I can’t believe it’s happened again! Just when I thought I had reached a level of peace with some major life decisions.
Yet it’s all backfired.
You see, I finally summoned the courage to walk away from a successful and secure career to embark on a completely new adventure.
What is it about this messy, magnificent life and the cyclical nature of our life journey that can be so challenging and frustrating at times?
I really thought I had developed a good self-awareness, practicing mindfulness and understanding the triggers that can lead me down the path of rumination and anxiety. I made my decisions in a considered and logical way, really believing I had a good level of personal mastery and feeling I was equipped to take this leap of faith.
Then it all came tumbling down. All my anxieties and fears of the future returned.
Maybe it was that one change too many. It was a perfect storm really, changing location twice, finishing a high-level job and leaving a lot of wonderful people behind and moving onto a more uncertain future overseas.
So rather than going down that well-worn and addictive path of rumination of the what ifs, I have decided to remind myself of the many strategies I have used over the years to hone my mental strength and resilience.
Here they are in no particular order, but all very important.
1. No more self-pity.
Basically, I need to stop the what ifs. It takes a lot of energy which could otherwise be used in much more fruitful ways. Understand that under pressure I have a tendency to embellish the negative! Reframe the way I look at my decisions. Remind myself that it is what it is and I am exactly where I am meant to be. Make sure I have that wonderful saying where I can see it daily. ‘Success is a journey, not a destination’.
2. Stop the catastrophizing and have fun.
Practise self-care. List all the things that make me feel good. It could be as simple as a walk, listening to music, dancing, a cup of coffee with a friend and a good book. Start the gratitude journal again. This time I will do something a bit different. This idea came to me from one of Oprah’s talks on Super Soul Conversations. At the end of each day think of something new that I am grateful for.
3. When I am feeling emotional and stressed, take a step back.
Become the observer, rather than getting so caught up and consumed by my emotions. Remember I am not my thoughts! This is the time to get that wonderful book out by Michel Singer ‘The Untethered Soul’ and reread it. This book has so many great strategies to help you live fully in the present moment, breaking free from painful past experiences and that noisy inner voice that can sabotage you.
4. No more people pleasing.
The only approval I need is my own. A default position for people who are stressed and anxious can be validating yourself through others. It is so important to understand yourself and your values and live by them, without the need for external acknowledgment and approval.
5. Remind myself of my inner resources.
Think of all those challenging situations I have been in throughout my life and how I have shown resilience and strength in getting through them. This is where having a journal is really helpful. It can be so cathartic writing freely about how you feel. Research shows that writing for 20 minutes a day can really make a difference. You gain a better perspective. Looking back over my journal and my writings over the years remind me of the times I have felt bad and what I have done to help myself.
6. Be my own best friend.
Our inner critic can have a field day in stressful times. Thoughts and feelings I can generally shrug off seem to attach themselves in these times and they can be overwhelming. Practice self- compassion and show the kindness you would to a good friend in challenging situations. This is a great time to reread that excellent article on Ideapod about emotional agility which is the ability to deal with your emotions both good and bad, without suppressing or bottling them up, using compassion, open curiosity, and the courage to take action.
7. Take time to remind myself of my values.
As long as I am leading a life aligned with my values, I am successful no matter what happens in life. Know what I have control over and take action. Celebrate the small steps I have taken to improve my situation and achieve those goals that I have set for myself. It is also a time to refresh my memory of the key steps in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, particularly the ability to defuse those persistent and negative thoughts and see them for what they really are, often conditioned responses learned over many years.
Finally, this is a timely reminder that life is energy and nothing is permanent. Buddha’s powerful quote, “This too shall pass”, has never been so apt.
Life is full of ups and downs for all of us. None of us are immune to suffering. It is part of the human condition and we all experience it at times.
At the end of the day, it is about our reactions to our circumstances and situations that are key, not the actual situations themselves. Victor Frankl’s famous quote comes to mind. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”