Seven Tips to Keep You Going...
By Gabriella Kortsch
We all have difficult moments. It doesn't really matter how wealthy we are, how beautiful we are, how professionally expert we are, how young we are, how successful we are, or how healthy we are. Despite that, moments come when life really feels like it is disintegrating. You just don't know how to continue. And of course if those moments come and we have not previously spent some time practicing what to do at bad times, then at those moments we might really believe we are falling apart. At such times we all need some tools, just to get us through the day.
If only they would teach us these tools at school! When I worked with inner city kids in Miami, and when I was a guardian ad litem with abused children there as well, we actually worked at giving these young people some tools to help them circumvent the often deplorable conditions of their lives. But we don't seem to consider it necessary - the educational system doesn't seem to consider it necessary to offer such tools as part of a regular curriculum to regular students.
But we can make use of and practice these tools at any point in our lives. As I've mentioned in previous articles, neuroplasticity (the flexibility of the brain to learn new behaviors and new things at any age) allows us to create new neural pathways as long as we practice something - anything - with awareness.
- Gratitude - sometimes when you're overwhelmed, it's enough to focus on gratitude. Numerous studies have been carried out demonstrating that those people who most make the daily practice of gratitude in their lives, are precisely the people who are most content. They maintain an inner state of well-being - according to said studies - precisely because of that practice. Make a point at least several times a day, of focusing on something in your environment that makes you feel grateful for it being there. Nature is an easy one to use. Allow the feeling of gratitude to suffuse your being for a few moments. Notice how peaceful you feel, how relaxed. Just for a moment your past and future worries, pain and concerns have moved out of your immediate awareness. Something in you has shifted. Try it.
- Energy - When your body is missing essential micro-nutrients, you notice an improvement if you begin to take some targeted supplements. It's the same with the mind, heart and spirit. Revving up our inner energy, which is the way we feel inside under any circumstances, can be done by giving ourselves some nourishment. Food in this case refers to what we read, listen to, and view, the conversations we have, and so on. Decide - when you are in one of those moments when you no longer know what to do, that you will begin right now to make a habit - a daily practice - of giving yourself some of this nourishment.
- Mindfulness - Being mindful - being aware - has been shown to increase well-being, and more importantly, has demonstrated in study after study, that it helps create new neural pathways that will also, in turn, increase your sense of well-being. So what does it mean? I used to call it open-eyed meditation long before I had ever heard of mindfulness. Simply put, remain in the now. Are you working on paying bills? Remain in the now by allowing something in your surroundings to keep you in a state of gratitude as you complete that admittedly onerous chore. Are you in the car during your daily commute? Again, allow yourself to feel gratitude for something in your surroundings in order to stay in the present. More than anything, begin to practice doing every single thing in your life with awareness, with mindfulness. This will change your life.
- Inner Monologue When Thoughts Threaten to Overwhelm - People may panic or hyper-ventilate, or feel as though they are jumping out of their skin when thoughts about stressful events or worry or fear or pain (emotional or otherwise) threaten to overwhelm them. At that moment, they simply don't know what to do. Here's one way to help yourself: try to resume your negative thoughts in one sentence:
- I can't bear it that my partner abandoned me, I don't know how I'll go on
- I am so frightened about the diagnosis of __________ that the doctor gave me
- I am so worried about not being able to meet my monthly bills
- My company is downsizing and I might be the next one to go
- My daughter/son is taking drugs/dropping out of school/hanging out with people I disapprove of, and won't listen to me
The sample thoughts that are resumed as indicated now require a monologue that might go like this: I know you (the thought ... and the 'problem') are there and I know I can't do anything about you right now. But I can choose to focus on something different right now, just for a moment. I'm not pretending you aren't there anymore, but I choose to focus on something that will give me a moment (or hour) of peace. So I'll take my thoughts and inner and outer images to something else - just for now. When you come to plague me again, if I've done my due diligence about you for today (perhaps an hour's time of trying to resolve or brainstorm about whatever the issue is), then I will once again choose to take my focus elsewhere. I'll do it for my own inner well-being and because I love myself. Note: Doing this will not solve the problem. It will, however, help you view the problem with different eyes and therein you may find a new way of solving your problem that before you had simply not seen, because you are in a new energetic place now. And you will feel better.
- Oxygen - Make sure that you do some strenuous walking or biking or swimming or rowing, or whatever you prefer on a daily basis in order to get oxygen into your system. Your brain not only grows new cells and connections between those cells, when you do this, but your endorphins and serotonin levels (the feel good chemicals in the brain) rise. Spending 15-30 minutes doing this every day will do much to make your inner world look so much better. And if your inner world looks good, the way you see your outer world also changes.
- Remembering What Exhilarates You - This one is important! As with all the others, if this one were already in place in your life, you might not have arrived at that place of difficulty where you no longer know what to do! Try to go back deep into your younger self and remember what used to exhilarate you. What made you vibrate energetically when you thought about it, or did it? How can you - if it still causes you to react that way - incorporate it into your present life? If you can't remember any such thing, begin to pay attention carefully to how your body reacts with certain conversations, documentaries, books, etc. Is there a fluttering in your belly? An agreeable tightening somewhere? Does your breath come more quickly? Is your heart beating faster? All of these indicate that something about this subject means something to you even if you are unaware of it consciously. What we are looking for is something that will serve to increase the meaning in your life.
- Giving Yourself Small Joys - Remember to give yourself some small joys every day. I can't tell you what those are for you, but here are some of mine: watching the waves come up on the shore; having a coffee (a good one) in peace and tranquility at a café I enjoy, preferably with a good view and reading the paper, or a bit of a good book; wandering about a flea market; having a food treat that I particularly enjoy, especially things that remind me of my childhood in Germany; sitting down to write a brief email to someone I care for very much, just to keep in touch; walking along a pristine beach early in the morning with no one else there at all; sitting down to a book/movie/documentary/audio program, etc. I know I will enjoy - even if I know I just have 10 minutes right now, and will continue at a later time. These small joys can make such a difference in the wholeness of your day. Look for those that you love and make sure your days contain at least one or two of them every day.
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