Pride may go before the fall, but fear goes before pride. Knowing when your fears are wrecking your health and well being (and that of many people around you) is key to finding the healthy solutions that might work best for you for living the life you want, not the life you most fear.
Despite daily reminders that life is filled with setbacks and pain, life is equally full of the good stuff, all the reasons we love it. Fortunately we can have plenty of life phases that include long and wonderful streaks of success and accomplishment. During these times we can feel like we're on top of the world. Almost effortlessly we keep our life balance, play an amazing game, or lead a work project to an amazing finish. All the while neither our past failures or fears about the future throw us off our performance. We're in a zone and we can feel it. For many people (maybe you're one of them) this feeling is a very natural state, you expect it. Studies have indeed shown that believing in advance is a key criterion to achieving just about anything. No one who wins a championship game on the last shot says afterwards, "I didn't think we had a chance." This can actually contribute to one's success and contentment in life too, assuming the positive and the good. Yes, "leaning in" and being both practical and positive about your life aspirations can make a great difference. But the reality also is that streaks end, good often comes with the bad, and luck runs out for you as it moves on to benefit someone else. And so ends, for a time, that top of the world feeling.
So how do you handle the ups and downs in your life? Are you continuously afraid you won't get what you want? When you want it? Or are you more focused on the past - what you woulda, coulda, shoulda done? Or is fearing something that isn't now, hasn't happened, and may never happen your preferred way to handle times when you are just...plain....scared? Fact is, despite many people's exterior calm or confident demeanor, I meet a diverse crowd of very (so called) successful people in my office who bring in their versions of breakdowns, the worries and concerns that bad times will never end, or the good times are soon to expire. And they are losing their joy in life over these basic fears, fears that we all face now and again. But for some this becomes a way of life and it disrupts or destroys major parts of their life: their work, their friendships, their families, and their health.
If you or someone you know is worried or fearful beyond reason, or for an extended period of time, it may be an opportunity to reflect on the following ideas to self-manage their way back to optimum well being and contentment, to get out of this fear-based life and back to themselves again.
So to get back to that "On Top of the World" feeling even when life is stressing us out at every turn and it feels like there's no space at all to take a breather, to find some inner peace, try these easy to do ideas in your daily or weekly schedule and see which ones feel best for you. Start small, but do something. Keep trying...and it will get better for you.
1. Set aside time every day to do your best at something - anything of your choosing. Focus on doing a very small thing at work, home, or while you are out, and intently do that thing with your full attention, concentration, and without self-judgment. This should be no more than a few minutes to start, and never more than 15 minutes. It could be cleaning ONE DRAWER in your kitchen, create one business document or spreadsheet, fold 3-4 shirts while breathing deeply, walk to the end of your street and back, noticing every sound and sight that you can with an appreciative gaze. They key is to pay full and undivided attention (away from your phone if needed) and breath as you go. Now, if you do this right it would be really hard to do this all day long. But if you pick a small activity first, in time this practice could grow to an hour or more daily or weekly. It will become revered time, where you put your past pain and fears about the future in a container, away from you and no longer interrupting your life and relationships. As likely, you'll begin to feel the rush of more personal productivity and emotional freedom.
2. Plan to be unbalanced. That's right, spot a time in your day or week where you KNOW you'll be a bit of a wreck, overly emotional, or even angry. I know this is a bit of anti-positive attitude here but hang with me. After you select your anticipated event or time when you expect to be challenged, think right then of how quickly you will recover or get back to a positive feeling about it. Plan in your mind whether it will take a day, a few hours, 30 minutes.....maybe a minute? Point is - there is NO such thing as achieving some ongoing steady state of personal or emotional balance in life. People keep themselves anxious and judgmental every time they fall out of a comfortable life position. Instead you can now see this as a normal and expected thing, and the ONLY plan and forethought worth having is about how you expect to get back into balance, for a time - until the next thing happens. That's it! Balance can be found but never kept. It's found, lost , found again and lost again. Over and over it goes. Over time you don't need to anticipate any specific bad situation, just know they will always show up, along with the good ones, and in each case you will have an opportunity to see how much better you are at responding, recovering, and moving on with peace inside. So at a minimum you can stop fearing this loss of balance and welcome it, and plan your recovery. THAT's the way to get though life with overall balance, over time...as nothing - and no one - will be able to incite fear in you again as you have the ability to respond to anything...and get yourself back to where you need to be.
3. List your biggest fears and stow them away. Yes, write a list of your worries down on a piece of paper and look at them. Keep it focused on your biggies, probably not one, but not more than seven or ten, either. Once you've done this put them away in a (real or invisible) container. Many religious, spiritual, and secular traditions around the world use worry mandalas, images, icons and figurines to allow people to mentally deposit their worries and fears and then move on with their day and their life. It's a way both acknowledging their existence, treating them with the respect they probably deserve (meaning, they are of real concern to you) but also allowing you to LEAVE them be, for a time, and free yourself to get on with regular living. For you it might be as simple a daily or weekly list, folded and sorted in old shoe box or Tupperware container. Replaced each time by throwing away the old and depositing the new. Any practice that works for you is what will work! Try it! Just doing this simple kind activity can actually help you do better work, and enjoy relationships more as you no longer carry them inside you, letting them leak (or scream) out at random times, inflicting pain or confusion on those around you. This isn’t denial. You are accounting for all of them by placing them in a container – you are also creating a situation where they don’t get to upstage what you need/want to do (perform your best) for the present moment. You are taking back control of your choice of thoughts and giving space for the thinking you need most in the moments of your life you really want to be pure and undiluted with your worries and fears. This is a practice, and it sounds a bit like a symbolic activity to some, too simplistic. But the very essence of freeing yourself from excessive fears and worries is an act of courage over something most in your control - your thoughts, how you animate them (with fears, emotion, wisdom, anger, etc. etc. etc.) and your choices around how to respond to, manage or simply influence them.
Giving just one of these ideas a try this month might change your outlook for the better, and sooner than you would have dreamed! For the most serious of life’s problems counseling is often advisable, but there are many ways you can effectively and easily manage yourself to better health and emotional contentment. Taking the energy out of some of your biggest fears and worries is one easy way to begin doing just that, and it will help you feel, once again, like you’re on top of you world.
Living for the love of it,
Dawna J. Grigsby with Alan Daigneault
Visit me at Zest of Life, LLC.