The start to this year has been less than ordinary for me – in just two months I picked up a painful virus, my father passed, our family dog of 15 years died, I had surgery on my foot which is still healing, had a root canal, and ended with a positive test result when screening for bowel cancer. Whew! Oh, and we have our house on the market and also a strict deadline on my book which I am writing. And there's still more but you get the picture.
Why am I airing my personal laundry for the world to read? Well, apart from our brains wanting to make it 'all about us', (and mine loves to do that) I utilised what I coach to keep me from going mad. Here they are;
1. Focus on one thing – as each life’s hurdles came together, my brain wanted to lump them all together and say “You are under attack, life is bad, you aren’t going to make it.” I focussed on the immediate issue, one at a time, and dealt just with that one thing.
2. Distract the brain – worrying about something that you have no control over has little positive value. I focussed on what I could control. More importantly, I focussed on my family – how can I support them with whatever they need. And I joked, a lot, using humour to reframe things.
3. Positive thoughts – I kept telling myself “Everything happens for a reason, what are the benefits of this, how can I make the most of what is happening, keep moving forward.” This one was a bit harder of course because our brains are wired to think negatively.
4. Work – I threw myself into my work by conducting further research, developing more programs, trying different delivery styles, and promoting my work. This also was a distraction.
5. Slowed down – A little bit anyway. A normal weekend for me would be to mow the lawns, weed the gardens, wash the cars and assist with the housework. All before lunch. Now, I do the same but take a series of breaks to chat with my wife, play with the grandkids, listen to the birds (and the neighbours), soak up what is around me.
6. Replaced things – I took antiviral medication, we got a new dog, I followed my doctor’s recommendation on healing after surgery, the tooth was repaired, and the screening result was found to be nothing of significance. We will sell our house before signing a contract on a new one so we don’t have the additional pressure that comes with a house sale and I got someone to help me with my book because I couldn’t unlock all of the stories I wanted to tell. You can never replace a father but you can focus on being a good one yourself.
7. Exercise less – Not what you would usually hear from me. Previously, I was working out for an hour-and- a-half every day regardless of how much physical activity I undertook during the day. Now, if I have a busy day I don’t work out and I don’t stress about not having done a workout which I always would do.
8. Talked more – Mostly with my wife, sometimes with my family, on occasion with my close friends. There’s something in the proverb – ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’
9. Worried less – I was determined not to worry, so I didn’t. Worry is such a wasted exercise. Worry only exaggerates the negative, causes more pain, and adds to your list of issues. I stopped myself immediately whenever I had negative thoughts and I spent time on social media (FB) posting positive affirmations.
10. Family first – Tattooed on my ribs (one of the most painful places to get a tattoo by the way) are the words ‘Familia Omnia’. Family is all. And they are everything to me. That is the most important thing that keeps me focussed, keeps me grounded, keeps me honest with myself. And not just immediate family, ‘familia’ includes close friends.
When I look back at my list from 1 to 10 as I finish this post, here in a word is what I have just done – mindfulness. How crazy is that?
Life comes at us hard sometimes and it can be uncomfortable. Don't let life's issues get in the way of living.