Hug Your Monster
Hug Your Monster
When you were younger did you have a monster in your closet?
Mine “lived” under my bed, and even though my parents got down on the floor with a flashlight to show me there was no monster, I was still scared it would jump out and get me in the middle of the night.
Your monster may not live in your closet or under your bed now, but make no mistake about it, we all have monsters. They come in the form of stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and other uncomfortable emotions. We try so hard to outrun these monsters. We numb, we suppress, we ignore, and yet, the monsters are still there.
It’s time to hug your monster.
When we have uncomfortable feelings and emotions, it’s tempting to try to push them away. Unfortunately, this just increases the intensity and duration with which we feel them. We use all of our mental energy trying not to feel them, which only makes us feel them more.
In truth, difficult emotions serve a purpose. They are part of the human experience, and learning to not only accept them but befriend them is a powerful skill in building your resilience buffer zone.
Think about a “monster” in your life right now (no, not Susan in accounting). Something that makes you feel anxious or stressed.
When you have a few minutes and are in a safe environment, try this step-by-step process to hug your monster:
Acceptance is a process of acknowledging and allowing difficult emotions, thoughts, and experiences to exist without trying to change or control them. It involves being present with the emotions, observing them with curiosity and compassion, and allowing them to come and go as they naturally do, even if it is uncomfortable or unpleasant. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is.
2. Name it:
Sit with your monster and name it. What emotion best describes how you are feeling? Is it anxiety? Fear? Sadness? When you label an emotion and give it a name, you are using your prefrontal cortex rather than the emotional control center of your brain. This takes some of the power away from emotion and allows you to see it more objectively.
3. Feel it:
Take a moment to check in with yourself and notice any sensations in your body or any thoughts that are present. Do your stomach or shoulders feel tight? Is your breathing shallow? Do your hands feel clammy? This is mindfulness and brings you into the present moment. This practice allows you to observe your emotions and thoughts without getting caught up in them. It also signals safety to your brain.
4. Practice self-compassion:
Instead of berating yourself for feeling a certain way, offer yourself words of support and encouragement. For example, you might say to yourself, “It’s okay to feel sad right now. I am doing the best I can.” When you acknowledge the emotion, rather than judge yourself for feeling it, you allow it to dissipate more quickly.
5. Use grounding techniques:
Another form of mindfulness, grounding allows you to bring yourself back to the present moment with techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, a body scan, or using your senses to notice your surroundings. Feel your feet touch the floor. Notice the smells in the air. Take note of the sounds, colors, and other sensory information around you. This brings your brain back to the present moment, calming your nervous system.
6. Seek support:
You don’t have to handle your monsters alone. Remember, we are wired for connection. When your body feels stress, it releases oxytocin, otherwise known as the cuddle hormone that bonds mothers and babies. It is actually a stress hormone that causes us to seek connection. Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or a mental health professional for support. Talking to someone who understands and can offer empathy can be incredibly validating and supportive.
Go hug a monster or two this week. When you start to hug your monsters, they become less scary and ultimately have less control over you.
Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.
Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work and Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph.