5 Tips for When Sh*t Happens

I have said it before and will probably say it again,

Sh*t happens!

Life will always throw “slings and arrows” at us yet we can deal with them rather than let life dictate to us.

In my own life, this week, the place I work is now scheduled to close, so I will have to find a new employment soon (unfortunately blog writing does not pay the bills!). It is something completely out of my control and something that I, and those I work with, will have to deal with over the coming months.

It is not just employment that can cause sudden change, our health could suddenly change forcing unwelcome change in the way we live, change can be forced on us by others close to us for any number of reasons and just the world in general can impose on our lives in ways that force us to do things differently.

There are, however, a few ways we can come out on top rather than let the world drag us down.

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1) OWN IT

Us humans are fickle creatures, we do not like change. More precisely we do not like change that is forced on us.

If though, the change is our choice, we are always much more enthusiastic about it.

So, if circumstances in your life change beyond your immediate control, embrace the opportunity and take ownership of the change you can control. Why waste your time, energy and sanity worrying about things you have no control over? It is far better to  focus  on the things you can control.

As I am writing this the London Marathon is happening and you can see many of the wheelchair athletes and individual runners who have had to face life changing challenges yet still have found ways to succeed in completing the 26-mile course. We should all be inspired by the way they have grasped their futures despite what life has thrown at them.

2) WALLOW IN SUCCESS

It is very easy, when sh*t happens, to wallow in negativity, “why do these things happen to me” “there is nothing I can do” “things can’t possibly get better” etc.

Yet throughout our lives there are ups and downs.

Take some time to think about those “ups” in the past, the times when you did somethings you felt really proud of, the times when you achieved something that you had worked hard for, the times when you felt fantastic.

Write all those goods things down so if you feel the weight of what is happening pressing down you can fight back with those positive things you know you are capable off.

3) FORGE YOUR PATH

Having reflected on the successes and achievements you have an excellent base to start planning where you go next. Your future is always in your own hands so it pays to plan the way forward, especially when you have been forced to change from the path you thought you were on!

Start by having a bit of a brainstorming session. Write down everything you want, it does not matter how outlandish or impossible they may seem, it is about stretching your mind to explore possibilities and, what may seem outlandish or impossible right now, may, in years to come, become achievable eventually.

How many of those “ups” you wrote down would you like to do again or pursue further?

Once you have done that, sort the list in the order of which are the easier things to do to the hardest.

Begin to build ideas about where you want to go in your life and develop goals that are about you.

4) TAKE ACTION

What was the easiest thing to do on your list?

DO IT

Maybe it is writing/updating your C.V.. searching out courses to further your education, or seeking out ways to improve your health and fitness. Whatever it is, make the effort.

That aside, it is about taking control when faced with dealing circumstances beyond your control. I am sure we can all think of times when we allowed circumstances to take control of our lives, as we were thrown around by waves of change feeling completely at the mercy of others and the world around us. We soon become lost, which in turn, affects our mental well-being.

By taking action we stop that, we start to focus on the direction we want to go. Our energies are used positively, and for ourselves rather than battling against the sea of change.

5) IT’S GOOD TO TALK

While these tips have focussed on how we react and what we do with our own lives, we do not live in isolation. Others may be in the same situation and we, hopefully, have others around us who will provide support, if we let them know we need it.

Sharing our hopes and plans for the future will help our focus and also provide a chance for us to hear what others think. Their views can give our own ideas more shape.

Talk to those who you know will be supportive and, if the same circumstances, who you know you can support. Just be a little wary because we humans can easily descend into negativity when chatting, so always keep it positive.

*

Sh*t happens all the time, much of the time it is beyond our control.

But rather than let it drag us down and drift aimlessly hoping that something good will happen we can take control, be positive and make the good things happen.

It may not always be an easy or straight forward path but when we take charge of our lives it gives us a sense of power and enhances our ability to ultimately succeed.

You Can Overcome Your Obstacles

Imagine that you are on a journey and the route to your destination is blocked by a huge, intimidating brick wall.

brown brick wall
Photo by ShonEjai on Pexels.com

What do you do?

You could go and get yourself a ladder or some climbing equipment and clamber over the wall. You could get a shovel and dig a tunnel under the wall. You could take a diversion and walk around the wall. You could, perhaps, get a sledgehammer and bash a hole through the wall.

The point is there are many different solutions to the problem.

Unfortunately, when faced with real life obstacles, we are often stuck in our ways and we constantly repeat the same actions over and over again even though those actions don’t actually help us overcome the problem.

It is like constantly hitting our heads against that brick wall in the hope in gives way before our head does!

Sometimes (as the headache gets worse!) rational thought disappears and we start to hate the wall, we blame the wall for getting in our way. We curse the builder of the wall, without thinking that, perhaps, there was a reason for the wall being put there in the first place. No, we think, the builder deliberately put the wall there to thwart our journey, it is a blatant attack to stop us moving onward with our lives.

Our righteous indignation makes us more determined to keep hitting our head against the wall because we believe the harder our head hits, the more likely we are to succeed!

The reality, though, is we start feeling worse. In the real world that frustration turns to despair, and has a serious impact on our mental health. The more we pointlessly hit the wall, the more our self-confidence and self-belief becomes eroded and we end up just slumped against the wall, unable to move in any direction.

To avoid this happening to us we need to develop flexibility in our thinking.

If you come up against an obstacle and your initial way to overcome it fails, step back quickly, before that righteous indignation sets in and think of the alternative ways that you could use to move forward.

Take time to think of different actions, and the possible consequences of those actions. Weigh up all the possibilities before picking the best alternatives for you.

If we go back to our imaginary wall, climbing over the top may not be the best option if you are afraid of heights, tunnelling underneath may not be the best option if you get claustrophobic, and hitting the wall with a sledgehammer may just bring the whole thing down on the top of your head!

It is about finding the solutions that work for you.

YOU being the most important aspect of achieving your success.

We cannot dwell on what others may or may not have done to deliberately thwart us. We cannot dwell on how others may or may not have caused our dilemma. We cannot dwell on what others may or may not have against us.

We can only focus on what we need to do to move on toward what we want in life.

That is best achieved by reflecting on our own actions, beliefs and strengths.

You could, perhaps, take time to consider why the wall is there in the first place. Imagine getting a chisel and removing just one brick and peeking through to the other side. The could be nothing but the road onwards but maybe there is a huge chasm in the road or a sabre-toothed beast prowling and the wall has been put there to protect travellers on that path!

Stepping back to consider overcoming obstacles requires deliberate, rational thought but that does not mean we need to be completely sensible!

Perhaps we could imagine building a giant catapult and throwing ourselves over our wall! Perhaps we could take a bit of time out of our journey and decorate the wall (I am not advocating becoming a graffiti artist though!).

Engaging our creativity and imagination can often lead to new, different and exciting ideas. History is full of stories where things we take for granted today were created by accident, where people tried to do one thing but realised, they had come up with something else.

The story of the post-it notes says the inventor was actually trying to develop a strong adhesive but failed, luckily, they had the ability to realise the weak solution had a use.

Viagra was initially a failed heat drug, it was the reported side-effects that led scientists to realising they had stumbled on to something else that could be developed, they could easily have just dismissed the trials as a failure.

Creative, imaginative thinking can lead us on new paths which allows us to avoid the wall altogether.

It is not the walls in our lives that are the obstacles, it is our reaction to them. By developing better flexible and creative thinking the walls will come down or simply become irrelevant.

Flex your thinking muscles and the paths onward will soon materialise.

Build Your New Months Resolution

This time next year…….

Whatever it is you want to achieve or change in your life it takes time, you are not going to run a marathon or win a sprint just because you have decided it, you need to work to make it happen.

We have our dream and we set out to make that dream a reality.

The problem that often occurs though, is that a year is quite a long time (although it does not seem like it as you get older!) and the dream we start out with gets tangled and entwined by life’s challenges on the way. A bit like the wires behind the TV, they start out nice and neat but, somehow, next time you look, everything is tangled and you can’t tell which wire leads to what!

To help prevent the tangle in our lives we need to make certain we keep focused, and a good way of doing this is keeping control of your plan by breaking it down month by month and building a strategy for the coming weeks.

Ask yourself, what practical things can you do this month that moves you closer to your longer-term goal? How much weight do you need to lose this month? What distance do you need to run? How many words of your book do you need to write etc?

scrabble resolutions
Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

It is also a chance to review where you are right now in your plan.

Did you make a New Years resolution? If so, where, at the end of February, are you at in achieving it?

If you have made little or no progress, don’t beat yourself up over it or try to find excuses for why, just accept that things haven’t gone to plan so far and start preparing your plan for March.

If, however, you have made progress, celebrate that, give yourself a pat on the back then knuckle down and focus on the next stage.

Your new months resolution needs to concentrate on what is necessary to move you to the next stage of achievement and closer to your ultimate aim. If there is anything that you feel you have not done, so far, then evaluate that first. How important was it in your longer-term plan? Is there something else you need to do that is more important than the thing you have missed?

In other words, prioritise.

Sometimes we can become so bogged down in worrying about things we have not done that we fail to realise there are other things. equally or more important, that we can be doing right now. A lot of times when we change to something else, the other thing we were bogged down by becomes easier once we go back to it because we have had a chance to forget about it for a while.

Our new months resolution is also a means of keeping our focus on the end goal. Even where life distracts us, sitting down at the end of each month to think about the next months resolution, gives us a chance to assess and evaluate where we are now and where we need to be in a few weeks’ time. It becomes part of a continuous cycle of assess-plan-action that moves us forward and keeps what we want at the forefront of our mind.

So, take time this week to think about what you want to achieve next month and how you are going to achieve it. Think about things like the time you need to set aside from your normal routine, anything you need to get before hand or any other preparations that are key to finishing your mini monthly goal.

Your New Months Resolution is a way of keeping you in control of what YOU want to do in your life. Make your plan, stick to your plan and, at the end of next month, just see how much closer you are to your ultimate goal.

Be Smart This January

January. You can’t have helped but notice that every time you walk down the high street shops are enticing you to buy things to make you healthier, to feed those New Year’s Resolutions you sort of decided on.

It may be ‘active wear’ to help you with fitness, lotions and potions to help you ‘detox’ or books with alluring recipes to help you ‘get lean’. It is not just the high street though, there are those leaflets through the door encouraging you to join weight loss clubs and the media joins in with various ‘new you’ segments.

But before you start spending out or getting into some vague regime STOP AND THINK.

Remember for many of the shops, organisations and media outlets January is a slow month so for them, so jumping on resolution bandwagon is just a way of making extra money by appealing to our own frailties.

20469

Only you can decide what you want to do and it is important that you do it properly if you want to succeed.

START by really deciding what you want. Not a vague idea of “I think I need to lose some weight” or “I need to eat healthier” or “I want to be fitter” etc. but instead set yourself a specific goal, “I need to lose 2 stone” or “I need to reduce the amount of salt in my diet” or “I need to be able to run 10K”.

By setting yourself a specific goal it becomes more achievable because you can measure your progress over time, and time is also an important element. When do you want to have achieved your goal by? Having an end date gives you a greater incentive to work toward it. So if you have your summer holiday booked perhaps work to that date to be healthier, leaner or fitter. If you have a longer term goal then, with a specific end date you can break it down across the months so you know where you need to be by that summer date.

The other element of setting yourself goals is to be realistic. If you take up jogging in January you are not going to be running a marathon by Easter! Permanent weight loss is best achieved by losing weight at a steady pace rather than crash dieting and healthy eating is more about balance than completely eliminating something.

While I have concentrated on the typical January goals, these ideas apply to everything you want to get done, any goal that you set yourself. You need to use SMART.

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.

You may have heard of this before but it is always worth remembering when you set out to achieve anything. The better the framework for your plan the better he chance of success.

So before you rush headlong into the temptations of a healthier lifestyle take a bit of time to really assess what it is you want to achieve this year and begin the process of planning how best to really achieve that goal.

Next time – More on setting those specific goals

Befuddled Brains

Did you know that, in the UK, antidepressant use is higher in 40-54 year olds than any other age group*? Or that some researchers have concluded that we are less happy in mid-life than at other times in our life**?

None of this is rocket science though because in mid-life our brains are much more likely to be befuddled by the conflict between “happiness” and “responsibilities”.

The responsibilities of adulthood can stack up in mid-life, you can still feel ‘responsible’ for your children even if they are grown and have flown the nest, there could be the responsibility of caring for elderly parents.

Unless you are one of the very lucky people who can earn a living doing what you love, work responsibilities often impact on our happiness, this in turn, relates to the financial responsibilities we have e.g. the responsibility of having to work in order to maintain your home and even paying for activities that you hope will make you feel happier.

adult art conceptual dark
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Not that happiness and responsibilities are mutually exclusive, for example looking after grandchildren is a responsibility that can bring happiness, but there are, obviously, times when we would rather be doing things that make us happy than doing those things that we feel we have to be doing as responsible adults.

The problems occur when we find the responsibilities overwhelming and we sacrifice happiness because we feel we have to do the ‘responsible’ thing.

We may find ourselves with feelings of guilt (as I am writing this, which I enjoy, there is a sense of guilt because I know there is a stack of clothes upstairs that need ironing!). Guilt at feeling or doing something that makes us happy can soon make the feeling of happiness evaporate as our sense of responsibility makes us chastises us for not doing what it considers the important things in life.

We can easily find ourselves caught in a responsibility trap where we only do those ‘responsible’ things and forget that we need time to relax and do things to offset those things we feel we have to do. Think of times when you have put off doing something pleasurable in order to do the responsible thing.

Are there times you can think of when those responsibilities that just continued to stack up and you never seemed to be able to do what you want?

Without those times when we can truly relax and do things that make us feel happy, our stress levels grow, our happiness levels drop and we can find ourselves in a downward spiral.

We need to STOP and remember that our own emotional well-being and happiness is probably one of the most important responsibilities we have.

If we feel good about ourselves and feel happy about our lives we can undertake those responsibilities much more efficiently.

Make certain that you make time every week (at least) to do something that makes you feel good and don’t feel guilty about it! It does not matter what other responsibilities you have in your life or how many people you feel responsible for, without making time for yourself you will never be able to be fully discharge those responsibilities. Think about a time when felt you had failed in a responsibility because you were tired or felt overwhelmed, then just imagine how much better it would have been if you had been more refreshed and happy before starting that task.

Our brains become befuddled by the conflict that often occurs between our responsibilities and our happiness, it is up to us to ensure that we look after ourselves by making time for those things that make us happy because our emotional well-being is a responsibility we must put at the top of the list.

 

*Eurobarometer SP345 2010

**https://www.economist.com/christmas-specials/2010/12/16/the-u-bend-of-life

Problematic Personalised Truths

As promised, more on Personalised Truths, those pesky, sometimes damaging, ideas we have about ourselves that we believe to be true even when there is absolutely no evidence that they are actually true!

These ideas may have been created by us or they may have been put in our heads by others, but whichever route, it is because we believe them to be true they become a part of our unconscious thinking and, therefore, impact on our feelings and actions.

If you think about a time when you have met someone whose life or behaviour you really could not understand, for example someone obsessed with changing how they look through excessive dieting, excessive exercise or excessive plastic surgery or maybe someone with an addiction which is obviously detrimental to their well-being yet the continue to do it or, perhaps, someone whose lifestyle involves risky behaviour. Behind all such behaviours a personalised truth can be found.

There are two types of personalised truths that burrow their way into out psyche, those that we believe about ourselves and those we use to justify things that affect our lives.

The first, what we believe about ourselves, are those ideas about our bodies, our intelligence, our capabilities etc. for example “I’m fat”, “I’m ugly” “I’m stupid” “I’m a failure”. Naturally these truths are not always negative, some people are perhaps too positive and over confident and many of our thoughts are quite balanced. Yet where we have a negative belief about ourselves it can far outweigh any of those balanced ones.

Especially where those personalised truths can never really be true in the first place!

Take, for example, “I’m ugly”. Ugliness and beauty a wholly open to interpretation, ideas of beauty depend on individual taste and, on a wider scale, ideas of beauty vary from culture to culture and vary over time. Would Titian’s 16th Century vision of Venus, goddess of love, beauty and desire, make it to the front cover of a glossy fashion magazine today?

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 75

Another aspect of problematic personalised truths is that we will ignore any evidence that contradicts them, the person who believes “I’m always unlucky” will dismiss any good fortune that happens to them or believe that a small piece of luck will be balanced by greater bad luck! A person who believes “I am a failure” will dismiss successes as mere flukes and believe that any praise they receive is just other people trying to be nice!

The other type of personalised truths are those we believe justify our actions. At a simplistic level remember those times when you have bought something you really didn’t need but justified the purchase by saying to yourself something like “I had to buy it because it was half price” or “I had to buy it because I haven’t got one that colour”!

On a more complex and problematic level people will justify staying in toxic relationships because they believe “it’s my fault” or “things will change soon”. Or people will justify addictions such as gambling with beliefs like “it is the only way I can become rich” or “my luck will change soon”.

The real challenge with uncovering and resolving problematic personalised truths is identifying them in the first place, they operate at an unconscious level and influence our behaviour automatically. If we spend a bit of time thinking about our behaviour at the end of the day we can begin to unravel those personalised truths that hold us back. Alternatively, if we are brave enough, we can asked friends and family what it is they least understand about the way we behave, that will give us a good route to uncovering those underlying beliefs.

Once we have identified them we can begin to really question them. What evidence is there that they are true? What evidence proves them untrue? We need to be fully critical here as we will, if not, just dismiss that contrary evidence. We need to engage with the process logically and rationally so that we can begin to believe those personalised truths are, in fact, untrue.

It is not an easy process but one we need to undertake as it will improve our lives and our well-being as we move forward to success and happiness in life.

Lightning Reactions

Are you afraid of spiders? If not you probably know someone who is.

But think about the process of being scared, how long is there between spotting that spider and letting out a scream or fleeing the scene quickly?

Firstly you need to see the spider, then your brain has to sort through the endless number of things you can recognise in order to identify it as a spider. Then it has to ignite the connection between a spider and fear, once your mind has decided that you need to be afraid it then has to start sending messages to various parts of your body, increasing your heart rate, pumping fight or flight hormones through your body and, not least, preparing your lungs and vocal cords for that scream!

All that happens in an instant.

It is, of course, a survival instinct. If, for example, you entered your bathroom and were faced with a ravenous human-eating tiger sitting in your bath licking its lips expectantly, then that instantaneous reaction to flee could be life-saving.

white lightning heating mountain
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The point here, however, is that we often find ourselves in emotional states that have been triggered at  lightning  speed, and because of that instinctive reaction we can find ourselves feeling fearful, sad, angry or frustrated without fully understanding why. Then, if we don’t fully understand what has caused us to enter that emotional state, the state intensifies. If we start feeling afraid for no apparent reason we become even more fearful, sadness triggers even more sadness, we feel angry at ourselves for feeling angry for no reason etc.

Then our emotional state begins to effect things we are trying to do or those around us. Imagine a state of sadness comes over you on your way to work, how would that sadness impact on whatever it is you do? You would probably be less enthusiastic, slower and lose concentration. Those around you would also be affected as you would be less engaging, less talkative and probably give off an air of “I really don’t want people around me right now”.

We need, sometimes, to  stop, pause and think  about what is happening to our minds and bodies in order to prevent those unhelpful emotional states taking over our lives.

Firstly, obviously, is learning to recognise the fact that we have entered an unhelpful emotional state.

That  lightning  speed at which our minds work at a sub-conscious level means that we can find ourselves in an unhelpful state without us consciously being aware of it straight away, if at all. It is, therefore, useful to sometimes stop and reflect upon our mood, our emotions and how we feel.

However to spend too much time inwardly contemplating is incredibly impracticable. We need to move forward in our daily lives yet if we take a moment or two every so often to check on how we feel can help us move forward.

For example, take a brief pause before you make a transition in your day, we all have points in the day where we move from one thing to another. That point where go from travelling to work and entering the workplace, think about how you are feeling – is your heart still racing from that point where another driver came perilously close to hitting you? Are you still seething because your train was late yet again because of some lame excuse the rail company gave out? Or that point when you return home from your weekly shop, is that frustration of being stuck behind the world’s slowest checkout operator serving the world’s slowest customer still coursing through you?

By taking the time to recognise those emotions it helps us to start too eliminate them from whatever it is we are doing next.

Then when we do have a bit of time to ourselves we can go deeper into our emotional states, especially those that happen without us really knowing the cause. What triggers that feeling of fear? What caused that random feeling of sadness? What exactly made you feel so frustrated with life?

By forcing some of those unconscious triggers in to our consciousness we bring them under more control. We may not be able to remove them immediately nor can we guarantee that they will not produce the same instantaneous reaction but by being more aware they exist we can control the effect a lot sooner.

You are an amazing person with a mind that works like  lightning,  however, just sometimes, that speed trips us up. When we learn to reflect on those times when unhelpful emotional states impact on our daily lives, we may still trip but hopefully it will be a stumble rather than falling flat on our face!