Managing frustration in a Toronto February

This is how February feels in Toronto. If you're not from a northern city, remember this picture as you read the rest of the post.

Those of you who love #nlp might have noticed something in the sentence above. I said that the picture could show you how February feels (not how it looks).  As I am writing, February looks like a bright blue sky shining on clean white snow. It's postcard pretty.  But it's not how most people are feeling in February.

Here's a short story about how February becomes the month of frustration. It's cold and icy and still quite dark, so people stay inside. They don't get out to see as many people (the people at the mall or the park make a difference even if you don't talk to them). They don't move as much (who wants to go for a walk when the temperature is below zero, the wind is freezing your face, and there is ice underfoot? They are often slightly chilled (building heating is imperfect) and surrounded by people who may be carrying a nasty flu bug. 

So what are these people telling themselves every day, all day? They are telling themselves that their well being and their ability to move is controlled by something bigger than them. They are telling themselves that they have no choice. They are telling themselves that moving forward will be difficult.

You probably think: that's just the weather. I don't believe that about myself. Of course that's true, rationally. But you're not just rational. You are also, in the words of Dan Ariely, predictably irrational. This means that what you do and experience changes what you think, even when there is no logical reason to make the connection.

When you tell yourself repeatedly that you really wish you could curl up and binge watch an old favourite on Netflix, you are also telling yourself something about what you expect of yourself and the world. When you tell yourself that you "can't" because of something you really can't control, you are telling yourself something about your ability to achieve goals. When you tell yourself that the world is a cold place, you expect a dive in the emotional temperature too.

And, of course, you are also a social animal. And when everyone around you is a little grumpy and down, it only seems right to go there too.

I've made you wait a long time for the solution to this problem. It's remarkably simple. Find a way to get moving (I mean go for a walk or a run or get to a gym). Dress in layers (stop telling yourself the world is cold). Pay attention to the people who are smiling (some people actually love the winter). If you want to feel better, pay attention to the priming that will make it easier to feel energized and effective.

It's a sure cure for your February frustration.


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