On Being Effective

Recently I joined a group through the counseling center at school for effective mental health strategies/distress tolerance. I wouldn’t say I have any dire need for this kinda stuff but I love learning about it, and there’s always a part of me that says — how can I use what I’m learning for work? First we talked about mindfulness, and I had initially thought…ok, cool, why does this matter? I’ve read a lot of people’s thoughts that mindfulness isn’t for everyone, which is extremely valid. But we were talking about a different kind of mindfulness than I had earned or even expected.

I learned that mindfulness was learning how to be in the present. But I hadn’t learned how to do it aside from sitting, shutting everything out and trying to think about nothing, which is really really hard. So I got annoyed and sort of put it on the back burner. But we learned about being able to observe and describe our emotions and the situation (the reality of it), and most importantly to fully participate in what we are doing — and being aware that we’re participating. First of all, it allows you to really enjoy what you’re doing. Second, being able to describe your emotions is something I’ve only been good at after the fact. Like, way after the fact — a few hours or a day. But being able to describe them during it is a good way to manage stress.

That’s because having emotions is not always a bad thing. They provide us with a reason to do something more or change something. But if they’re getting in your way, being mindful of what’s going on is so helpful.

Including — being effective. That means using your emotions effectively and keeping them from getting in your way (of life stuff in general), and being effective during emotions processing. But in order to do that you have to be mindful of your emotions and the current happenings and the reality of the situation, because your emotions can often skew that reality and it can be difficult to make a wise decision.

It’s so funny that learning about being effective is actually effective for me. I crave efficiency…which makes me crave effectiveness even more — if you think about it, it’s wanting people to be impressed by you, which…I secretly, or maybe not-so-secretly, really enjoy. Which isn’t great, but…it’s the truth. The best part is that this finally makes sense to me. People aren’t just telling me to “handle my emotions better” or “worry less” or be less hard on myself…I’m getting these real, actual tools that have already immensely improved my life in these past few weeks.

Our homework was to practice observing and describing things during the week. I thought it was all pretty stupid, but I gave it a shot. I just described my emotions or the stuff going on around me (my physical body and things I could see/sense) and it wasn’t that my observations or descriptions were anything super impressive or mind-boggling, but it just felt…good. Not sure if I can explain it. But it allowed me to just for a second, forget about all the stress I had, because I’ve had a lot lately. It allowed me to practice identifying my emotions and be able to pick out the times I was stressed.

Finally, it’s gotten me out of some deep holes I dug myself into. Yesterday I didn’t get done with research stuff until about 10:30, and I was exhausted, but I had to be up at 5am to cover a soccer practice. Most times I’m a decent morning person but today I was just not having it, plus I thought I was late and had to run back for stuff that I didn’t end up needing. I grabbed a spine board, a pair of crutches, and a splint bag and carried them down the steps to my car. Naturally, I missed the last step and ate it. Completely. I twisted my ankle crazily and screamed loudly for quite a few seconds before realizing I was fine. But I was upset because, I mean, I just was. I got everything set up at practice and then went to move my car…promptly slipping on the ice right outside. I fell backwards but managed to spin around in time to land on my front.

I swear, it’s not that I’m coordinated, I’m anything but…but I think I’ve learned to fall because I do it so much. So while I was crying a bit crazily, I moved my car, carefully went back to the indoor facility and tried to calm down. I instantly had the thought, ok, I need to be effective today. I need to make a decent first impression, and I have a job to do. I stopped crying because I realized I wasn’t the only person bad things happen to. Plus, how funny is it that I fell twice in one morning and am somehow perfectly fine?? I splashed some water on my face and went out to practice only to find that it was moved back half an hour. Somehow, everything worked out. Mostly.

I honestly don’t know what else it would have taken for me to calm down. I also don’t really care, there are so many what ifs that I could probably explore next time. Because there will probably be a next time where I get upset and freak out and stuff. Life is hard and shit happens, but this is a new mindset that I’m looking forward to exploring.

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Jen Xu

Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, coffee lover, looking for a hobby I don’t have time for. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.