Have you ever struggled in life? Maybe you are in the middle of a big change in your life and to say the least it is really uncomfortable and scary. I have good news, things don’t happen TO us, they happen FOR us, for our personal growth.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we would feel excited about failure, change, obstacles and everything that doesn’t work out the way we wanted it to? Instead of all the fear, panic, anger, blame or shame? I would say, there is nothing better!
I have a very good friend. Her sister got her first kids at a very young age, while she was still a kid herself pretty much. She had to grow up very quickly and take responsibility for a little child. Maybe you know a similar story or been through this yourself. She ended up having three beautiful kids and she is the epitome of a mother. She loves it! There is nothing she would rather do than taking care of her kids and being there for them every step of the way, that is what you hear her saying all the time. I met my friend for an ice-cream. Her sister randomly ran into us with one of her kids and some of her friends. She sat down next to me. It was the second time we had met by that time. We didn’t know each other very well. But the second she sat down, she started a very personal and deep conversation with me, out of the blue.
She told me that all she ever really was, was a mother. Of course, she has been working. She even opened up her own business, but she wouldn’t consider that her true passion. Her passion are her kids. Her little one is nine years old and she just had a weekend for herself – the first time in the past sixteen years. She told me how terribly boring it was and that she didn’t know what to do with all this time. She cleaned the whole house, she went for a run, she ate, she went for a walk and then she sat there and started wondering how life would be in a few years from now when the kids leave the house. Her fiancé is working insanely early and late hours, so that she would have a lot of time for herself. Many parents are excited for this time, for her it feels like torture, even just thinking about it. She told me that she really wouldn’t know what to do with all her time.
I sat there, speechless – for many reasons. The kind of problems she is facing, are so different than the challenges I face in my life. I have no kids, I am all about taking care of myself, my work and try to figure out what I really want and what is best for me and how to make all of my dreams become reality. Sometimes I wish the day had more than just 24 hours. While this amazing woman, who raised three kids and seems to have figured out life, wouldn’t know what to do with all of that time. What really fulfills her, is taking care of her kids and she just recognized that this will come to an end, sooner or later.
I know exactly how it feels, to suddenly understand that all one focused on so far, everything that seemed to define oneself and that one was oh so passionate about, would not last forever. It feels like a failure. Not only does she lose her daily routine but part of her identity, that she just created. Things have been more or less predictable the past years and yet it was exciting and there were problems, challenges and hard times – but this was the job, this was the life she chose. But without that, nothing is predictable anymore. It means to start over. To give life a new purpose and to give herself a new identity, or maybe just to finally find out who she really is deep inside herself.
I have been at a point in my life where I did not know how the next months or even years would look like. I did not know who I was anymore. Everything, I thought, defined me, was gone.
I have been through this, just as many people you may knew or maybe you faced a situation like this or are just in the middle of a big transformation in your life.
There are just a few different ways how people respond to those kinds of situations.
The first automatic response to stress is, ignoring it. People literally don’t do anything. They freeze. Or they overreact and do a lot, in order to keep themselves busy. But they look for a distraction and don’t work on a solution for the problem. This only works out for a limited amount of time, until one can’t run from it anymore. If you ever catch yourself ignoring the problem, I highly suggest to work on that. Because it will make life easier and yourself happier, trust me. I have been there.
The second strategy is seeing the chance in the challenge. People acknowledge the problem and accept the circumstances. They focus on creating a solution. They want to get the obstacle out of their way as soon as possible. This is a very healthy way of reacting to challenges. But something that doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It is something we need to develop over time and practice it until it becomes second nature. There are a few people, who even get excited when challenges arise because they know it is time to learn, to change, to grow.
I want to share a technique on how you can make yourself love times when you don’t succeed. How you become excited when things go severely wrong and when the future seems unbearable or simply unpredictable and scary. You can make your life so much easier, if you work on becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Exercise 1: Create awareness
Here is an exercise to become aware of how you react to challenges right now. Simply answer the following questions, you can write them down or just think them through.
- Are you comfortable with change, obstacles, failure, and the unpredictable?
- What was the last obstacle you faced?
- How did your body respond? (heart rate, breath, did you feel hot/cold, tension in the body…)
- What emotions came up?
- What was your immediate response? What did you do or say first thing?
- Did you first freeze, try to ignore it, escaping from dealing with it?
- Did you acknowledge the problem, calm yourself down and worked on resolving it?
This is where you are at the moment. Is there anything you would like to change about it? If so, let’s move on to the next exercise.
Exercise 2: Set your goals
Let’s see where you want to would like to change to:
- How would you ideally like to feel when you face a problem? (calm, focused, strong…)
- What could you do specifically do in this moment before you react the way you are used to react?
With time, patience, consistency and lots of practice, you will be able to transform the way, you look at things when they don’t go like you planned.
Exercise 3: How to become comfortable with the uncomfortable
Here is something you can do every day, in order to practice how to react calm in a stressful situation and become more solution oriented:
Challenge yourself daily. I found the most effective way, is to challenge yourself physically because your mind automatically will be challenged at the same time.
It gives you the chance to learn how to relax yourself on a physical and a mental level. This is why I asked you how your body responds to stress but also what emotions arise. Because body and mind respond simultaneously and need to learn a new way of responding.
How to challenge yourself physically? Exercise and do things that you can’t do but have to work on and learn. Get really uncomfortable. Never overdo it, of course. Know your limits but find out where they are.
For me it was the handstand and running. I was terrified by the idea of going upside down. I was supported by two people and a wall when I tried my first handstand, but I completely overreacted, once I was up there. I couldn’t breathe, my heart was racing, I couldn’t think of anything else than “let me back down” and even though I physically had the strength, I couldn’t hold myself up and pretty much just collapsed back down. Then I was so angry about myself and tried it again but it only got worse, until I recognized I needed to calm down before I would try this again. It was just a blockage in my mind but let me tell you, this challenged me a lot and I definitely found out where my limits were.
What did I do exactly?
I knew I had to prepare myself mentally. I knew that this should be fun and exciting and a great new challenge. No one forced me to do it, I simply wanted it. Every time I tried it again, I first brought up all the emotions I wanted to feel. Excitement, strength, proud, calmness, focus…I really felt it. Imagined myself in the handstand feeling great. I took some deep breaths and then tried over and over again for a year until I became somewhat comfortable with it.
I do this in every workout, in every yoga practice, during every run – I find at least one thing that takes me to my limit. And then I watch how I feel, how my body responds (remember the questions from above?) and I focus on my breathing, the emotions I want to feel and remind myself that I can stop at any time, if it is too much.
- Find something that challenges your body (exercise…)
- Prepare yourself with deep breaths and focusing on how you want to feel when you finally overcome the exercise
- Keep it playful: You are learning, it doesn’t have to be perfect – smile!
- Be grateful that you are able to work on your personal growth and that for everything that your body is able to do for you everyday
- While you are at it, breath, stay calm, remind yourself on the emotions you want to feel, don’t let your old pattern take over
- Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
You program your brain, your mind in a new way. You teach it how you want to respond to stressful situations. Over time this becomes easier. And next time when you are in a situation that you can’t simply stop, you will work through it motivated, strong, focused and fearless. Because you taught yourself so.
You can do it.
Become comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Create the life you want.