January was an emotional month for many of my LifeThreading clients. Some clients were ready to hit 2017 strong, with an eye towards the future, and some felt as if their world had changed overnight. They didn’t see, and some still don’t, an optimistic or hopeful path forward.
Chaos is inevitable at some point in your lifetime, for you, for those that you support and love, and even for those that you don’t. The art of getting through the chaos is figuring out what will help YOU, personally, find your way through to the calm.
It’s just like the airlines teach us: “In the event of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first.” It’s vital! Only then will you be able to help both yourself and others around you.
Once you realize you’re being carried along with the chaos, your job is to seek a way out of it. You may not even realize you’re stuck in it. In 1986, Fred Rogers put a bit of autobiographical advice into a syndicated newspaper column that provides an example of a beacon of hope during a storm:
“I was spared from any great disasters when I was little, but there was plenty of news of them in newspapers and on the radio, and there were graphic images of them in newsreels.
For me, as for all children, the world could have come to seem a scary place to live. But I felt secure with my parents, and they let me know that we were safely together whenever I showed concern about accounts of alarming events in the world.
There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.”
The easiest way to find and secure your own oxygen mask is to take a forced and scheduled break from the negativity that surrounds you, both inside and out. Sounds easy, right? It can be if you’re intentional about it.
Step 1. Schedule a small break each and every day into our calendar as something to look forward to for yourself. The amount of time doesn’t matter — it can be 5 minutes or an hour. Just make sure that you have it scheduled for a time that you are guaranteed to be able to take it. Label it your ‘positivity break’ or ‘me time.’ Set an alarm for it. It’s a priority, a must-do on your to-do list.
Step 2. Get out of the environment that is keeping you in a state of negativity or chaos. Think about it as a literally breathing life back into your body, as if someone were trying to revive you. The goal is to shake your self up so that it recognizes the difference between dread and optimism. These are both spirals that carry your spirit, but in very different directions.
Step 3. Repeat the new habit, every single day, without fail. Once you have a consistent daily practice, try to increase the amount of time you spend with your oxygen mask. Maybe you have 10 minutes before you get out of bed. Maybe you need it before going to sleep. Maybe it’s best during a time when you would normally be checking in on a newsfeed.
– Yes, this means turning off the tv, folding up the newspaper and setting it aside, keeping the news off your radio while driving, and putting down any communication device that streams negativity to you in real-time, especially during your daily scheduled break. Disconnect. Leave them behind. When you go for a walk, leave the phone at home (gasp!).
– Yes, this also means avoiding comfort foods, second helpings, skipping that extra glass of wine after dinner, and generally NOT doing things that make you feel worse about your physical self. Think about how oxygen flows deep into your lungs and then into your bloodstream to make your entire body stronger. Eat healthy food, in moderation, to heal from the inside.
– Yes, this means changing your scenery. If you spend most of your time indoors, shock your body into a different feeling simply by walking outside and inhaling fresh air, or driving with your windows down, even if it’s chilly, or getting out to lunch instead of eating at your desk. Your physical body will thank you. It doesn’t want to be cooped up in a house staring at a tv or hunched over a computer or phone all day.
– Yes, it means trying NEW things — like meditation, or gratitude journaling, or buying a book on a topic you’ve always wanted to learn about. Meditation can be done anywhere, for any length of time. It can distance you from your thoughts. Guided meditations are a really simple way to begin a practice. Check out Buddhify and Headspace. (Note: During a guided meditation, you listen to a person who talks you through a visualization of calming your mind and body. There’s no magic or woowoo involved.)
– Yes, it means taking ACTION. Action that you believe will create change for the better, for you and those around you. Join an organization and contribute time you would be spending dwelling in negativity to instead become a force for the change you wish to see around you. Contribute positively using your time, your communication channels or even your wallet. The ACLU, for example, raised more than $24 million in one weekend in January 2017 (compared to $4 million in a year on average!) for their civil liberties work and the growing number of people who decided to get involved in their efforts.
If you can pull yourself away from the chaos for even a moment, you can also become a beacon for others. Show them your path, share with them how you’re moving through your own personal challenges, and light the way for them.
“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.” Noam Chomsky
Here are a few additional resources that might be helpful for you.
How To Avoid Being Psychologically Destroyed By Your Newsfeed
99 Reasons 2016 Was A Pretty Good Year
Hope, Optimism and Resiliency are Powerful Leadership Tools
Hope, Optimism and Resiliency: The Three Most Powerful Leadership Tools You Can Have As An…
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Read Isaac Asimov’s thoughts on optimism vs. cynicism
If all else fails, watch Crazimals and laugh a little. (You’re welcome.)
After all, laughter is the best medicine, right?
Originally published at medium.com