A few thoughts on living strong in this day and age.
I am a positive person. I tend to look for the best in others and believe that things will work out.
Some days this mindset comes easily. Other days, it requires conscious, deliberate effort.
Whether crime, natural disasters, personal betrayals, fluke accidents…sometimes the fact that we ever leave our homes feels like an act of bravery. I feel it, too. When my kids aren’t home and it’s 4 minutes after they said they would be, my mind can easily jump to conclusions. Even as a certified positive psychology coach, I can at times find myself wanting to curl up in a ball and hide under a blanket for a while.
And sometimes, that’s exactly what we need to do. We need to feel our feelings, even when they fall lower on the happiness scale than we’d like. Just because we experience fear, anger, doubt, frustration, or grief doesn’t mean we aren’t positive and purposeful. It means we are human.
But then, because we are human, and because we are here for a purpose greater than ourselves, we get up, take a few deep breaths, and do the work we were put here to do to make the world a better place.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but here are a few tools and strategies, supported by research, that I find particularly helpful in those curl-up-in-a-ball times.
I hope they help you come from a place of strength and purpose rather than doubt, worry, or fear.
1. Ask, “What can I control here?”
Whatever your answer, even if it’s something small, honor it. Maybe you cannot control the fact that your company is being acquired and your role may be eliminated, but you can control how you prepare for different possibilities or proactively decide your best action steps.
If the answer to this question feels like “Nothing,” employ one of the other strategies offered – and remember that you can always control your mindset.
2. Adopt a guiding mantra.
One I developed during a difficult time and still use today: Be alert but not afraid. I try to be prepared and cover my bases, while simultaneously trying not to let fear drive my decisions.
I wish I could say I adopted this mantra in my youth; the truth is, I have often allowed fear to have more power than I’d like. It has only been more recently, and with the help and inspiration of courageous friends, mentors, and coaches, that I have lived out this mantra more frequently. Feel free to use it or find/create one that speaks to you. Repeat to yourself in easy times so it comes to mind more naturally in the harder times.
Related: The Power Of One
3. Take an action.
Action truly provides one of the best antidotes to fear. Connect with a solution-oriented committee of like-minded people. Research accurate facts instead of automatically believing the headlines shared (typically without deeper inquiry) on social media. Join a group, attend a church service, write a letter to the editor, seek a second opinion, donate time or money. Saying “Something must be done” is not the same as doing something. Do something.
4. Calm your nervous system.
For me, journaling helps tremendously. For many of my friends, meditation, breath work, or yoga does the trick. Experiment until you find what supports you, then practice it regularly.
5. Ask for help.
Whether from a trained professional, a wise confidant, or a calm and trusted friend, know that asking for help is a sign of strength and courage – not weakness. I am not a therapist but have found them extremely valuable at various points throughout my life.
And as difficult as this may be during times of turmoil, see if you can laugh – even just for a moment. I so distinctly remember hearing Stephen Colbert say during his show a couple of years ago, “You cannot laugh and be afraid at the same time.” Funny movies, hilarious chats with friends, entertaining books, kitty videos on YouTube…treat yourself to a laughing spell to lift your mindset, so you can then choose your next best step from a place of greater clarity.
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