A Roadmap to Freedom from Worry, Overwhelm, Confusion, Self-Pity, and Doubt
We all experience difficult emotions from time to time. It’s a normal part of being human. However, sometimes we can get stuck indulging in emotions that hold us back rather than moving us forward.
We can indulge in any emotion. Anger, for example, is not an indulgent emotion. Anger can be extremely useful in giving us messages and in helping us move forward. But we all know people who indulge in anger. They are angry all the time. They are stuck in anger. Their anger is keeping them from moving forward.
There are other emotions that we call indulgent emotions because they pretty much always keep us from moving forward and are very rarely useful. Some of the most common indulgent emotions are worry, overwhelm, confusion, self-pity, and doubt. These emotions keep us trapped in negative thought patterns and actions that limit our freedom and prevent us from living the life we truly want.
In this article, we’ll explore five common indulgent emotions, how to identify when you’re indulging in them, and tips for freeing yourself so you can reclaim your freedom and take steps toward the life you desire.
Steps to Free Yourself
Before looking at specific indulgent emotions, let’s discuss the steps to free yourself from any indulgent emotion.
Step 1: Get Curious
Our brains often use indulgent emotions to cover up something else we don’t want to feel like fear, shame, or sadness. So the first thing we want to do is see if that’s the case.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What am I avoiding?
- What is underneath this?
- What is my brain trying to protect me from?
For example, if you feel confused about what to do next, it might be because you’re afraid you’re going to fail. Your brain thinks it’s easier or safer to feel confused than to feel fear or take the next step and possibly feel inadequacy or rejection. If you’re willing to feel these emotions, there’s no reason to be confused. Confusion is just a distraction, your brain’s way of avoiding something else.
Step 2: Process whatever was underneath
Let yourself feel the emotion(s) you didn’t want to feel. Find the thoughts creating it. Work through what’s really going on for you rather than using indulgent emotion to hide from it.
Step 3: Take Action – Follow your indulgent emotion protocol
I have an indulgent emotion protocol for each indulgent emotion. A protocol is simply a process or procedure I follow when I notice a particular indulgent emotion showing up. Having a protocol will make it much easier and much faster to get unstuck and move forward. For each of the indulgent emotions below, I’ll give examples of things you could include in your protocol. Your protocol may include just one action or a combination of actions. Try each of the suggestions and come up with your own ideas until you have a protocol specifically tailored for your brain.
Worry is defined as “excessive thought and feeling of apprehension and distress.” When we worry, we become consumed by fearful thoughts about potential negative outcomes. Our mind races as we try to prepare for and prevent bad things from happening.
You may be indulging in worry if you:
- Feel anxious or nervous frequently
- Have difficulty relaxing or enjoying the present moment
- Catch yourself playing out worst-case scenarios
- Obsess over things you can’t control
Worry traps you in an endless loop of “what-ifs.”
Break-Free Protocol Ideas
- Answer the What-Ifs. Unanswered questions feel big and ominous – much scarier than they actually are. When you answer them, you take their power away. Keep asking “and then what” until the answer is some version of “I’ll be okay.”
- Make a “Hurricane Check List.” Imagine you lived in a hurricane zone. No amount of worrying will stop a hurricane from coming – you cannot control Mother Nature. But what you can do is everything in your power to prepare for it. Focus on what you can control. Make a list of everything you actually can do in regard to whatever you’re worrying about. Do those things. Check everything off the list. Then when your brain wants to worry, remind your brain that you can’t control hurricanes and you’ve already done everything you can do.
- Bring your focus back to the present moment. Worry is generally about something that may happen in the future. If your brain is in the future, you aren’t present in the present. Bring yourself back. Purposely focus on whatever is in front of you at this exact moment. Let go of trying to predict or prevent theoretical outcomes.
- Practice mindfulness techniques like meditation to calm your anxious mind.
Overwhelm is a feeling of being emotionally or mentally strained beyond your coping capacity. You have so much coming at you that you can’t process it all. Your to-do list seems never-ending. Just thinking about everything you need to get done sends you into a tailspin.
Clues you may be indulging in overwhelm include:
- Feeling drained, exhausted, or burned out
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Avoiding responsibilities because they seem too daunting
- Constantly complaining about having “too much on your plate”
- Spending lots of time playing on your phone, watching Netflix, or other mindless activities
Break-Free Protocol Ideas
- Break big tasks into bite-sized steps and then focus on ONLY the next step. One step at a time.
- Prioritize what truly requires your attention right now and focus on only one thing at a time.
- Decide what “enough” is. Do that and let it be enough. Anything else you do is just a bonus.
- Delegate or outsource tasks. Add items to your Not-To-Do list.
- Redecide. Just because you already said yes, doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. Look for things you might want to change your mind about and take off your plate. Make a list of things you want to say no to in the future.
Confusion is a state of being puzzled or baffled. When you’re confused, you lack clarity and direction. Ambiguous situations leave you doubting yourself and uncertain about what to do next.
You may be indulging in confusion if you:
- Frequently feel perplexed or unable to make sense of things
- Struggle with indecision or delay making choices
- Tend to be unclear about your purpose or goals
- Have difficulty focusing because your mind feels foggy
Emerging from confusion requires proactivity. Don’t sit around waiting for clarity to strike.
Break-Free Protocol Ideas
- Write a list of everything you do know
- Write a list of everything you need to learn, then make a plan to learn those things. It might include research, education, or expert advice. Schedule it in your calendar.
- Rather than trying to know and understand the big picture, get clear on just the next step and do that, knowing that step will give you more data to get clarity on the next step.
- Reflect on your values and your WHY to reconnect with your purpose.
- Just make a decision. Use your best judgment, knowing what you know right now, then course-correct as you go.
Self-pity is excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over your current state. You feel victimized by your circumstances and dwell on your struggles and misfortunes. It’s a form of self-centeredness dressed up as despair.
Signs you might be indulging in self-pity include:
- Frequent complaining about how difficult your life is
- Comparing yourself to others and feeling like you got the short end
- Making statements like “Nothing ever goes my way”
- Fishing for validation from others by emphasizing your hardships
Break-Free Protocol Ideas
- The antidote to self-pity is gratitude. Write a list of everything you’re grateful for and/or purposely look for the positives in each situation you’re feeling self-pity about.
- Change your perspective. Here are a few questions to help with this:
- How is this fair?
- How is this happening FOR you?
- What do you want or need that you’re not giving to yourself? [Then give it to yourself.]
- Be your own best cheerleader. Give yourself the pep talk you need right now.
Doubt is a feeling of uncertainty about yourself, your abilities, or your decisions. You question your capability to take on challenges. Nagging “what ifs” plague you. Imposter syndrome creeps in as you wonder if you’re good enough.
Signs of indulging in doubt include:
- Downplaying your skills or talents
- Letting fear of failure hold you back from pursuing goals
- Having an inner critic that constantly second-guesses you
- Minimizing your potential by thinking “I can’t do this”
Learning to manage doubt takes self-compassion. Recognize that doubt is normal, but don’t let it dictate your self-worth.
Break-Free Protocol Ideas
- Write a list of your past successes. Include big and small successes. Include everything you did that you had never done before (like walking, learning to read, learning to drive, etc).
- Write down your skills and strengths.
- Consider the opposite. Yes, you might fail. But you also might succeed. Yes, this could go terribly. But it also could go wonderfully. Give the positive side of the equation equal air time.
- Make peace with the worst-case scenario. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you move forward? So what? Why is that so terrible?
- Choose to be child-like. Toddlers don’t doubt their ability to do something, even though they haven’t done it before. They just do it. They don’t make it mean anything about themselves when they fail. They just keep trying until they figure it out. Choose to believe in yourself the way a toddler does.
Questions to Consider
- What is your brain’s favorite indulgent emotion?
- In what kinds of scenarios does your brain choose indulgent emotions?
- What emotions does your brain like to cover up with indulgent emotions?
- What emotions does your brain like to avoid by distracting you with indulgent emotions?
- What will it take to stop indulging in these emotions?
At times, we all indulge in emotions that don’t serve our highest good. The key is to become more conscious of when this happens so you can choose freedom instead. Monitor your emotional patterns. Notice which indulgent emotions are your brain’s favorite and why. Notice when you get stuck ruminating. Then make a deliberate shift out of the restrictive mindset holding you back. Replace it with a mindset that nourishes your soul and moves you forward. You have the power to free yourself.
Live Free. Love Life.