Thursday, August 6, 2009

From Despairing to Energized

There are moments in my life that I perceive as more challenging than others. It might be a big event like changing jobs or moving from one place or another. It might be a small event like not eating properly and my body responding with allergies or with wobbly sugar levels. It can even be something as basic as my monthly female thing or not having slept enough.

Sometimes challenge doesn't seem to be the right word to describe my situation (in my mind!). Instead of an exciting challenge, I see the bad, unwelcome, horrible, un-overcome-able challenge. In these moments, I have often give myself the feeling of despair; I seem to drift on water like a boat that lost his anchor. I lose all direction or clarity...

The funny thing is that it's not the situation that is the problem. I can have exactly the same challenge over and over and respond differently each time. Lots of times, I fully embrace the situation, loving end enjoying the challenge. Other times, I struggle with frustration. And sometimes... I completely despair. My conclusion: it's not the situation that is doing it to me; I am doing it with the situation.

Energized or Despairing
In any situation, I can be emotionally and/or physically challenged in a happy energizing way or in an unhappy despairing way.

In the happy approach, I am in control of my thinking and what I am doing. I am creative in making plans and executing them. I am enjoying my process of working through the challenge.

In the unhappy, despairing approach, I feel emotionally and/or physically exhausted. I don't seem to understand what is happening with me or anything around me. The world has gone "alien" on me.

Moving from Despairing to Energized
If challenges seem to influence me in an unhappy way, I normally handle them by going to bed early and making sure I eat correctly. Most of the time this does the trick! I get back on the rails overnight, and the next day I approach the challenge with new clarity and enthusiasm.

I think we all have ways to help ourselves though challenging times with simple things like sleeping and eating well. The trick is knowing what they are and being aware of when we need them. If we do this, then challenges are an amazing and exciting part of life .

Improving Your Awareness
The first key to avoiding despair is early recognition that you might not be at your best. There are several clues that come to mind.

First Clue: You responded as you normally do when of dealing with the challenge and it's not helping. You still feel lousy and it's getting worse over time.

Second Clue: Your thoughts keep slipping from specific examples to general conclusions. For example, instead of one difficult teacher at school, all teachers have become horrible creatures. Instead of a single bad day at work, nothing ever seems to go right and you're ready to quit and find a job! Instead of one employee needing additional attention and training, you're ready to fire the entire department.

Third Clue: Instead of sharing your thoughts and feelings with others and working them through, you start to bottle them up inside.

These are some of my clues. I'm sure that, if you think about it (and perhaps ask those who are close to you), you can come up with yours. The key is knowing your early warning signs are and then being aware of them when challenges arise.

Climbing Out of Despair
After climbing out of my despair, I am always surprised how easy it was. In the end, it only takes a few simple steps that I repeat until I feel better. The fun thing is that the same list is a great maintenance plan that can prevent me from despairing in the first place!
  1. Admit that you don't feel well and that it's okay not to feel well
  2. Decide that there is a way to get through this
  3. Find someone who will listen to you. Call me or someone else who is willing to ask helpful questions without having to repair you or your situation would be a great choice. If someone like that is not available, I recommend to use a piece of paper.
  4. State or write down the first despairing thought or feeling that comes to mind.
  5. Explore what you stated or wrote. Challenge generalizations, unhappiness provoking thoughts, and limiting beliefs. Go for it!
  6. Create a list of solutions, steps or actions that you might take to gain control of your situation and feelings. Don't worry about getting it right or solving everything at once. Just list some things that you might do to move in a positive direction.
  7. If needed, go back to step 2 and repeat the exercise until you feel your despair has transformed into a manageable challenge
  8. If none of the above is working, then it may be time to simply take a break, eat something good for you or go to bed. Take care of yourself first, and the rest will come.

1 comment:

  1. Intersting: to me changing job is a small event and changing my eating habits are a big event. - but small or big, it's also interesting how we respond physically to events, even good and exciting ones.
    Well, it's always nice to have a mentor around to pose some questions.


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