Some of you may have seen my recent Facebook post when I mentioned something about all parts of my life “working” at the same time? Well, that lasted about twenty-four hours! Literally the next day, I was overwhelmed, unmotivated, tired, and feeling depressed.
So, what happened? What happened is called an upper limit problem (“ulp” for short). An ulp, which I first learned about from Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks, is what happens when things get “too good” for us, and we unconsciously do something to mess it up. You see, when things start to go really well, many times we get nervous, even if we’re not aware of it at first. Unconsciously (or consciously sometimes) we are uncomfortable with the new, higher level of joy and expansion, so we create an upper limit, which quickly brings us down to a more familiar level: what I call “miserable but comfortable.” Coincidentally, “ulp” is the sound we make when we swallow just before saying: “Holy crap! How did I get in this mess?”
I really was feeling great on the day I posted that Facebook message. By lunchtime the following day, I was exhausted and grumpy. I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to sleep and make it all go away. And then I realized two things: a) this is the way I commonly used to feel when I was in a much worse phase of my life- this was familiar, and b) I had created this state myself. I started off the big set-up by “accidentally” booking eight appointments in one day. Maybe for some people (the dalai lama?) that is fine. For me- no way. Then, on the day I needed my self-care the most, I was out of my usual routine and “forgot” to meditate. And I chose not to exercise. I “didn’t have time”, of course. 😛 All of this was a formula for disaster.
By the time I realized all of this, half the day was over. And, it was not too late to turn it around. I meditated. I slowed things down. I focused on my self-care and self-compassion, not beating myself up for creating the upper limit. Rather, having compassion for myself. It is human to have an upper limit. I had bumped up against mine and the result was predictable, almost. And it was okay. I was okay. I fairly quickly got back to feeling good and was able to much more happily go through the rest of my day. And surprise (not), I got my energy and motivation back, too.
Sometimes an upper limit can be prevented in the first place, with self-awareness and practice. When we get in a that really good-feeling place, we get kind of “high” from it, and this makes us ungrounded and possibly unconscious as well.
So, if you notice you are feeling great, and things are going well, what can you do to keep riding that wave longer? Two things. First, you can say to yourself: “I hope this keeps up. This is great.” That puts the focus on what you want, as opposed to what you don’t want. Most people say to themselves: “I hope nothing bad messes this up.” Which, naturally, attracts something bad to mess it up. What we put our attention on grows. So focus on the good things.
Second, do things to help keep yourself grounded. Things that put you in your body are grounding. Do a workout. Get a massage. Meditate. Eat a steak (if you do that). Eat some chocolate. Take a walk outside in nature. Stuff like that.
Even if you do all of the things I recommended, sometimes you will still create an upper limit. Because you are human. Forgive yourself. Do the things that reliably make you feel good. And get on with your life. Just because you have “upper limited” doesn’t mean it has to last a long time!