Changing your Latitude
Anyone that has ever had a bad day, a bad month or any bad period in their lives knows today that they got through it. I think I am safe to also say that this was probably not an isolated incident or a one-off occurrence either. One of the side effects of getting older is that whilst we get to have more experiences, it also increases the chances of finding ourselves in difficult situations. Our success rate then for getting through the tough times so far is 100% success! That’s pretty impressive!
It is easy to forget that each challenge also comes with a set of strategies or solutions that we can’t always see at the time. This is great to keep in mind but not always comforting especially when we are feeling overwhelmed or when we cannot change the current circumstances … or at least not in our preferred time frame.
Why do they say patience a virtue? Why can’t hurry the heck up be a virtue?”
Studies have shown that a lot of what happens in our life is determined by the way we think, and modern behavioural science also backs this up. American psychologist Albert Ellis is famous for developing rational emotive behaviour therapy and explains it simply. ‘How we react to events is determined largely by our ‘view’ of the event and not the event itself’.
I had to read line this a few times to make sure it sank in…
Now I realise that many of you are saying “yes but you don’t understand MY situation, MINE is different” and I will agree with you. I cannot know exactly how you feel because I am not you and I am not going through what you are going through. What I can tell you though with absolute confidence is this. Changing our perception, belief or opinion of a situation, even if this takes some time, WILL change our attitude. And changing our attitude WILL change our view of a situation. The challenge is how to make that shift intentionally when everything seems impossible and just blinking is an unbelievable effort.
Whilst I respect that every scenario is different, there are always things we can do… when we are ready … after we have spent the appropriate amount of time sitting on the floor crying of course.
Sometimes the action is as simple as writing down, yes, with a pen and paper, 5 positive things about our life or 5 things we are grateful for. Sounds easy but I can tell you first hand it can be one of the hardest things to do when you are not feeling particularly positive. Sure, it doesn’t change the scenario, but it DOES force us to shift our focus for a few minutes. In most cases things seem a tiny bit less horrible than they did before.
5 STEPS TO SHIFTING OUR FOCUS IN THOSE HORRIBLE, AWFUL, NOT GOOD, TERRIBLE AND IMPOSSIBLE MOMENTS
1. Clearly Identify And Acknowledge The Real Issue
What do we see as the problem? Is that really the problem or do we need to dig a bit deeper to find out what the real issue is? I know as a mother I had the occasion where I reacted to something that was not that big a deal while being distracted by a larger concern in my head. I did not voice this at the time and to the outside world it could have appeared as if I had completely overreacted. To me it seemed logical, but I knew deep down one thing had nothing to do with the other.
The first step is to identify and acknowledge the real issue and accept that we are not happy. This not only gets us clear on what is actually in front of us to deal with but is also an opportunity to tell ourselves that “it’s actually okay to feel the way I’m feeling”.
We know that simply being aware is not enough to lead to a change in our circumstances but it may lead to a change in our behaviour or our reaction to our circumstances. Actual change will require doing something – taking action. If we can at least get this first step recognised and written down, it will help us to get into the habit of extracting some of the ‘stuff’ from our mind, leaving a little space to breathe. If we can breathe then we are more likely to see options and to take one more step.
Start to identify some pro’s and con’s and maybe start a list of possible ways to overcome this challenge. If it is not something that can be ‘overcome’ then start a list with just one or two things you can do to help you get through this moments, something you can focus on, even for brief periods of time. It really is worth it.
2. Find The Positives - Even The Worst Scenario Has At Least One
Trust me, I know sometimes this feels impossible to believe. When the time is right, and only YOU will know when that is, I encourage you to sit down and write out 3-5 positive points relating to your specific situation or 3-5 positive things you can do. If you can’t find that many then just start with 1 or 2 and you can add to it later. No, you will not want to do this exercise and no you won’t enjoy it either. And perhaps the only thing you can come up with is a single seemingly pathetic positive and that’s okay! You have made a start and that is awesome!
By the way, it’s also totally okay to cry all the way through this exercise - also something from personal experience. Most of the time it does cause the slightest mental shift and a relief from the pressure for just a few moments. Not sure whether that's the result of the exercise or the crying 😐
I believe the reason for this lies in where our mind is then focussed. Solutions are easier to find and strength easier to build when we focus on a positive rather than a negative.
3. Listen To The Self-Talk
This is a HUGE one! Most of what we tell ourselves, we would never say to anyone else. And if anyone we knew spoke to us this way, we would probably have nothing more to do with them. Self-talk is constant. Sometimes it is positive and sometimes it is negative. We need to be very deliberate and become very aware of what we are ‘hearing’ in order to force the positive to counteract the negative. When we focus on the problem and not a solution or an option, it encourages a negative mindset.
It is okay to be miserable and it is okay to feel the way we feel, but at some point, we need to push ourselves to receive an injection of something that is better for us. This may be as simple as saying “I can” or “I will somehow find a way” or “Somehow I know I will get through this”. It is so much more beneficial than “I can’t” or “There is no way out” or “I am stuck”.
We are not trees. We are never really stuck. There is always a way out, there are always options, we just need to be in an open head space to see them.
Hint: Whether you agree with affirmations and mantras is irrelevant at this point, you have nothing to lose by repeating one. And no, you don’t have to believe what you are saying in that moment but say it enough times and it might just change your mind. When is the right time for an affirmation? Anytime! But particularly when you feel at your worst. “I CAN get through this” “I AM strong” “It IS going to be okay” “I WILL find a way”.
4. Shift The Thinking - How We Think Influences How We Feel
Sometimes we just need to stop thinking. Anyone that has ever done something for a long period of time, be it writing, or studying, or something creative, will agree that sometimes you just need to walk away and do something else for a few minutes. Get some fresh air, or go for a walk, or have a shower, or play with the pet, anything to focus on something else for a while. Ted Talks or motivational clips, inspirational books, or just any positive distraction will lessen the chatter in our mind. If you want to completely switch off then consider a light movie or a couple of episodes of your favourite t.v. show. I have found yoga unbelievably brilliant for quietening the mental chatter and getting a sense of emotional balance. My point is sometimes we need to ‘get out of our minds’ for a while and just NOT think.
5. Be Deliberate about Our Association and Our Location
Who we associate with and who we don’t associate with, has a huge effect on how we think. How many times have we heard how successful people associate with like-minded people and who has also heard the saying “lie down with dogs and you will get fleas”. How many parents have been aware and monitored the ‘type of friends’ their children were playing with. Ironically enough, many adults don’t filter the company they keep themselves.
My primary love language is ‘words of affirmation’ so hearing from someone who I know loves and believes in me, reminding me frequently “I promise, it’s all going to be okay, I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I promise it will be” is incredibly powerful!
And you know what? Sometimes things are just NOT okay so, give yourself permission to be miserable and to feel just the way you feel.
There are always the occasions when things just get too overwhelming and we just need to take some time out and get some space from life as we know it. Just remember though that “Wherever you go, there you are”. Peace and happiness are always an inside job and never found in an alternative location. In some cases, though, a change of scenery is exactly what we need to be able to take a step back and view the scene (read perceived carnage) from another perspective. At some point we will all drag ourselves out from under the floorboards, from under the carpet, from under our beds and we will have a look around. We might look at the sky or take a breath of fresh air before possibly quickly retreating into hiding again… and that’s also okay!
💙 For those of us that believe in something higher, or have a guardian angel, NOW is the time to call on them. What would they say? What would they want for you? What would make them proud?
Sometimes when we feel like life is completely falling apart, we realise later that it was all falling together.
In the last few minutes of a yoga class I sat quietly and still, with my eyes closed. The relaxation component had just finished, and the teacher spoke softly and steadily. “Take a moment to notice how you feel right now. Has the chatter in your mind quietened? Take a minute to scan your body from head to toe and acknowledge how you feel in this moment. Remember how you got here. Notice how everything feels calmer perhaps compared to before your practice. Notice your breathing and if you feel more peaceful. Perhaps things feel a little more manageable and you feel stronger, ready to meet the rest of your day head on. And remember as you go through your day that you got yourself to this quiet and calm place. It was not something you found outside but something you found within. You have the power to return to this space any time you want. It is always with you.
You already have all the answers.
Dalya xx 💙