Some people love drama, and I don’t mean This Is Us. They love the drama in their lives and they love creating drama. It makes them feel important or successful or in some way validates the stress in their lives. My former Boss From Hell was one of those Drama Queens. She’d wait until the last minute to write her motion or brief or whatever was due and then it was Drama City all day long! She was ‘on a deadline’ and couldn’t talk to anyone. The Associate and I hated it because it usually meant one or both of us would end up working late and driving it to the post office while the other one was stuck at the office filing it electronically with the Court. She did it on purpose, because if the Associate had already finished the pleading days earlier, she would wait until the due date to ‘review’ it, which really meant she rewrote it and turned a 4 page brief into a 24 page brief. (In one case, the judge actually put a page limit on all briefs because he had to read them!)
She was only one of the Drama Queens in my life (I’ll spare you the others!) The point is that she created most of the drama in her life. The solution was usually pretty simple, but she didn’t want a solution- she wanted the drama! It created a big “look at me” scene where she got to be the center of attention. Most of us enjoy being the center of attention at some time or another, especially if it’s for something we did well. But when we create drama to use as an excuse, then it becomes a problem!
We make the drama in our lives a problem when we try losing weight because we tend to use it as excuse to stay locked into our old bad habits: we can’t make it to the gym because we have to pick up the kids or we have to work late. We can’t ‘eat healthy’ because there’s a work luncheon and they’re bringing in sandwiches or pizza or something else so you have to eat that! Or you can’t cook something healthy because you were stuck working late for the crazy Boss From Hell again and so you have to pick up fast food. Oh, wait- that last one was actually me, more times than I can count! And it’s a good example of what I’m talking about.
When we use the drama in our lives as an excuse not to make the healthy or simply happier changes we are ‘trying to make,’ then the drama goes beyond being just an excuse and becomes something harmful. It becomes something that actually hurts us and can quite probably kill us. Yes, I know I’m sounding awfully dramatic myself here, but I also know the last six months I worked the Job From Hell, I was quite literally scared it was going to kill me, and after I quit that job, several of my family and friends said the same thing. I was so stressed I couldn’t sleep, my nerves were shot and I was having panic attacks, I was eating crappy junk food all the time, my weight was going up about as fast as my health was going to hell. Why did I let myself get so sick and unhealthy? Because I was wrapped up in the all the drama too!
Why did I eat so much crappy fast food? Because I worked late almost every night! I was just too tired and emotionally drained to worry about making anything reasonably healthy! Why was I so tired all the time? Because I was so stressed over my crazy job I could hardly sleep! I was so invested in the drama The Job From Hell generated that it never occurred to me to take a step back and get some perspective on it. A glaringly huge Simple Fix I see now is switching out the fast food for healthier just-as-fast options! Recently, my home life has gotten crazier than normal and I’ve been joking that I’m keeping the same hours I did at TJFH, but the biggest change is that when I am driving home at 7:15 or 7:30 at night and there’s nothing to eat or nothing prepared, instead of stopping at a fast food place (and I pass several), I stop at a grocery store and I pick up a bag of salad and something like cold rotisserie chicken. It doesn’t take any longer than it did going through a drive-thru (and in some cases less time) and while it may not be what I planned on or wanted, it’s a whole lot healthier! Truth be told, it makes me feel much better mentally and physically than the fast food. There are a few days, knowing I have the salad and something I can throw in the cast iron skillet waiting at home, I just go home and cook it! The meat will cook while I throw the salad together and eat that; and other days, I just settle for scrambled eggs.
The situation is still pretty much the same: I’ve got too much going on, a lot of stress in my life, I’m tired and hungry and I just want to get home, relax with my dog and have dinner. What’s changed is how I choose to focus on the Solution rather than the Drama.
Sometimes there is no Solution: I got stuck working late and now I’ve missed my water aerobics class. But I still have a choice about investing in the Drama. I missed the class so I can either go home and get some rest or go to the pool and do some swimming. Either option is viable, because odds are I probably need the rest, but if it’s not too late and I feel like it, I can just go to the pool. There have been several days I showed up at the pool when the class had only ten minutes left: I show up, get ten minutes of water aerobics and then swim for another half hour or so. No drama, no gnashing of teeth or wringing of hands and no huge convoluted Story about how everything in my life is a trainwreck.
That last part is pretty important. Investing in the Drama creates stress in your life, which causes a stress response in your body. It’s okay to feel stress, because it happens to everyone, and most of the time, it’s an appropriate response to what’s going on in your life. But when you manufacture the stress, like The Boss From Hell did, or when you bury yourself emotionally in that stress, you are causing a higher than normal or prolonged stress response in your body. Your body goes on high alert: your blood pressure, breathing and heart rate usually go up and you become tense. If this situation lasts more than a few hours, it can and usually does affect your sleep. Your body doesn’t care if this is an emotional stress (you got bad news about a family member), a work stress (your financial report is late and the boss is mad) or a physical stress (someone hit you). Stress means danger, so it conserves your resources, i.e. your fat stores. You might need the extra energy to recover from whatever happened or to survive an extended period of deprivation. That’s how we are designed: something is wrong and we need to make sure we survive! This is one of the reasons it was nearly impossible for me to lose weight working at TJFH: my body was constantly on high alert, conserving all it could!
When you invest yourself emotionally in the stressful situation, you’ve lost your perspective on it. It’s hard to get your distance on the situation and see things clearly, because it means you have to let go of that drama. You have to admit that maybe you’ve not made the best choices you could have and that this drama is an excuse to keep hitting the drive-thru. It’s your excuse for not reaching- or even working on- the goals you’ve set. It’s hard to let go of the drama and even harder still to admit that maybe you screwed up. Blaming the drama is easier: it absolves you of your mistakes but it also robs you of your power. You can’t “make good choices” because something or someone else has prevented you from doing that. How can I be expected to work out two or three times a week when I’m constantly leaving for work at 6:30 a.m. and getting home at 8:00 p.m. at night? When am I supposed to find the time? (FYI: that is my current schedule right now!) We make the time for the things that are important to us. Some of those nights when I get home that late, it’s because I went to the gym. Yes, it makes for another long day in an ongoing series of long days, but like the grocery store ‘fast food,’ I feel better emotionally (“I’m so proud I made my workout!”) and physically (no “I’m so stiff from sitting down all day.”) Letting go of the drama means that I weigh my choices objectively: is the workout going to make me feel better or do I need the rest more? Sometimes, it’s the rest and sometimes, it’s the workout, but either way, I made my choice without Investing in the Drama. I refuse to allow the chaos and drama in my life to make my choices for me. Whatever drama is going on in my life, my behavior is still my choice, and the only drama I ‘invest’ in these days is on the tv.