Shot of an attractive young woman sitting alone on a mat and meditating on the beach at sunset
Use these tools to help get yourself unstuck (Credits: Getty Images)

Believing in yourself is a powerful tool – but for many, it doesn’t come easily.

In fact, a lot of the time, we can do the opposite, and go into self destruct mode, known as self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is when your behaviours and thought patterns hold you back, and stop you from doing the things you want to do.

Maybe you start to push a wonderful partner away, or you stop making time for hobbies and activities that make you feel good. Or, you might not even realise you’re doing it.

So how can you tell if you’re engaging in this behaviour – and what can you do about?

Brenda Winkle is the host of Your Yes Filled Life podcast and a breathwork facilitator – she says breathing techniques can help you get unstuck.

Brenda says breathwork helps regulate the body’s stress response (Picture: Supplied)
Brenda says breathwork helps regulate the body’s stress response (Picture: Supplied)

‘If you find yourself indulging in behaviours that don’t move you forward in your life, then it’s time to do the inner work,’ says Brenda.

‘A large glass of wine to destress at the end of the day might help feel better in the short term but you’re avoiding actually getting on with doing the thing you actually want to do,’ she explains.

Brenda advocates breathwork as a way stop self-sabotage in its tracks. ‘With breathwork, you’ll gain the ability to regulate your body’s stress response. It is something that can completely reprogram a person’s self-concept.

‘This will reduce the negative impact that stress can have on your health and performance, elevate your cognitive function, decision-making, and problem-solving skills, as you find clarity and focus through the power of intentional breathing.’

Here, Brenda explains the ways in which we may be self-sabotaging, and how to literally breathe through it.

You refuse to celebrate something good in your life 

It’s called the ‘Upper Limit Problem’. It’s those weird self-defeating beliefs and behaviours that many of us carry around – that we’re not deserving of success, that we’re not good enough, that good things don’t happen to us.

Without even realising it, we sabotage ourselves by turning up late or constantly running ourselves down in public, or drinking too much the night before an important meeting. It’s been called the ‘inner thermostat setting’ which is when we subconsciously limit the number of happy feelings that we enjoy, keep ourselves small and focus on the negative – no matter how many brilliant things we attract into our life.

How to create change: When you notice a fearful thought (despite something positive happening), try to observe the fear rather than identify with it.

You can say to yourself, “I’m noticing fear”. Then try to bring your awareness to the area around your heart and activate five to seven slow breaths in through the nose, and out through the mouth.

Keep one hand on the heart and place the other hand on your belly, just above your belly button. Keep the breath moving in through the nose and out through the mouth for five to seven more breaths.

You may notice yourself sighing, shifting positions of your body, yawning, or even experiencing goosebumps. By slowing the breath and bringing your awareness onto your body; you’ll notice your thoughts stop racing.

Every time you start to feel doubt, fear, or anxiety give this a try and see what happens.

You feel panic not joy when something great happens

Our brains are wired to notice the bad, not the good. Known as negative bias, the research shows that we automatically pay more attention to negative events than positive ones.

If you don’t consciously start to work on your negative bias, you can become anxious and fearful – even when there are great things happening in your life. 

How to create change: Start to notice your thoughts. If you realise you are feeling bad, stop and notice what you were thinking about just before then.

By learning to notice your thoughts, then you can take the next step: start to babysit your thoughts and reframe any discomfort as a positive sign that something great is happening in your life: you’re becoming more aware of how your thoughts make you feel.

The next step is to regulate your nervous system. Make the switch from your sympathetic nervous system – which responds to stress and danger – to your parasympathetic system – which helps you relax – by using the box breath.

Breathe in for four, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four. Repeat four times or more.

You find yourself complaining and blaming all the time.

This is a sign that you are not taking personal responsibility. Complaining and blaming means you’re not doing anything to change things in a productive way.

When you get into the energy of blame, you’re no longer remembering that you are an incredible being and you have the capacity and the responsibility to create the change you want. When you are blaming like this, you are outsourcing your responsibility and giving away your power.

How to create change: When you notice yourself blaming or complaining, pay attention to where you feel sensations in your body. Maybe it will feel like pressure on your heart or butterflies in your belly, perhaps you’ll notice an ache somewhere.

Pay attention to that sensation, ask, “What are you trying to tell me?” You might get an instant answer, and it might take some time.

If you don’t get an instant answer, try putting a hand on the body part you are noticing sensation and inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

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