What Are You Looking At?
What grabs most of your attention on a day-to-day basis? Take a second and think about it. What captivates you or gets you sucked in? What are some of those sources? Some common answers might be social media, various news sources, friends, family, significant others, world events, etc. There is so much in this world that battles for our attention. With technological advances over the past 5-10 years, it seems like the pull is much stronger now. Herein lies the problem, when we get fixated on any given topic, this can cause tunnel vision. We lose our ability to see things clearly and lose objectivity and this can lead to increased anxiety, depression, or other distress.
I was meeting with a client the other day and we were talking about the process he has made towards improving how he is parenting one of his children. In this particular session, the client was feeling discouraged due to what seemed to be a regression in the child's behaviors from several years ago. As this father sat on the couch and spoke about the negative behaviors his child has been displaying over the past few weeks, it almost seemed like the client himself began to unravel right there in front of me.
It has been a long road and the client was able to look back throughout the past 1-2 years and point out specific issues that have improved. However, since the client was so focused on the recent regressive behavior of his child, he began to lose sight and focus on the progress that had been made. He started to have tunnel vision which increased his feeling of stress and anxiety in addition to feeling more insecure about his own progress as well. And honestly, I see this happen with multiple clients in various situations. For some reason, it is so much easier for us to focus on the negative and to lose sight of the positive progress we have made when something bad or difficult happens. When we make a mistake, there seems to be a much stronger grip on us than when we make a healthy or positive choice.
The good news is that it does not have to always be this way. There are things you can do to help recondition your brain to look at the positive and not always get pulled down by the negatives or setbacks in your life. When I recognize tunnel vision in a client's life, I encourage them to make a list of progress they have made and healthy changes they have seen as a way to activate their rational minds. Like with sports, reconditioning is a discipline that needs to be created and strengthened. When I first started going to CrossFit, it took me a while to condition my body to go to the gym three to five times a week and learn the various movements. Honestly, after my first crossword session, I could not walk for about 3 days afterward, I was that sore. And now, two years later, I can go to CrossFit 5 days a week and not have the same intensity of muscle pain as I used to when I first started. Conditioning the way we think and how we use our brain work similarly.
The best thing I have found networks in combating negative tunnel vision is to remind yourself of the positive changes that you have seen. If perhaps you are at the beginning of a journey of creating your new healthy normal, reminding yourself of the positive changes you hope for can be just as helpful. Here is a practical way of how to do this.
1st - Make a list of positive changes you have seen in your life, or make a list of
positive changes you want to see in your life.
2nd - Make this list easily accessible or often seen. Perhaps you can use your
cellphone's note app, or you can make a list on paper and hang it up at a location
that you will often see but can be somewhat private. Maybe a sticky note on a
bathroom mirror or a note somewhere in your bedroom.
3rd - Introduce the reconditioning behavior. Every time you notice yourself focusing on
a negative aspect, stop for a quick second and look at your list of the positives you
have or wish to accomplish. What you are doing, is pairing a negative with a
positive. You are trying to train your brain to redirection attention from a negative
to a positive.
Remember, the goal is not to never feel or acknowledge disappointments or setbacks, but rather when you notice those to intentionally look towards the positives in your life. You are training your mind to look at the positives to avoid tunnel vision.