#191 Sometimes We Are Just “Off”


We all have our ups and downs. Some days we wake up clear-headed and ready to take on the world. Our work flows easily, we feel confident, and we get positive feedback from those around us. And then there are the days when we seem to get out on the wrong side of the bed, and we dread going to work. Or the day seems to be going well, and then you realize you are “off” and you are not sure why.

Have patience,
God isn’t finished yet.
Philippians 1:6

The heart is greater than the heaven and the circling spheres,
so why do you constrict it with thoughts and whispering doubts? 
Shams Tabrizi

There are plenty of reasons for this:

  • You are low on sleep, or are struggling with a medical issue.
  • Something upsetting has happened in your family or social life.
  • The last session did not go well, or a colleague criticized you and you are now criticizing yourself.

Sometimes we are just “off” and don’t have a clue as to the reason.

You may have strategies for reconnecting with your best self. Maybe you focus on what is going well instead of on what is not going so well. You might remind yourself of what you are grateful for or recite a quote or scripture you find supportive.

There is another approach to consider. Instead of turning away from what seems to be getting in the way, turn toward it.

  1. Take a moment to acknowledge that you are in one of those not-so-good places.
  2. Take some deep breaths and settle into what seems to be blocking your usual flow.
  3. If you notice negative thoughts and/or criticisms in your head, attend to them for a moment. Likely they are urgent or critical. Perhaps something like, “Get it together, now!” or “I’m a mess,” or “Why can’t I shove aside my petty personal concerns?” Those thoughts come from a part of you. We all have those critics. It’s tempting to either give in to them or get mad at them. They are just trying to help you. Take a deep breath, step back from the critical thoughts, and hear them as coming from a part of you. Respectfully ask them to settle down long enough to let you sense what is actually bothering you. For more ideas on addressing inner critics, see Tip #185.
  4. A part of you is “a mess” or is struggling. Take a moment to remember that this is just a part of you that happens to be taking up quite a bit of space right now. If there is something you can address right now, do so. This might mean planning some down time to rest (even if only for 15 minutes) or promising to get to bed early tonight. If a client interaction was upsetting, block out time to review how that case is going, and ask for consultation with a colleague or supervisor. Make a note about this need for support and how you will address it. Then check inside to see if the anxious part of you has settled enough to let you work in the present.
  5. If there is nothing that can be done about the issue, or if you haven’t a clue about what is up, send some compassion to that struggling part of you. It might be useful to locate where the feeling resides in your body. Even when you don’t know why you are anxious or what brought it on, you can take a breath and send some caring energy to that part of you. Think of comforting a friend who is crying even when she isn’t able to tell you why. If it fits, promise this part of you that you will return later. If you have a regular meditation practice, this would be the time to visit with that part to see what it needs from you. Perhaps you can return to it on your commute home.

Finally, forgive yourself. We all have off days. Remember, you have a certain amount of “momentum” that will help you to do a decent job even when you are not at your best. I call that “coasting.” On a bicycle, sometimes you pedal hard and sometimes you just decide to coast for a bit. We all coast some days.

Posted in Tips