Tips to stay positive
As Master Ugwe says in Kung Fu Panda 3, ‘The battle is won first in the mind’.
And while I know many people are anticipating financial hardship and illness, most of us aren’t there yet.
So ask yourself: Can you change the past? Can you force the future?
All you have to work with is right now.
How are you going right at this moment? Do you have enough food and water? Are you feeling well? Are you in secure housing? Do you feel emotionally supported?
If you can answer yes to all of those questions, you’re doing OK.
I am in the middle of a long personal research project around trauma and a phenomena called post-traumatic growth.
What many people who have suffered trauma and adversity agree on is that it makes you stronger. It helps you prioritise what is important. And it helps you develop empathy, a gift that will permanently alter your world view.
Viktor Frankl, the famous psychologist who survived Auschwitz, said that it was the people who held and maintained a strong inner world – meaning a quiet place of reflection and philosophical thought – who survived the prison camps in the best mental shape.
So how can you take this unusual moment in time and use it effectively?
If you’re feeling isolated, consider others who are isolated under normal circumstances. Ask yourself what you can do to alleviate that suffering, and do it.
If you’re worried about keeping a roof over your head, consider the homeless community. Ask yourself how you can share your resources with them, even if it’s donating a few dollars or canned goods.
If you’re being driven up the wall by your kids, consider parents who have lost children. Suddenly your noisy, messy children don’t seem so bad.
This process is called reframing and it’s a key part of maintaining a positive attitude during times of stress. The examples outlined above also ask you to think beyond your own circumstances and offer compassion and assistance, in the same way that many religions encourage people to pray for those in need.
The beauty of this practice is that it gets you out of your own head and into the world, creating a sense of perspective. By thinking about and helping other people, you are helping empower yourself.
Once you have mastered perspective, the next step is gratitude.
Rather than focus on all the negatives – and hey, there’s plenty to draw on at the moment, especially if you’ve lost your job, you’re sick or you’re getting caught up in the prevailing atmosphere of fear and anxiety – consider the positives.
What can you be grateful for right now? Is the sun shining? Is the air clear because the bushfires are over? Are your loved ones safe and healthy? Are you enjoying a hot cup of tea and are you listening to a song you like? Is your dog thrilled that you are home?
Be grateful for tiny blessings. By focusing on small, manageable things you will foster a sense of agency in a seemingly out-of-control world.
So breathe. Smile. Have fun (it’s allowed).
This is temporary because everything is temporary.
And if you’re worried about dying, my reiki teacher says that the time of your death is set from birth. Nothing you do will change it so you may as well relax and enjoy the time you have in your hands right now.
Who the hell am I to be telling you this stuff?
I am not an expert but I have read mountains of research, interviewed many people who have overcome adversity and have lived it myself. I have suffered from anxiety my whole life. I have been dirt poor. I have suffered deep, confounding grief and anger after multiple pregnancy losses and problems with my step kids. I have felt completely isolated as a woman who has lived overseas, travelled alone, and who has moved away from my friends multiple times. As a freelancer, my income is constantly in flux.
Subsequently, I have learnt to cope.
This doesn’t mean I don’t still worry about ridiculous things (I do. I recently spent a lot of time between 3am – 5am worrying about whether I served enough food at my three year-old’s birthday party).
So clearly I am no master but I do love thinking about and discussing this kind of thing.
What has been making you feel better?