Isn’t it something that we all encounter more often than we would like? We get stuck on a project. We sit for hours and hours in front of a blank page. We put off decision-making until the next day, hoping that overnight we get struck with that perfect solution that our brain for some reason couldn’t seem to come up with today.
Whether you’re an athlete, a writer, have your own business, are part of a project, or a student, more often than not we get mentally stuck because something inside of us is holding us back. You can’t complete that train of thoughts, you have a writer’s block, or you’re paralyzed with fear of failure. Those mental blocks that we create through the course of our lives can really prevent you from being productive and creative. Our mental capacities are the driving force behind everything we do in life. And if that force is blocked, we get cut off from our true potential, our productivity, and our creativity.
What are mental Blocks?
Simply speaking mental blocks are psychological walls or obstacles in our mind that usually take place on a subconscious level. Our unconsciousness suppresses or represses something that we don’t want to face. We have no control over it. And as a consequence we get stuck and lose our motivation to move forward.
What are possible sources for mental blocks?
The reasons for us to create mental blocks differ according to your character, your personality, and your experiences. Dependant factors can also be our perception, the level of our self-confidence, or the way we cope under pressure.
As with everything in life, if you identify the source of a problem, an obstacle, a hindrance, you can proceed from there and find solutions that not only resolve the symptoms, but also connect with your inner dynamics to neutralize the source behind it.
So, why do we establish mental blocks if they hinder us so much?
Painful or unresolved experiences and feelings are buried in our subconscious.
Even though we might not be aware of what is going on in that moment, if we encounter a similar situation to the one hidden away, we can shut down. All of a sudden we might feel paralyzed by a fear we can’t really explain. We have created a mental block as a coping mechanism. Our body and our cells remember everything from the beginning of our very being. They created a system to protect us from possible harm. In turn we are not able to deal with the present situation.
Once you identify what causes you to react, or rather not react, in a particular situation you can start to switch up the negative trait with a strong feature of your character that is compliant with your personality, and which you can activate in its place.
We can lack the self-confidence to deal with the present because we don’t have the knowledge or experience to handle that particular situation.
Everyone perceives the world differently. Knowledge and Experiences are individual and subjective. But on the other hand we always strive for perfection. And if we don’t feel equipped to handle a situation, our system rings the alarm. We stress out, we get confused, we shut down. We are afraid to make mistakes. We fear failure. For a lot of us failure seems like a defining element in life. If you fail at something, you consequently are a failure.
But here’s a thought: if we look at everything and everyone in life as a teacher. As something that is only there to teach us an important life lesson, to advance our character and strengths, we can find new ways to thrive.
Sometimes we fear the unknown to a degree that paralyzes us.
We encounter situations in life where our natural survival instinct kicks in. We live in a world where most situations our brain perceives as a threat are not actually life threatening. But we were all cavemen and cavewomen at some point in history and our brain stem still works in terms of ‘threat’ or ‘no threat’ to our life. In today’s world though with all its social, cultural, and personal pressures our brain might trigger a fear response, perceiving a threat to our life, because a lot of situations now-a-days trigger similar responses in our neurons. It is the same mechanism that helped our prehistoric ancestors to escape predators. It is simply our instinct.
By mindfully approaching that fear and rebooting our mental capabilities from ‘fight or flight’ response to actual reasoning we can neutralize that fear. You can try to disarm it by taking away factors that contribute to it. This will give you the time and space you need to move forward again.
I have compiled a list of 7 practical tips to overcome your mental blocks:
Before I go into the details of what might help you clear away your mental obstacles, I want to just make one point very clear that I absolutely and whole-heartedly believe in. And you probably heard me talk about it before. For me, the first step to a more mindful life is and will always be acknowledging and non-judgmentally recognizing what is going on with you. Try to explore your inner dynamics. Find and identify the source. I firmly believe that in doing so you are halfway there to resolve whatever you want to resolve at that moment.
Okay, but now, how to overcome your mental blocks?
1. Change your environment
Most often we associate certain places with certain feelings. Feeling frustrated and being stuck at your desk might call for a change of scenery. You might want to try to rearrange your office supplies on your desk, or you might crave some neatness to help your productivity flow.
Sometimes it is changing places completely. Set yourself up in a coffee shop (my personal favorite), change rooms or the way you are seated at your desk. It might help you to sit outside on a blanket in the sunshine to free your mind. Whatever is the most appealing change in scenery for you, try it. You might be surprised and discover new favorite corners of your life where you can be more productive.
Instead of going in frustrated circles and getting stuck on the same idea over and over in your head, replace it with positive mental imagery. Imagine yourself in a place where you experience being completely free of all your blockages and barriers, where your positive energy flows right out of you into whatever you’re tackling at the moment. Imagine yourself in a place and time, where your creativity and your productivity are enabling you to go beyond rules, expectations, and criticism. Where you are being innovative. Or maybe you already have experienced it in the past. In that case, great! Bring yourself back to that moment.
Another option might be to put on music that inspires you. That lets your mind wander free with ideas. It might be even more stimulating to have images around you that help you get access to your inner flow of creativity. For example, I used to have a bunch of inspirational quotes on nice cards on my wall above my desk. And I remember having two postcards on that wall that I brought from a trip to Norway. I loved looking at those two images of the incredible nature of Norway, the fjords, the water, the unrestricted nature. It always pushed me to dive deeper and opened up my productivity well.
3. Let other people inspire you
Sometimes the best ideas might come from a person you least expect it from. It might be worth it to think outside the box and just ask a person you normally wouldn’t for advice. It not only gives you a pair of fresh eyes on what you’ve been mulling over in your head endlessly, it helps you see new paths and roads that can lead to a successful outcome. You can break through the rigidity your thinking has created in your head. All of a sudden you might discover all these new ways of approaching a problem. Give it a try!
4. Focus on the potential
Stop ‘catastrophizing’. Worrying excessively about everything that could go wrong puts you right back into the downward cycle. It is frustrating and unproductive. Consider all possible outcomes, not just the terrible ones. If you find yourself focusing too much on negativity, take a break, breath a couple of times, take a short walk, and then come back and try to see all the potential. Out of my own experience I can tell you, it helps you feel less stressed out.
5. Stay in the ‘Now’
Part of the existence of a mental block is the similarity of the situation you encounter in the here and now to a painful or unresolved experience from your past. If you feel paralyzed or stuck, your mind throws you back to that particular moment in time that told your system to create a protection strategy. It might involve unresolved feelings, broken trust, or a trauma. Once your mental barrier is activated you’re not in the present moment anymore. For example, you might feel very small, like a child, in a certain moment. Sometimes our inner child takes over and all of a sudden we don’t feel like our adult self anymore. Most of the time that is a sign that in our mind we are back to an unresolved feeling somewhere in the past.
Try to focus on your breathing in those moments. Try to focus on your immediate environment. Consciously put yourself into the right here and now. Staying in the present helps you to reduce all those negative repetitive thoughts that cause feelings of anxiety and depression.
For more tips and information about how to break the cycle of negative thoughts, check out my other post Positive Thinking: 59 Affirmations to Practice Daily
6. View mistakes as different paths chosen on the road to success instead of personal failures
Our mistakes and errors are not (!) who we are! Yes, they can overwhelm us. Yes, they can put us down. Discourage us. But they do not own you! If anything, they teach you priceless lessons that make you stronger. We learn more from failures than we do from success. And as Harvard researchers have discovered, the product that results from a failed attempt is often even better than the original idea. Everything in life happens to teach us something along the way and to help us grow into our full potential. Being wrong is not a bad thing. So be open to all the possibilities and opportunities that come with making a mistake.
Even Edison tried over a thousand times to invent the lightbulb before he succeeded. He said: “When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
7. There is no “one right answer”
There is so much ambiguity in life. Even though today’s education is most often focused on giving THE correct answer to a question. And yes, having a consensus on certain things makes a society and culture function. But, it also discourages creativity and innovation. There might be an even better answer you come up with if you disregard following rules and expectations for a moment. And there might be even more different ways to approach a problem that lead to even greater ideas and answers to a question. Whoever said ambiguity is answered with a single correct answer?
Try to reframe your idea, problem, or question. Try to apply different and maybe unconventional variables. You might be surprised at how powerful the well of creativity and productivity opens up again all of a sudden.
Everything starts and ends with identifying the source behind a problem. Once you figured out where your mental blocks come from and what their origins are, you can choose from a variety of techniques to overcome them. Sometimes our productivity and feelings are tied to a specific place. Visualizing and letting other people inspire you are also great ways to deal with unproductive energy. Just remember that usually there is no ONE correct answer to a problem. There are always more paths to choose from. There is always more than one answer, more than one solution to choose from. Many roads lead to Rome. Just because you don’t go the conventional way that everybody else decided to go, does not mean that you’re not good enough or a failure. Even if that feeling or the fear of failure arises and you hesitate, remind yourself that failure is not a defining quality. And making mistakes is human and natural. You learn from your mistakes and failures. They teach you lessons, so you can thrive to be the succesful person that you were always meant to be. 😉
I do believe we have everything already inside of us at all times to thrive and to be great. Yes, we probably very often don’t have access to all the potential that sleeps within us. It needs to be awakened and discovered. Be an explorer! Be innovative! Be unconventional! And strip away all the shades and blinds that block the window and view of your soul that embodies all your greatness and potential!