I used to have a problem where I’d think too much. Beating myself up with the negative self-talk. It was exhausting.
I would over-analyze my life and over-dose on all the psychology books and self-help advice out there. While I became an expert at labeling my deficiencies, nothing I read or studied seemed to make me feel any better.
Some days I’d have a firestorm of internal voices ricocheting around my skull. These three voices went by the names:
- The Victim,
- The Bully, and
- The Real Me.
And they were in a constant shouting match over who should be my most trusted advisor.
Listening to this internal dialog every day was like being forced to watch 24-hours of a cable news show debate between republicans and democrats.
But I eventually reached a point where I couldn’t listen to this argumentative trash-talk anymore. And I searched for a way to turn off the TV chatter in my head and give my thoughts a break.
Out of desperation, I made a deal with myself that I would take a mental vacation from being “me” for one day a month, which was not too much to ask.
Like a vacation, I could not bring my usual thoughts or negative self-talk with me. And I could not dwell on my concerns of the past or fears about the future for 24 hours.
I had to turn off the internal dialog and name-calling from the big bully and wounded victim voices in my head. And I would not let these voices tag along with me on my vacation.
Instead, I would become some other person than “me” for a full 24 hours.
Getting into character
Going on vacation to places like Hawaii, Tahiti, or Paris can be a fun and exciting way to escape your “yourself,” Why? Because we get to be someone else and see the world with a different mindset, even if it’s just for a little while.
When we go on vacation, we pack, dress, act, eat, and behave differently than we usually do. We get into the character, costume, and mood by wearing our most obnoxious Hawaiian shirt or our snooty French beret hat.
Even though we know this isn’t who we are every day, it can be rejuvenating, therapeutic, and transformative to pretend to be someone else for a day.
What amazed me about this technique of taking a 24-hour break from being myself is how well it worked. It gave me some much-needed rest from my constant negative self-talk and an objective perspective from my exhausting internal dialog.
Not being “me” allowed me to get out of the deep ruts of my habitual thinking. And much to my surprise, I could enjoy life more and savor the moment.
For a while, I even forgot I had issues.
Out of reach
However, these anxieties, worries, and fears had my number. And they kept calling and trying to creep back into my mind. They were determined to disrupt my vacation. But I made a promise to turn off all forms of contact with them for 24 hours.
Leaving these fears at home to go on vacation was difficult for me to do. It required discipline, focus, and breaking old habits. And in entailed posting a bouncer at the front door of my mind to check ID’s and turn away all the unhelpful thoughts.
Not accustomed to being left alone without me there to indulge, nurse, and attend to them, my anxieties would try to pull out all the stops to get me to cancel the trip, or worse, bring them along.
But one way I’d calm down was by reminding myself it’s just 24 hours. My old anxious thoughts and habits would all be there waiting for me as soon as I got back from vacation. And if I felt too guilty about leaving them, I could promise to double down on my worrying when I returned.
But for 24 hours, I was going to enjoy the time off from being my “self.”
And what an refreshing break it was to take a vacation from not having to be me for one day a month.
Worry Is Not Our Best Friend
Many of us believe that fear, worry, and anxiety are there to help us.
We’ve convinced ourselves these voices are our best friends and our wisest advisors. And we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking they’re acting in our best interest.
But they’re not.
Fear, worry, and anxiety have an ulterior motive. The thoughts they trade in don’t include personal contentment or self-fulfillment. Their primary focus is to magnify fear, to make small problems, big issues. And they do this best by injecting doubt into our self-worth.
These voices usually take up residence in our headspace as a matter of conditioning, coping, and survival.
But these influential voices have made us miss out on life. And lose out on so much of the joy, beauty, diversity, and fulfillment that our world can offer us. They do this by preventing us from being present in the moment. And by getting us to fixate on thoughts about the past and the future, which are of no use.
Give yourself a break
If you need a mental break from being inside the cramped apartment of your mind with a noisy roommate that secretly undermines you, I encourage you to schedule just one day a month to take a mental vacation from your “self.”
I choose the 15th of every month as my day off from my “self.” But you can pick any day that suits you.
However, you have to promise your “self” that no matter how much needless worrying you feel you need to get done, or how far behind you are on your unhelpful fretting, you will put a full 24-hour moratorium on all of it.
No exceptions allowed!
But fear not; your worries will be there when you get back home.
If you can take this mental break and vacation from your “self” one day a month, you’ll come back home refreshed and energized. And you’ll see your life from a fresh perspective.
Better yet, try it for one day a week.
Who knows, you might even enjoy your vacation state of mind so much that you retire your old anxious self and move to this new mental location permanently — just as I did.