You Know What They Say - What Doesn't Kill You...
You know the age old adage, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger…” really is true.
If you are to reflect back on challenging times in your life, you really can see that you survived and chances are you really learned something from that experience. I believe that this is intentional. This is the way it is supposed to happen. Crazy little thing called life! I do think that some of us have tougher days than others but none the less, we all have our own challenges and we generally come through them just fine and hopefully wiser. Everyday life is full of bumps, stress, challenges. Some days are harder than others, and some days, it may seem that the stress will never end. How do we get through these tough times?
I tend to notice that life happens in peaks and valleys. I also say that relationships/marriages have peaks and valleys too. The difference is in how we deal with these trying times. What I do know is that there is no right or wrong. There is only what works for me; what feels right to me in any given moment. Everyone has their own set of coping skills; hopefully we all learned positive skills from parents/teachers. This is one of the many challenges of parenting; giving your children the “tools” to deal with difficulties and challenges.
I have become aware over time that having something to look forward to gives me a sense of hope and well-being when I’m having a rough day. It could be something simple like having dinner with my kids, knowing that I can sit on my porch after a long day and have a glass of wine, seeing a friend after work that I have not seen in a while, or watching my favorite HGTV show. Sometimes, what I’m looking forward to can be in the future, a sporting event, or a concert, a beach day, or a Girl’s night out! Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be big. What this represents is that whatever is challenging or troubling in this moment is not going to last, because I have something else that is pleasing to me right around the corner!
Another strategy is the mantra: Count your blessings! It is so easy to get caught in a negative cycle where everything seems to be going wrong. It takes a little wisdom and self-discipline to stop yourself and recognize in these moments that you have a lot to be thankful for! Gratitude is always the way to a better frame of mind. It is scientific! In keeping with this same line of thinking, I always try to remember that when I have something difficult that I am facing no matter how big or small, there is someone in the universe who has it much worse than I do. In that moment, I am able to find some compassion for the world and for myself and I can just be grateful.
One of my favorite teachers is the author Byron Katie. Years ago I was turned on to her writings known as “The Work.” Her first book was written in 2002 called “Loving What Is.” It is a powerful weapon against the thoughts that we have that cause us to suffer. By doing “The Work” you are able to accept the reality in any given moment. I have read and re-read this book many times. It has helped me in many situations to recognize what is real/true in any given situation in which I may be feeling negative, worried, angry, or afraid. This strategy coupled with an attitude of gratitude can be a powerful combination when times are tough.
An overarching principal Byron Katie teaches is that you cannot change reality. You can only change how you are thinking or responding in any given situation.
I find myself doing this a lot and coaching others to question “in this moment, what do I have control over?” Sometimes just stopping to ask yourself this question is enough to turn it around. If it is something you cannot control, then by giving it your energy you are not helping yourself. You are expending more of your precious energy trying to control it. This perspective can come in handy no matter where you are or what you are doing. It could be a tough day at work, an even tougher evening with the kids, or being a witness to all of the violence and sadness in the world. What do I have control over in this situation? I bet if we all asked ourselves this question in the heat of the moment, there would be a lot we could let go of and the result would be more peace. It can be very liberating to let go and still feel in control.
Another strategy to manage your own chaos and stress is to practice kindness. When you are doing something for someone else you automatically take the focus off of yourself and if you give of yourself completely to it you can change what is happening to you in that moment. Suddenly, what was stressful to you in a moment can be completely turned around by doing something for someone else. We often hear of people “paying it forward.” By doing something kind for someone else, the kindness will find its way back to you.
Finally, the one tool that all of us have at our disposal at any given time is our breath. Don’t forget to breathe! We hear it all of the time, but the truth is that when you take a deep breath and focus on that breath it brings you into the present moment. It changes your physiology, it slows your heart rate which can be calming. The very act of breathing can only be done in the present! There is no past and no future when you stop what you are doing and take a deep breath. It brings you back to what is real in this moment which is the definition of being present. Try it!
As I finished this writing, I came upon this picture that a friend had posted on Facebook. It was a sign!