Are you struggling to remain hopeful? Whether it is the result of bushfire, drought, entrenched racism or new covid-19 realities, it seems in 2020, more than ever, each of us has a new crop of problems made just for us. If we are not vigilant, it is easy to get caught up in a spiral of ‘what-if’ thinking. This never ends well. However, more useful alternatives exist.
If uncertainty, a sudden change in circumstances or the ongoing challenges of living in the world right now are making you anxious or keeping you awake at night, remember you are not alone, remember help is there for you, and remember it is not weak to reach out. Do it. Pick up the phone and call a friend or a community organisation and talk about how it is for you. Don’t put if off. Do it now.
If you want simple strategies to help calm your nervous system, learn to work with your breath, for example by consciously taking an in-breath and making the out-breath twice its length. Do this several times, and focus on relaxing the tension and letting go as you do. It works. Or take to going for a brisk walk at lunchtime and tiring out your anxious mind. Or try forward bends. Even leaning forward and putting your head on your arms at your desk for thirty seconds can help. When we are feeling overwhelmed, these kinds of body hacks down regulate our nervous system.
If you are not overwhelmed and it is a mindset change you are after, there are other strategies to try. As a leadership and resilience coach, one I use with my clients is to recognise and stop ‘what-if’ thinking and to start ‘what-ising’ instead. ‘What-ising’ and adopting a positive mindset lends itself to being thankful to the things we do have. In addition, learn to own this simple but powerful statement: I’ll manage. I’ve managed before and I’ll manage again. Write it on a sticky note, put it somewhere you can read it daily and regardless of how you feel, say it with conviction.
I’m navigating the long-term effects of surviving cancer, so I feel pretty well prepared for the financial and health implications of the pandemic. I have experienced the truth of this statement for myself. Yet, even without anything life-threatening to relate to, I’m sure you have too. Think back on other difficult times in your life and how you managed. Even if you think you didn’t manage them particularly well, the truth is you did manage, and you are here today to prove it.
This is hopefulness in action. One day you will look around and notice your life is happier. You’ll have a new set of problems to deal with, no doubt, but better problems than at present. You owe it to yourself to stay hopeful in the meantime.
Kathryn Brewer is a leadership and resilience coach based in Adelaide, Australia. Find out more at www.thelifecreative.com