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Coping Strategies When Your Head and Heart Disagree

Pop Quiz: How Do You Cope?

What do you do when you have everything you want and need, but you still don’t feel happy? You have satisfying work; your finances support you; you have a strong home life... but it still feels like something is missing and true happiness remains just beyond reach. 

What are your coping strategies? Do you shut down? Do you avoid your feelings? Do you rev up? If you want to exit the conversation the second I ask you if you feel fulfilled, that’s probably a clue.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Friends at restaurant in conversation

Mindfulness Is How to Find Happiness

This is not a fix-it article about how to achieve true happiness. This is about noticing how you react. Being aware is the first step on any mission—and enjoying life is, in many ways, the ultimate mission.

It’s not easy to turn the mirror on yourself. There are not always clear answers and the world of emotional intelligence is still confusing for many people.

It is completely worth it though.

Deep Dive:  For more on EQ, check out What is Emotional Intelligence? and  History of EQ in the Workplace.

A Happy Couple Walks into a Bar…

On Christmas Day, my fiance and I ended up drinking margaritas at a downtown taqueria. As depressing as that might sound, it was absolutely wonderful—a random side-stop we made on a whim that turned into one of the most memorable holidays for either of us, ever.

We got to talking and stumbled upon this question: What do you do when you realize that your job is giving you everything you think you want, and it does not add up?

Romantic couple leaning into each otherNot to sound precocious, but we are blessed. We’ve worked hard for professional careers doing what we love; we’ve climbed our way up to leadership roles and we make enough income to live happily; we (mostly) control our own schedules; we enjoy a beautiful home, a sweet puppy, supportive families and plenty of adventures. When you have all these wonderful things in your life you don’t get to feel empty. Right?

Here is what we realized: Sometimes your job is giving you many wonderful things—all the assets that you logically know are good things—so you feel obligated to be happy. If you’re not, it seems like something is wrong with you. Why wouldn’t you feel fulfilled?...but still, you don’t.

Some elusive, secret ingredient seems missing.

Up until this point, we were on the same page in our conversation. This is where we diverged, though—and many couples (and non-couples) probably do the same.

Do You Harden or Melt?

Like a choose-your-own-adventure novel through your own psyche, there are options.

When my fiance, a very motivated and military engineer type, is “winning” at his career (promotions, prestigious jobs, managerial power, more money, etc.) but doesn’t feel like he’s truly doing what we want to do—he shuts down. He ignores any disconnect, puts his head down, nose to the grindstone, and gets stuff done. And it works. In a way.

When I myself, a very motivated and entrepreneurial creative type, am “winning” at my career (great gigs, friendly partnerships, a full workload, creative stimulation, etc.) but don’t feel like I’m really achieving what I want to—I go into overdrive. I become hyper-aware of all I do and reflect on whether it’s right for me, reassessing and making changes asap. And it works. In a way. To put it this way: he hardens and I melt. He retreats into his head and I get caught up in the feelings.

This is not to say there are only two ways to handle this head-heart disconnect. And it's not to say that one way is wrong or another is better. Most people likely fall somewhere along the spectrum between melting and hardening. In fact, most people probably do a little bit of both.

The point is to notice.

What now?

If you’re the hardening type, acknowledging that there might be a disconnect between having all the ingredients for fulfillment and actually feeling fulfilled—could be a big breakthrough.

Mindfulness and emotional well being begins with awarenessIf you’re the melting type, realizing that you might be hypersensitive and quick to react—could be eye-opening.

Every situation and every person will be different from there on out. When it comes to realizing though, we’re the same.

Realizing can be difficult. You have to zoom out—maybe even ask someone you trust for perspective. You have to take a close look at yourself—sometimes at things you don’t want to see. You have to admit that true happiness isn’t made of the ingredients you thought it was. From there, you have to decide on your own next step. It is difficult, and it is worth it, especially when the final goal is living a genuinely full life.

Related reading: Check out these posts on "Building Healthy Brain Habits."

Questions for Self-Awareness and Emotional Well-Being

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • If you’re offered a promotion that will get you more money and power but give you less freedom for what you really want—how do you decide?

  • What do you think you need to be genuinely happy? Do you have those puzzle pieces? If so (or mostly), do you feel genuinely happy?

  • What is one thing that would likely bring you joy but doesn’t (i.e., a better job, a high-achieving child, an attractive partner, vacation time, expendable income)?

  • Would you rather not talk about what you’re feeling or do you need to talk things through to figure them out?

  • Are you more prone to say: “It’ll all work out eventually” or “I’m going to fix this asap.”

  • Do you need to feel right about career choices and relationships, or do you make choices based on a set of parameters?

These questions will assist you in expanding self-awareness. If you'd like to learn active coping methods, mindfulness techniques, or tools to healthy build brain habits, Heartmanity can help. Contact us at support@heartmanity.com.

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Enid R. Spitz / Heartmanity ContributorEnid R. Spitz / Heartmanity Contributor
Enid Spitz is a writer, yoga instructor, and works at the popular Lululemon. She previously lived in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA, where she was a newspaper editor and researched yoga for Traumatic Brain Injury. Heartmanity combines Enid's passions for social well-being, neuroscience, and yoga. When not writing or on the yoga mat, she is an avid traveller, and loves being outdoors.

Posted in Emotional Intelligence & Fitness

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