Wow. Not sure I could think of anyone who hasn’t gone through an incredibly difficult period in life. How about you? Even people who generally come from a very positive, upbeat perspective find themselves challenged by people, events and situations that can leave them feeling frustrated, heartbroken, depressed or even downright pissed off. That’s just a regular day, let alone managing through a global pandemic and being quarantined.
The reality, though, is that no matter where it ranks from being a simple challenge to navigating emotions, finances, safety, and everything else during this incredibly challenging time we’re living in, we are all going to be faced with, and are facing, these situations. There is no getting around it. The good news, though, is that that’s where real personal growth can come from.
Let’s talk about what happens in your body when you are in a stressful situation. Toxic chemicals are released. Each emotion felt releases a specific chemical cocktail into our body. If you experience that emotion enough times, your body will learn to expect more of that same chemical cocktail and will look for more (think addiction to sugar, nicotine, alcohol, drugs). And you could find yourself subconsciously creating situations in your life so that your body can get another shot of that particular emotion.
Sure, there are people out there who will seek the temporary boost that comes from smoking, indulgent or excessive eating, online shopping, drinking alcohol every day or in excess, or perhaps even by using drugs. Those who are feeling out of control or angry could find themselves snapping at or full-on lashing out on those around them, including their children.
The problem with seeking temporary relief from the pain and discomfort of a rough period of life with these unhealthy options, though, is that it doesn’t truly help, it doesn’t last, it doesn’t help to resolve or release. The short-term unhealthy mood booster may even become a habit that you end up struggling to change in the future. Or worse yet, an unhealthy habit that you keep.
There’s more good news, though: You have a choice in how you handle every situation and there are several things that you can do to cope and help build resilience.
Whether you are concerned with managing the current stress of what we’re all going through right now, are in the middle of navigating through another difficult situation in your life, or you would like to handle the next event in a healthier, more productive way, I would like to offer a few options that I have found to be very beneficial when working with clients, as well as in my own life.
1. Exercise and healthy eating.
Yes, this is stating the obvious and something that I’m confident we all are very well aware of, however, I’m not suggesting this from an overall health perspective. Instead, I offer this as the first suggestion, as a foundational suggestion, because if we don’t feel healthy physically, it’s going to be a heck of a lot more challenging to make healthy, positive decisions in daily life, let alone during stressful periods of life. Think about all of those funny Snickers commercials that poke fun at how people can act when they’re “hangry”. The point is that we are a lot more prone to treat others poorly and make decisions from an unhealthy perspective when we are not feeling our best, so this is a great spot to start.
Of course, our exercise routines may need to look a little different than they did pre-quarantine time, but there are still a number of options for getting a good workout at home. There are a lot of fabulous free apps and videos available online for a variety of workouts that you can do that don’t require any equipment or leaving your house.
I’ve found that my two favorite workouts have been yoga and pilates. For yoga, I’ve been using the Down Dog app. For pilates, my friend Danielle is a pilates teacher and she has been kind enough to create a YouTube channel with a bunch of pilates workouts that are free for everyone. You can check out her videos and subscribe to her channel here.
Journaling can be a fantastic release. And since it’s your private journal, you are free to write about anything and everything that you are experiencing without any fear of judgment, which can help you process and release at an even deeper level. It is also a record of your journey that you can go back to see how far you’ve come. Plus, you never know what may show up when you are journaling. I personally have even had a number of great ideas pop up for me during some of my journaling!
If you are journaling your way through a difficult relationship or situation, you may even find tremendous relief at some point in creating some sort of ceremony around burning the journal (using caution, of course!) Marking the moment when you are giving the universe the signal that you are ready to move on. (Unfortunately, I think we’ll all have to wait a while before having any such ceremony related to moving on from this pandemic.)
Grab your preferred writing device, open your journal and simply start writing whatever comes to your mind. And, yes, I absolutely believe that journaling should involve paper and a pen. No devices allowed! No judging the words, spelling, handwriting. Draw pictures or doodles. Just let whatever shows up flow onto the paper.
If you are someone who feels more comfortable with a little more guidance, answering a series of questions may be a good option for you. Here are a few questions that you can ponder and write about every day:
There are all sorts of different ways to journal, but my hands-down favorite is gratitude journaling. This is something I have all of my clients do, regardless of how “good” or “bad” things may be for them. Gratitude journaling, as well as expressing or recognizing gratitude in any way, is life-changing. When you spend time regularly reflecting on what you are grateful for, you will literally physically change your brain! This practice will change you for the better from the inside out.
I speak from personal experience as I have completely shifted my entire existence from being a much more negative, depressed person to one who has a positive perspective and is much more resilient to tough situations. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get stressed or angry, but it does mean that I tend to bounce back from a tough situation a lot faster than before I began this practice.
A gratitude journaling practice can be as easy as writing down five bullet-points on what you are grateful for each day. Even when you are in a bad place, you can still find appreciation for simple things like sunshine, food, or even the release of a good cry.
Another one of my favorite stress relievers and trauma releasers is tapping or emotional freedom technique (EFT.) Tapping is like Acupressure meets Positive Psychology. I encourage you to search for some videos for more specific details and a visual of the process and tapping points. I’d suggest looking for videos by Nick Ortner or Margaret Lynch.
This can be used for releasing current triggered stress or for past events, including arguments or childhood events. I have been using it myself for many years and have found deep healing on a variety of wounds and stressors in my own life. (I have completed training levels 1 & 2, but have not yet become certified. I'd be happy to have a conversation with you about this. You can schedule a free call here.)
4. Shake It Off & Transition Practice
We often carry the emotions and energy of whatever was going on with us as we move into the next phase of our day. When you find yourself in an argument or worked up about some interaction that has taken place, stand up and literally work to shake it off. Picture how an animal in the wild has a near-death experience and ends up shaking its entire body and then going back to nibbling on the grass as if nothing happened. That animal was in the flight-fight-freeze state of being, but returned to its natural state. It’s as if all of those stressful emotions were water that the animal intentionally shook off. You can try the same practice.
Alternatively, close your eyes for a few minutes and focus on your breath. Breathe in calmness. Breathe out any residual stress. Picture yourself happy in the next part of your day that you are about to enter into. Both of these can also be used if you are simply dealing with built up stress around being quarantined at home. Try them both and see how you feel.
5. Yoga & Meditation
Yoga and meditation are probably along the lines of #1, but they both deserve a mention. Both of these powerful practices go a long way towards developing mindfulness and connecting with your inner guide. When you are faced with future stressful situations, you will be much more likely to be able to respond in a healthier, more productive way which can increase the chances of a happier outcome.
6. Owning Your R
Speaking of responses, there’s a magic little formula that you should keep in mind that is known as E+R=O. Event + Response = Outcome. As someone who is certified in Jack Canfield’s Success Principles, I’m very familiar with this formula and am always working with my clients to keep them focused on the only part that they can fully control: their response.
The event is the event. Whatever it is is going to happen. How you respond to it is entirely up to you. Powerful, huh? And how you respond is going to have an impact on the outcome, so taking care of practice 1-5 above will go a long way in helping you respond in a much more productive way, thereby helping increase the odds of a positive outcome.
When things are going well, ask yourself if things could be going even better. Even if you are not currently feeling like you are in a challenging phase of life, there is still plenty of benefit from using all of these techniques.
Enjoy the journey!