Overcoming Disaster in Four Steps

Sh*t happens. Frequently! And the reason the phrase, “When it rains, it pours” exists, is because when bad stuff happens, it seems to happen all at the same time. And it stinks! But don’t despair! Even when the train goes waaaaay off the tracks, even when you think you will never get back on track, you can still recover, and even be happy in spite of (or maybe even because of) your bad luck.

All you need to do is step back, take a deep breath, and follow these four steps.

Step One: Find Gratitude Wherever You Can

This is not about being a Pollyanna or blindly quipping that “every cloud has a silver lining.” Finding gratitude is about noticing what’s good about your terrible situation and being grateful for those small blessings. Even when it seems callous or ridiculous to do so.

The day my grandma passed away was a terrible day, for obvious reasons. But, the timing of things was such that I was able to teach my workout class without a last minute scramble for a sub. The weather was wonderful, everyone was in town, and she passed away with quite a lot of dignity.

It was easy to overlook these small blessings, to focus on everything that was terrible and wrong with the situation, but that didn’t help. Finding gratitude did. Finding gratitude is a skill. The more you practice looking for it, the more things you will find to be grateful for. And the better, and luckier, you will feel.

Step Two: Put Your Situation in Perspective

Don’t you hate it when you are trying to tell your story, and the person you are talking to one-ups you and starts in telling you how their situation is much worse than yours? While that is one of the worst things another person can do to us, it’s an important thing to us to do for ourselves. We read the news. We watch TV. We know people who… and knowing these facts helps keep our own disaster in perspective.

Last week I experienced a major sewer-line disaster that will derail me financially for years. It has impacted my entire family and it has made for some uncomfortable and stressful situations. There are going to be serious and far-reaching consequences, but it will not impact my relationships. It will not diminish the joy I experience walking my dogs or reading my book. My finances will change, but I will still eat. I still have a home. In five years’ time, the impact will be gone.

Having perspective is similar to having gratitude, but it is more of an intellectual acknowledgement in one’s own head as to the proper scope of the disaster. Gratitude is more in the heart. Life moves on, no matter what, and having perspective means acknowledging this fact. Your life might not look how you planned, but still going to move ahead. Have perspective. See your situation intellectually and without attachment. Don’t allow yourself to miss what is, by focusing on what could have been.

Step Three: Realize What You Can Control and What You Can’t Control

You cannot control what happened to you, but you can control the result of your disaster and you can control your reaction. Ask yourself, “What can I do right now to make myself feel better?”

Right now I can make myself a cup of tea. Right now I can light a pretty candle, sit up tall, take a few breaths and smile. I can go upstairs, bush out my hair and put on some jewelry. Why? Because it will make me feel better. Nobody else is going to comfort us, so we might as well get busy making ourselves happy.

When things go wrong, it’s psychologically important to exert control over the things that we can. It keeps us out of victim mentality and it makes us feel more in control. Find what you can control and proactively choose your actions.

This extends to our actions with others as well. Take the lessons learned from your disaster and educate others through your loss. Your disaster has imbued you with wisdom. Spread the gift of this newfound wisdom to others. Some of the most beautiful things on earth have been the result of unspeakable disasters. You may have been handed some pretty sour lemons. What kind of lemonade are you going to make?

Step Four: Look for Deeper Meaning

What has your disaster taught you? Is this situation a metaphor for something else in your life? If everything happens for a reason, why did this happen to you? When I literally had sh*t burbling up from the sewer and filling my house, I started thinking about the metaphoric sh*t in my life. Was I was stuffing down too much sh*t? Did I need to clean out my sh*t? Did I need to deal with my sh*t? What was my deeper lesson here?

Whether my sewage explosion was truly a sign from the universe or not, in my mind, thinking about the deeper meaning of my disaster gives me control. I take myself out of victim mode and I regain control over my life. I see the steps I can take to reduce the amount of shi*t, both metaphoric and literal, that’s filling my life. I can be proactive, rather than reactive. And I feel better, knowing that I’m actually doing something to make things better.

Disasters happen. To all of us, all throughout our lives. Some are big, and some are small, but no matter what happens to you, you can recover. Not only that, you can thrive! All it takes is a little gratitude, a little perspective, knowing what you can and can’t control, acting instead of reacting, and looking for the deeper meaning.

In the words of Martin Luther King, “We Shall Overcome!” And overcome we shall!

How to Overcome a “Post Holiday” Hangover

Welcome to January! You know, that month where you realize that you did, in fact, gain too much weight over the holidays. And then, mid-month, when credit card statements come in the mail, you also realize that you spent way too money. And later on, near the end of the month, you realize that somehow, despite your best intentions, you have already blown your New Year’s Resolutions. In other words, by the end of the month, most of us feel some combination of being unhealthy, broke and depressed.

But don’t despair! No matter how bad you blew it over the holidays, (honestly!) you can still recover. All it takes is a little forgiveness, awareness, and wisdom. With these three simple steps, you can get back on track and have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018, no matter what transpired over the holidays!

Forgive Yourself

The first, and most important place to start, is in your own heart and soul. We all make mistakes. Yes, you may have drank too much, sent an embarrassing text, lost a job, spent too much money, quit working out, yelled at your sister; whatever. The first step is learning how to forgive yourself. Learning to love yourself, unconditionally.

It doesn’t matter what you did. You did it. It happened, and you have to deal with it, and yourself. Forgiveness is not about absolving oneself from guilt. Nor is it about making excuses or laughing something off. It’s about digging deep, realizing the full extent of your mistake and owing what happened. It’s about understanding the full impact of your actions, the consequences to yourself, and those around you.

It’s about identifying the emotions around your actions, feeling your shame, embarrassment, guilt; and dealing with those emotions. When we allow ourselves to feel and acknowledge our emotions, they guide us towards right action. Whether that means making amends, moving on or getting help for ourselves. Understanding our actions on an emotional as well as a cognitive level allows us to fully process and release our actions. Instead of stuffing our feelings down, we learn from them, and we grow healthier and wiser in the process.

Truly forgiving oneself is not easy. Nor can it be accomplished overnight. Forgiveness is a process that, like grief, has many stages. Keep working on it! The past cannot be undone. Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. If they did what you did, would you forgive them? We tend to be much harder on ourselves than we are on others. Extend yourself the same courtesy.

Understand the Impact of Your Behavior on Others

Next, seek to understand your actions and the consequences of your actions. Not why you did what you did, but what you did Moving into the why’s tends to create blame. It doesn’t’ matter why you spent too much, reached out to your ex, yelled at your children, or got drunk. It only matters that you did.

What is the result of your behavior? What did it create in your life that wasn’t there before? What are the consequences? Not the potential consequences or the watered down consequences, but the actual consequences to yourself as well as to others? Make a list. Ask around. Be open to learning, to understanding the impact of your decisions.

Once again, put yourself in another person’s shoes. If someone had done this to you, what would you want them to do? Do that! Or quite simply, ask others what they would like you to do in order to make amends. Seek first to understand. Fix what you can fix. Let the rest go. It’s time to look forward, not back.

Rejoice in Choice

One of the biggest mistakes people make when moving ahead and creating positive changes in their lives is putting too much pressure on themselves. Dreaming big is wonderful but we need to be realistic too. Dreams are not accomplished overnight. Two steps forward, one step back is to be expected. Remember the age-old question – How do you eat an elephant? The answer is – One bite at a time!

Yes, you can get your finances back on track. You can lose the weight. You can be happy. But maybe not overnight. Every day we have multiple opportunities to choose. Choosing to make coffee at home instead of going out seems like a simple choice, but coupled with other small choices, it becomes monumental. Choose to smile, to hold doors open for others, to pack a healthy lunch. Choose to donate, swap or borrow instead of buy. Call your credit card company and ask to have your interest rate lowered. Read articles on managing debt. Take a walk. Go to the library and check out workout books or DVDs. Meditate. Pray. Choose kind words. Forgive others. Choose tolerance. Breathe in. Breathe out. Make every choice count.

Grant Yourself the Serenity to Accept the Things you Cannot Change, the Courage to Change the Things you Can, and the Wisdom to Know the Difference

Make a list of things you can control and all the things you can’t control. We can never truly control others, but we can always control ourselves. Yes, we may be fat, broke and miserable. Our life may indeed be filled with others who impact us negatively. We may be burdened by our own past actions. But we can’t control the past. We can only control ourselves in the future.

We can control each moment, each choice, exactly as it comes to us. Each moment. And the moment after that. And the moment after that. Our lives are lived one day at a time. Days are nothing but a collection of moments, a collection of choices. Choose wisely. Remain conscious. It’s the only way to change your life.

Forgive yourself. Witness and learn for your mistakes. Then choose again. The next moment is always there, presenting us with another opportunity to choose.

So what do you choose? Joy, happiness, prosperity and health are literally just a collection of moments away. Every moment is a choice, and every choice moves us towards our goal or away from it. Accept that which you cannot change, and have the courage to create a future that you can be proud of. Yes, we can all be healthy, happy and prosperous. It’s simply a matter of choice.

Just like eating the elephant, life isn’t lived all at once. Life is lived in a series of bite-sized moments. Choose each moment wisely.

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