99% of the time I choose optimism. I know it is a choice for me – I do it for my own self-love – and it does not come naturally. I must choose it to experience it. If I don’t, I fall into cynicism, sadness, or frustration with the best of them.
What makes this difficult is I have what has been found to be a naturally occurring phenomenon: negativity bias. This has been credited to what has kept us all alive – a natural instinct to identify what is negative – as if it is a threat, then dwell on how to solve that threat to eliminate it, so we can then relax and be happy. The problem is, we too often forget to stop the negativity focus and make time to recognize how to be happy. Or we get thrust into a pandemic and fatigue sets in.
For me, fatigue chips away at my ability to think, care, or love myself. I’ve worked hard to get to a place where I understand the value of taking care of my mental, physical and spiritual side. I help clients recognize this too. So, I was in a state of disbelief when I recently woke up and couldn’t shake a deep feeling of sadness that I wanted to blame on fatigue. But the feeling of sadness stuck to me like relentless glue. I didn’t want to do anything. The irony, I was on vacation when this occurred – a time for relaxation, smiles, and doing whatever suited me in the moment – and all I wanted to do was crawl back in bed, escape by watching comedy, or lay in dark, comforting quiet. I found myself suddenly dealing with a sadness I was not familiar with.
First: Sadness will surprise you
I cannot list a ton of reasons to be sad. We have family that survived their cases of COVID-19, we have not lost a family member like so many, our jobs stayed intact, and we are healthy. Yet, like so many, our lives did change. We moved without getting to say good-bye to so many people we love, we lost one of our dogs, we comforted family members who did lose their jobs, we are in a new location without the ability to explore and meet people, and parts of each of our businesses changed so much we feel we lost something we didn’t know we had. Life has changed, yet the sadness was still a surprise.
Second: Confronting your feelings is a MUST
When I am confronted with feelings I don’t normally have – or – feelings that are not tied to any one particular event – it throws me way off my game. I need time to unpack my feelings – especially one like sadness, or it becomes a slippery slope into confusion, frustration, a short temper, numbness, anxiety, and even the threat of full on depression. The confusion is what muddies the waters. Clarity of what I am feeling is required for me to move forward.
Brene Brown recognizes an aspect of this in what she calls FFT: ‘Eff-ing’ First Time. This Pandemic is an FFT. To handle this, Brene recommends to:
- Normalize it by talking to others about it. Recognize that no one is going through this alone – including you. When I did this, I found that other people were experiencing the same type of feelings. It didn’t make it magically go away – it allowed me to explore and unpack aspects of my feelings. I realized I was grieving. So are many of my clients – in many different ways.
- Put it into perspective. It’s recommended by the Appreciative Inquiry Institute to take a pause and list what is going right (the strengths of the situation) to balance out what it is that you are feeling. I recognized that I was grieving what 2020 didn’t deliver and what 2021 was still denying me – time with our young grandson, time with friends, in-person sessions with clients, and travel.
- Do a reality check of expectations. Not only did I need to help my clients do this, but I also realized my own expectations had missed a reality check and I was continually feeling frustrated. Continual frustrations soon become fatigue, and we are ALL fatigued right now.
Understanding what feelings are affecting you allows you to choose what to do with those feelings and take some control over how you move forward – even if it means holding a quiet space before talking to someone you trust. By doing this, you are subconsciously building your grit and resilience.
Third: This is exactly what builds our resilience and grit
Grit is said to be key to success and considered a desired ‘hardiness’ which includes 3 components:
- You recognize you are here for a reason.
- You recognize that you can have an effect on your situation.
- You recognize that both positive and negative experiences will lead to learning and growth.
Forbes offers the 5 characteristics that are used to describe grit:
- Courage – to not give up.
- Mindfulness – to take care of yourself and others.
- Perseverance – to try.
Resilience has gotten a lot of attention lately too. The Mayo Clinic offers that resilience is the ability to adapt to difficult situations. And while we all adapt, how well we adapt is the measure of our resilience. The good news – with this pandemic, we are all building our resilience.
These three revelations formed a plan of action that I could work through. I now offer these to you:
- Recognize what feelings are surprising you.
- Address it, name it, and talk about it – so you can look at it with the right perspective.
- Recognize what this is providing you – resilience, grit, depth, experience – and relatability with others.
These helped me bounce back. It didn’t make my sadness magically go away, but it did give me the renewed ability to name it, process the feelings that go with grieving, and look at those feelings with a new perspective. This gave me the strength to keep moving forward and before I knew it, the lightness came back and choosing optimism came more easily.
Choosing this process requires you to tap into your own self-leadership. This also supports your ability to self-love – taking care of yourself so you can take care of others.
I offer my own experience because grieving – over all the change, unmet expectations, and the pandemic – made me empathize with a new depth, have better language to facilitate the emotions coming forth in client sessions, and ask better questions to help others recognize their own journey.
I want to acknowledge that we are all in this together and that the whole person shows up at work. Don’t ignore how you are feeling. You are here for a reason and we need you now more than ever before.