Major always overwhelms the minor. Most people focus on the minor aspects of life and get crushed when the major occurs. How have you held up during the COVID-19 crisis? How will it help you prepare for a future crisis? There is one lesson we can learn from politicians (I stress, only one!) – never let a crisis go to waste.
Here are a few facts about our “spend more than you earn” society:
-According to CareerBuilder, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
-Nearly one in 10 workers earning $100K or more live paycheck to paycheck.
-25% of workers don’t save a dime of their paycheck.
-75% of workers are in debt.
-62% of Americans don’t have enough money saved to live for three months without income, according to Magnify Money.
Why is the wealthiest nation on the planet flat-out broke? Here is a short list of the major factors resulting in our poverty:
-We are sold “deserve” from birth. Parents, politicians, and corporations tell us we can and should have it all…now!
-Comfort comes first. The slightest pain or inconvenience leads to overwhelming distress.
-Instant gratification trumps discipline.
-We procrastinate like it is our job.
The reality is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Let this crisis be the fuel that launches your better future.
What does a reset look like? It begins with an honest assessment and inventory of our lives. How did we get into our current situation? The review will likely reveal a series of mistakes we’ve made that almost imperceptibly have resulted in our present circumstances. We will consider the following major aspects of life: relationships, health, contribution, growth, and awareness. How does it all fit together? It starts the three key elements of health – physical, mental, and spiritual. The connection between all three is essential. Our well-being determines our capacity to do good. Many of us struggle because we are unable to get our minds right. To better understand this, let’s review Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The foundation of Maslow’s pyramid is physiological needs (mind, body, spirit). It is challenging to live our full potential if we don’t feel well. Health issues will not allow us to have the strong foundation on which our self-actualization is built. It is worth noting that every component of the pyramid affects our ability to progress to the next level. The most joyful among us have worked their way up to the top by adding value and not taking away. It is impossible to self-actualize in a meaningful way if our success was achieved at the expense of others. This is why there are people that have all the success in the world and are still miserable.
When we live without safety or security, we are constantly in fight or flight mode. Every day is a struggle full of anxiety about the next problem that will potentially unfold. Stress triggers cortisol production, which impairs our ability to make decisions and can lead to many types of health complications. Millions of people in the wealthiest nation on the planet live on the edge of a disaster cliff. They become obsessed with survival and see others in similar socioeconomic conditions as competitors in their survival. The constant stress and fear cause negative and lasting psychological issues such as depression. Advancement up the pyramid toward self-actualization is not possible when each day is a cortisol-filled struggle. I know people that have achieved extraordinary levels of success but remain unable to advance toward self-actualization because their lives are filled with stress. The stress for high achievement is different from the stress for survival, but the results are the same – burnout. When each day is a grind that represents little joy, many turn to external outlets for their stress – drugs or alcohol to dull the senses for some, food or sex as a distraction for others.
What are the alternatives to the purposeless distractions we most often turn to when stress overwhelms us?
Countless studies have proven the therapeutic benefits of journaling. Simply writing our thoughts down on paper relieves stress and improves overall health. Yes, people that journal are scientifically proven to be healthier and happier. Journaling exercises the mind in ways thinking can’t. It requires us to think through our feelings and can help us achieve clarity. There is no right or wrong way to journal. For me, journaling is a grounding tool, helping me to maintain a level of appreciation for the blessings and challenges in my life. Here are a few tips that can help you develop a journaling habit:
-Take time to find the ideal journal for you. You can start with a simple notebook and work your way to finding a fun or personalized journal. I use a leather journal that is inscribed with my name on the front, as well as three words that represent how I want to show up each day. My current three words are Resonance, Joy, and Presence. These words are reminders of how I want to positively impact the world and how I choose to be my best self.
-Determine the best time for your journaling practice. It is important that you have a routine to establish the habit of journaling. I write first thing in the morning, as many authors do. Some people prefer to write in the evenings to lock in the lessons from the day’s events. Try both and then make it a habit to follow through on a strategy that can alter the direction of your life.
-Mix it up. Summarize the day, ask yourself questions, write about big decisions, make plans for your future. The key to keeping it interesting for you is being intentional about it. Remember that your journal is for you and nobody else. Sure, maybe someday others might read it to understand your life, but journaling is about getting out of your head today.
-Stay positive. It is your journal, but I want to encourage you to look for possibilities versus barriers. Maintaining a belief about a better future gives us hope. Identifying what is holding you back from achieving your dreams is part of life, but try to focus on how you can solve your challenges.
Spending time with a group of people that are going through the same challenges as you is therapeutic. Living the struggle of life along can be overwhelming. Finding a tribe of people that can relate to your situation and offer their experiences on how they made it through is powerful. Humans are communal creatures that generally thrive when working and being around others. Here are some guidelines for discovering your community:
-Leverage technology in your search. Are you interested in joining a mom’s group, or maybe an entrepreneurial group? There are countless communities available online focused on every conceivable topic. Google and Facebook are great places to start. You can start your own group if you’re unable to find exactly what you’re looking for.
-Define your criteria for the ideal group. Have you heard the saying, “You have to stand for something or you will fall for anything”? What qualities should your group demonstrate? For example, confidentiality might be necessary for you, especially if you’re an entrepreneur.
-Connect with leaders in your area of interest. Industry leaders are often sponsored by or advocate for groups that focus on their areas of expertise. Reach out and ask for guidance. The worst that can happen is that they ignore your request, so what have you got to lose?
-Look into magazines or conferences that specifically cover the topics you are interested in.
Moving the body has as many psychological benefits as physiological. Exercise reduces the neurochemicals, adrenaline and cortisol, that are released as a result of stress. Remember that stress is part of being human and must be managed to avoid premature death or disorders like depression or anxiety. Science shows that cardio workouts are more effective than weight training at reducing stress. Both types of exercise are important and should ideally be incorporated into a person’s daily exercise regimen. There are countless articles available the expound on the benefits of exercise. In order to move up the hierarchy of needs, we must learn to manage stress through physical exertion.
The benefits of meditation match nicely with the benefits of exercise. The battle against stress can be won by reducing the amount of cortisol coursing through our veins, and meditation helps in doing just that. Our resistance to the realities of life is where stress is born, and a meditation practice can help to turn resistance into acceptance. You can start by simply closing your eyes and observing your breath. When your mind wanders, and it will, bring your attention back to your breath. Meditation is an exercise and a skill, and it requires practice, patience, and discipline just like any other skill.
The earliest documentation of meditation dates back to at least 3500 B.C. Our ancestors understood the benefits of meditation long before the scientific community confirmed them through study. Meditation has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with developing the ability to focus our attention. The benefits will change your life.
Take a walk or go on a hike. Nature’s beauty and wonder can get us out of our heads and into the present moment. Being present is elusive for so many because of the endless stream of dialogue in our brains all day and night. Breakthroughs often occur while experiencing nature. The next time you are feeling stuck, go for a walk. Focus on the birds singing, the breeze, the sun, or the clouds. Be present with nature as you walk. Allow yourself to be fascinated. As we age, our curiosity and openness to new experiences often disappear. We like our routine or believe we have it all figured out. Our fascination muscles become weak. Nature provides countless opportunities to be fascinated and work these muscles.
The stress-filled lives of modern societies can seem hopeless. Each day is more of the same with no end in sight. It reminds me of a hamster wheel on which, no matter how hard you try, you always end up at the same spot where you began. Change can begin by implementing a plan. Planning requires being intentional and focused on studying your options and weighing alternatives. Intentional or directed thinking can be a challenging activity for many. It can seem easy to look for short-term relief instead of long-term success. Planning can be as simple as regularly asking and answering the following questions:
-What do I want more of in my life?
-What skills would I need to develop to have more of what I want?
-Who could help guide me by sharing their experience?
-What is the next step in progressing toward more of what I want?
Next is the most important step – action. Having clarity on the next step means nothing if you don’t take action. Remember that the time to act will never be ideal, and stars rarely align. The only way out of your stress-filled days is by taking action.