Life is filled with challenges. It’s unavoidable. As we grow older, we get better at navigating life’s ebb and flow. However, we occasionally find ourselves in a situation where those challenges seem to pile up; where life throws us one too many curveballs at the same time. In those instances it can be difficult to find your bearings and see the light at the end of the tunnel – difficult but not impossible. With conscious intention, and a few mindset tools in your back pocket, you can practice finding the positive, even during challenging times.
Breathe: Is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders tense? Take a few deep breaths and release any tension you’re holding in your body. We can get so overwhelmed and stuck on our thoughts, that we sometimes need a reminder just to breathe and return to the present moment. You may also want to take a minute to close your eyes, focus on your breath, and notice any sensations that arise in your body. You may feel the urge to lie down or get a drink of water. Listening to what your body needs in times of stress is an important first step in finding a more peaceful state.
Examine: Our thoughts drive our feelings. Our feelings drive our actions, and our actions drive our results. While we can’t always control the circumstances, we can always choose how we respond, and that starts by choosing the thoughts we bring into the situation. Often we accept the first or loudest thought that comes to mind, regardless of whether or not we like the feelings and actions it produces. Taking a moment to examine your thoughts can help bring clarity to the challenges you’re facing. Author and self-inquiry advocate, Byron Katie suggests we ask these 4 questions of our thoughts, and see what comes up:
- Is it true?
- Can I absolutely know it's true? (Would it hold up in a court of law?)
- How do I react when I believe this thought?
- Who would I be without this thought?
Shift: If after some examination you realize the mindset you’ve taken isn’t serving your best interests or driving you in the direction you want to go, it’s time to try a new perspective on for size. When you ask yourself “why is this happening to me?” instead of, “why is this happening?” you make yourself a victim with your question, and your brain will reflect that victimhood back to you with the answers it provides. When you ask better questions, your brain provides better answers. Master Life Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo shares, “Awareness is everything. If you aren’t aware of the 60,000 thoughts that are going through your head every day, it’s like your brain is a toddler with a knife running through there. There is nothing more frightening for a life than an unsupervised mind.”
Connect: Humans need connection, real positive social connection. When we experience a challenge, the tendency can be to withdraw and turn inward, but often what we most need in those times is support from the ones we love. Research shows, “people who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression…studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, and are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being.” Whether you need advice or a listening ear, reach out to someone you trust.
Appreciate: It’s easy to focus on the things that are going wrong, but it’s so much more rewarding to focus on what is going right. Gratitude can help us feel more connected, create a positive outlook and even increase energy and vitality. If you don’t have a gratitude practice already, now it the perfect time to start one. List 20 things you are thankful for right now, or start a daily gratitude journal. Focusing on the positive doesn’t make our difficulties go away, but it does help us navigate those challenges with more peace and perspective.
Serve: Buy the stranger behind you in the drive thru a cup of coffee, donate to your favorite charity, or call a friend who has been struggling lately – find someone to bless today! We can get so wrapped up in our own issues that we don’t stop to look around and consider who we might be able to help. Helping others not only feels good, but it may just be the secret to living a “healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful” life.
These are difficult times for many of us, and the 24-hour news cycle is a constant reminder of the challenges we face. It’s enough to leave anyone feeling anxious. Tune out the external noise and tune into your quiet inner voice. There is no magic wand that can make all of our troubles go away, but we can find calm in the storm if we know where to look for it.
About LifeStyle Options: An Addus Home Care Company
Founded in 1989, LifeStyle Options is one of the largest licensed, private duty home care agencies in Illinois. With highly experienced and trained homecare professionals, CNAs, and RNs on staff, they have earned a reputation for providing exceptional service to clients throughout the Greater Chicagoland area, enabling older adults to safely remain in the comfort of their own home.