrastinating, what would open up in your life?

  • Would you start your business because you’re no longer afraid of experiencing any discomfort if you “fail”?
  • Would you simply enjoy life more if you weren’t in a perpetual state of stress because there is a list of things you’re putting off?
  • Would you finally lose weight or get in shape and feel good once you push through being able to get started?

The Bottom Line

Procrastination is an active process to temporarily avoid discomfort (it is not laziness!)

By overcoming your procrastination habit, you are building your emotional resilience.

Notice the negative, demotivating self-talk and motivate yourself with kindness over criticism.

Create a pattern interrupter before the negative self-talk starts weighing you down.

Commit to just five minutes and you’ll either keep going to do more, or you’ll at least be five minutes closer to done.

Reward yourself or make the task more enjoyable so there is less discomfort to avoid.

About Sandy Woznicki

Sandy is a former anxiety-riddled, insomniac stress-aholic turned coach. She helps career-driven women and working moms master their stress and anxiety, to motivate themselves with kindness instead of criticism, to face life’s challenges with Graceful Resilience, and to start truly enjoying life without all that unnecessary worry. Her coaching and free resources like the Stress Detox Mini Course help women to take back control of their lives to live more fully and freely.

Edited for readability

3 Steps To Self Love

Loving yourself unconditionally is not about merely liking yourself on the surface. Instead, it means to love and accept yourself fully, despite whatever flaws you think you may have.

I Love Me THIS MUCH!”

But how do you get to a space of loving yourself unconditionally? Here are three steps you can take to help you get there.

Spend Quality Time With Yourself

We grow to love the people in our lives by spending quality time with them. We need to cultivate self-love in the same way – by spending some quality time with ourselves.

However, the thought of spending time alone with ourselves can make many of us feel uncomfortable.

By choosing to spend time to be alone, you create space to understand and accept yourself better. Journaling, meditating, going for walks, unplugging from your devices and taking time to relax and do nothing are all ways in which you can spend quality time with yourself.

self-reflection via journaling

Journaling is particularly useful. As uncomfortable as it may seem, just letting our minds flow, with pen to paper, we can create all the acknowledgment we thought we needed from another. Writing our thoughts down creates a flow that allows us to go deeper.

Challenge Your Internal Judgments Of Yourself

We may hate it when others judge us but ironically, many of us tend to judge ourselves all the time! It’s hard to cultivate self-love when our internal dialogue is a constant barrage of insults.

Try observing your internal dialogue a few times a day. It’s shocking! Try to imagine how you would talk to a child. Would you really call a child some of the names you call yourself? It may take a while, but eventually we may notice that we can offer all the compassion and love that we thought required someone else to give.

Practice Gratitude To Take Charge of Your Mind

When we let our minds run on autopilot, we tend to focus on the negatives and gravitate towards our shortcomings, losing perspective of all that is good in our lives. Try focusing your attention on what’s good in your life.

The simple act of writing Gratitude Lists is a great way to develop a positive perspective and let go of comparing yourself with others.

Keeping a gratitude journal is about consciously choosing to dwell your attention on the good that you may not otherwise notice or acknowledge.

In fact, an overwhelming amount of research indicates that practicing gratefulness can make us happier, strengthen relationships, have a positive impact on your physical and mental health, and help in reducing stress.

It doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s okay, because the road to self-love is a journey, and it begins with our willingness to make a conscious effort to take the first step.