Emergencies, crises and self-isolation create the perfect storm to focus on everything that is going wrong in the world and in your life.
And the thing is it’s legitimate. This is not you having a self-pity party. It is understandable for frustration and despair to creep in even when you have the best of intentions.
I know there is a part of you that really wants to stop being anxious, overwhelmed and afraid – but how do you do this when your mind is racing with the many ways of how things can go wrong? How will other people’s decisions negatively impact your security and health? How will a lack of choice impact your ability to be empowered and independent?
I want to share 3 things I did when I was almost penniless, (my bank account balance dipped below $50 with no apparent prospects for a job); when I was working underpaid jobs to gain experience even though it got me into debt and risked my safety and security; and when, living alone, I was recovering from minor-surgery that left me bed-ridden for 8 months.
I want to be honest with you. I did worry. I did try to will opportunities into existence and I did try to make my situation better.
What ultimately worked was a mixture of these 3 steps:
I remember feeling so low that friends and family telling me, “everything is going to be ok.” just didn’t register. To stop myself from going down the rabbit hole of anxiety and despair I stopped trying to force the outcome I wanted and chose to shift my attention to engagement. This helped me feel good in the moment – and honestly, when things are rough, a moment is all you’ve got. I took my mind off thinking and shifted my focus to doing things that helped: jogging, scrap-booking, drawing, creating delicious, simple meals, practicing yoga and meditation. Now don’t get me wrong. There was a part of me that was super judgmental: How the hell is scrap-booking really gonna help me? In time I learned that judging myself for taking new actions to help myself, when the old ways didn’t work, was only making me suffer more. Shifting my brain to these activities gave my rational brain a rest and engaged other parts of my brain I used less, focusing on the senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste touch), internal visceral sensations and the position of my body in relation to other things around me. It allowed me to rejuvenate. It also gave me the time and space to allow my inner wisdom to rise to the surface, show me a new perspective and try again from a place of empowerment, not fear. This strategy changed my life and well-being for the better.
Practicing genuine gratitude helped too. As much as I wanted to wallow in self-pity it was impossible to ignore the things to be grateful for. Earlier in life, I struggled to build my career, create financial security, process traumatic experiences overseas and deal with culture shock returning home. I was also dealing with deep heart-break. Two couple-friends of mine supported me with their company, their laughter and their awesomeness, never once making me feel like a third wheel. It was also impossible to ignore that somehow, I’d still managed to house myself in places where sun streamed into the rooms -I could sit down and just be. Or, in spite of my struggles, be close to local shops providing fresh fruit, veg, cheese, coffee and good conversation with the store owners to keep me going! It wasn’t long before this that I was unable to find a home I felt safe in, or friends and colleagues who really had my best interests in mind. Gratitude, if practiced genuinely, is a powerful way to increase resilience and good energy. It’s what keeps me going every day.
I’ll be completely honest. This is one of the hardest things to do. Recently my best friend pushed the imaginary “bull***t” button on me when I said: “Oh yes, I’ll rest. I’ll make a cup of decaf and go hang the laundry to dry.” – Yeah. No. One of the most pivotal moments in my life was being unable to work because it was too painful to sit, stand or lie down for lengths at a time. Pain overwhelmed and exhausted me when I had a back problem that required 3 emergency hospital visits, 1 scheduled surgery and nurses to visit 3 times a day. That excruciating lesson taught me how powerful the body is. Taking care of it with rest and rejuvenation is the only way I can do the work I want to do. To ignore rest means I will ultimately undermine my life’s mission. I still have to unlearn the “work ‘til you drop” mentality. But setting the intention to rest means it’s easier for me to listen to myself or my bestie and her “bull***t” button, and do just that. Because of the routine rest, I can continue being there for my friends, my family and YOU.
So, I know things are hard right now. I’m sorry for the ways the pandemic has impacted you AND, there are 3 things you can do to help you shift from anxiety to resilience.
Sending supportive vibes your way.
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