Originally published Jan 22 in the Huffington Post.
Oh, no, it’s the “R” word! Currently heard and seen everywhere. Call it what you will — recession, slump, downturn, it has everybody edgy and fearing the worst.
It doesn’t help that we’re bombarded with messages that promote financial and job insecurity. The media thrives on perpetuating anxiety and fear. C-R-I-S-I-S.
How do we ride the wave when it seems the customary trappings of our lives may be at risk?
A good starting point is to embrace reality while understanding that the nature of your life is not static. The reality of today will not be the actuality of tomorrow or next week.
Tips for Tinkering with Happiness
Meet Challenges Head On
Meet challenges head on, not from a place of fear or intimidation but with clarity, daring, grace and innovation.
If there’s something real that you’re avoiding — or if there are eventualities you should plan for, take action to begin dealing with them today. Even if it’s just a small action. Get in action.
If you’re dwelling on your fear of what might happen in the future, bring yourself back to the present and deal with what is before you — head on. When we get lost in what should have happened (past) or what we fear will happen (future) — we spoil the only place we are actually experiencing life — right now, this moment. Come vacation here in the present, it’s nice.
Accept Uncertainty and Change
Wish as we might, we don’t live in a static and unchanging world. Change is the constant. And we human beings don’t generally do that well with change. We find it upsetting. But the truth is, everything about life is uncertain, so we may as well embrace it.
How you deal with difficulties is a choice. Your choice. You may resent that, it may even stump or anger you, but it’s the truth. Choose carefully what you’re focused on. Are you replaying bad possible future scenarios in your mind? Do you choose words like “terrible” or “crisis” (instead of, for example “wild”, “volatile” and “uncertain”)? Are you fixated on re-circulating thoughts of possibly losing your job? Are you spending your day staring at the stock market on the computer and feeling terrible? If it’s not leading to positive action, and it feels bad, cut it out. How you deal with anything is YOUR choice.
Choose carefully how you’re framing facts, and what conversations you’re spending time in. If you’re having trouble with this, get help.
Let Go of Your Crummy Stories
Happy or sad or cold or warm are all different points on the graph of life. What’s so bad about feeling? If you don’t attach a big old story to it, feelings come and then go. Sad, scared, happy. Where we get into trouble is making up stories (that we think are capital “T” True) and sticking them onto the feeling — “this is terrible”, “we won’t be okay,” “I should have known better.” It’s the story you latch onto the feeling that’s the problem. Announcement: your stories are just your interpretation. They are not capital “T” True. You could loosen your grip on them. If you just let the feeling come and go and don’t attach a story to it, it washes right through. Practice this — it enables you to take effective action — and it works miracles.
Have Fun Even While You’re on a Financial Diet
Have fun even while you’re tightening the belt. Write out what you’d love to be doing without regard for money and then identify what the underlying desire is. You can then start to discover ways to fulfill that desire with whatever is financially appropriate. For example, say you want to go to St. Barts…but given your bank account, this is just not the year for that. Take a look past the specifics for the underlying desire, in this case, for example it may be to relax, let go of your daily concerns and to unwind. Then look for how else that desire can be met within your current budget and realities; maybe it’s asking a friend if you and your family can stay at their country cabin an hour away for a weekend, or negotiating with your spouse a day of an upcoming weekend that you can be “off duty” and use that day to do whatever pleases you. You do not have to deprive yourself of fun and things you love just because you’re on a financial diet. Stretch your brain just a little — you’ll discover whatever the underlying longing — you can fulfill it completely with less mullah.
Don’t Play in the Dirt
Nurture your friendships; and choose them carefully. Share fun and play, but don’t fan the flames of anxiety. Listen, give back, be a good ally. If you have people around you dwelling in doomsday thinking, be compassionate that this is where they are in this moment, even offer up a different perspective if you like, but don’t hang out and play in that mudpit. That mud ends up all over you.
Thanksgiving Ain’t Over
Real gratitude and appreciation for all we do have is a major contributor to peace of mind. And I’m not talking about a fake nod in this direction. Be grateful for what you can actually be grateful for. Kiss your difficulties on both cheeks! Use their sharp edge to get you off your keister and leave a thank you note for past experiences, for the journey from there to now.
Move Your Bod
Strengthen yourself physically, play ball, chase the dog, dance with a child, do whatever it takes to get your energy moving in ways that delight you and give you flexibility and endurance. The challenges you may face are better dealt with when you’re feeling at your physical best.
Take a Walk
Get out in Nature. It’s no cliche that green spaces calm and nurture. They also inform. Trees exist within their cycles, budding, blossoming and leaf dropping, nothing is lost. Wall Street might disdain such a simple lesson but you can gain from it when you realize that abundance ebbs and flows but is always present, always operating on a natural principle of plenty.
Nurture and sustain yourself. Don’t let the turbulence out there make you feel impoverished and helpless. Make other investments elsewhere, such as in the emotional and spiritual parts of your life. Be anchored to the sacred (whatever you perceive that to be). Pray, meditate, be still in good solitude that you might connect to yourself in deep and powerful ways.
1. The sky is not falling. Yes, the economy is wild, and the world is uncertain. The truth is there is nothing so terrible about an uncertain world. When you peel back the veil, that’s actually the very nature of life.
2. Misery can paralyze and drain you, and not only in difficult times. You are always choosing your interpretation of what’s happening and what it’s going to mean to you.
3. Stop wishing and hoping things were different. They’re not. Choose a helpful view of reality and deal with it.
4. The reality of today will not be the actuality of tomorrow or next week.
When you are fretting and fearful, you are living in an imagined world of a bad possible future; railing against the human ail of not being able to control everything. When you stay in R-E-A-L-I-T-Y about what is happening in the moment, you’ll notice the present is actually survivable, even if it is not what you want.
But you can then think clearly, sleep soundly, and create powerful action.