Strategies for Challenging Times
Life naturally has its ups and downs and this past year of pandemic definitely hasn’t been easy. Uncertain times can bring about a variety of feelings from worry, to fear or confusion. When our life is cycling through one of those down turns, how can we honor those feelings and work on our resilience and emotional health?
We all have different ways of coping when things get difficult. Some of our ways may be healthy and help us move through the down turn. Other ways of coping may just have us spinning out wheels, unbeknownst to us.
All the feelings you are feeling, now because of a pandemic or in the midst of some other not so wonderful time in your life, are all valid. They’re worth feeling and it’s part of the healing process.
However, when we’re stuck in the wheel spinning phase, how do we get unstuck? How can we move forward and get back on the road to more enjoyable times and places.
Begin with Your Values
A great place to begin shifting from spinning your tires, to making the climb to higher ground, is beginning with your personal values. We all have personal values, but have you taken the time to actually define them and find what’s most important to you?
If you have great, this first step will be a little bit of a review, but if not check out the next couple of points.
What are personal values?
Values are your principles or standards of behavior. Your judgement of what’s important in life. (Thank you to a mentor of mine, Michael Keeler, for these wise words.)
Often times in situations or encounters with people that annoy or anger us it’s because one of our personal values is being ignored or violated. (Thank you to another mentor for this gem in a training with Mark Fisher.)
Discover your values
Where to begin with discovering your personal values?
This will require a bit of time and some paper and pen (or if you’re more of a typer some digital device) to record your answers to some questions.
Explore and answer questions like: what’s most important to you in life? What are the qualities you admire in your closest friends or family members? When were you the happiest? and Why?
For example, if you value honestly, telling the truth and having the truth told to you makes you feel good. Conversely, being lied to or lying makes you feel bad. Here’s a situation where negative feelings can help identify your values.
Some folks will find it easier just to brainstorm, while others will like a more defined map. If you’re in the latter, check out this link with more questions and a list of values.
How your values help
Your values guide you. When you’re in a funk or feeling down, examine if your daily life is aligning with your values. Identify where they may not be aligning and take a baby step to bring them closer aligned. This can have a big affect on your mental health. [1, 2, 3]
Sets Goals for Yourself
Like all goal setting Mike and I chat about, you want to set a goal and then discover the first baby step you can do to move you in the direction of that goal. What can you reasonably do now, to take that baby step forward.
How can you show up for yourself today? What small thing can you do today to improve your physical and/or mental wellness? What small step can you take to bring you more aligned with your values?
This step forward needs to be something that you feel confident about achieving. So once you pick your step to move you in the direction of your goal, then ask yourself,
“On a scale 1-10 how likely am I to do this step?”
If you are less than an 8, then choose a smaller step. Set yourself up to win. This goes for anytime when making changes and accomplishing goals, but it’s especially important if you are feeling down and trying to make improvements to that.
Be Kind to Yourself
When you’re feeling down, beating yourself up about it isn’t going to make you feel better. You need to care for yourself to survive tough times. Let yourself off the hook for some of the things you feel you have to get done. Take a moment to prioritize your health and well-being and put aside some of the things that aren’t ‘musts’ at the moment. To thrive beyond those tough times it may mean you ask for a little help for some task you normally do, or maybe delegate them to a service: cleaning, meal delivery or laundry for the time being.
Reach out and Connect with Your Community
Asking for help tends to be quite hard for many of us, especially when many of us are taught to be independent.
Reach out and connect with your friends and/or family members for some support. Ask for some support. Research shows that social connections have a positive effect on well-being.
Connecting with your community can bring laughter into your challenging time. Laughter is a great emotional release and can improve your well-being. It’s ok to give yourself the gift of laughter, even when times are rough.
Focus on Gratitude
Gratitude means showing appreciation for all the good in your life. Focusing on gratitude can boost your feelings of well-being and even improve your health. Take some time to get clear about what it is that you’re grateful for.
Grab that journal again and write out everything in your life you can think of that you’re grateful for having or experiencing. Take some time daily and feel that gratitude. I know for me personally I have a little moment of gratitude each morning where I just feel that gratitude towards the people and the abundance in my life.
And Research shows that people who practice gratitude exhibit greater well-being, including being less likely to suffer with depression and anxiety; they are also more optimistic, and more socially connected.
So, give yourself the gift of gratitude. Your body, heart and mind will thank you.