Many of my clients come to me when they are going through some sort of change. In fact, it often seems like everyone is struggling with some form of personal or professional hardship, bringing on feelings of anxiety, sleeplessness and depression. As we know, life is not always easy.
From my experience and those experiences shared by my clients, here are five ideas that you can leverage when your challenges seem overwhelming.
Have a mantra.
I decided to observe Lent this year with the mantra “no worry, no scurry.” While I certainly scurried and lost myself to worry, this simple and memorable reminder brought me back to my breath and a slower consideration of my work and the world around me. In short, it kept me from losing myself to things I could not control.
This idea of a mantra is part of the larger practice of mindfulness. A 2014 study from John Hopkins University found that mindfulness meditation could ease anxiety. Dr. Elizabeth Hoge said, “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power. They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”
Focusing on a mantra can help you better deal with your anxiety, which will allow you higher productivity.
Choose a perspective.
We can change how we see a situation by choosing a new perspective (or reframing it).
A client of mine was struggling with the mother of one of her students. She had an assumption about this mother that came from a couple of interactions with her. When she set aside those assumptions and looked at the facts honestly, she recognized that her assumptions might not be true. This realization gave her the opportunity to develop a stronger, more confident perspective and allowed her to take a more curious and empathetic approach to the mother. Not surprisingly, the follow-up conversation was much more positive and fruitful.
This perspective shifting can help you see many things, not just people, in a different, more positive, light, which ultimately leads to less angst.
I bet you’ve heard this before. It seems that activity is prescribed for much of what ails us, including the overwhelm, depression and confusion that comes with change. This antidote comes with good science behind it. Science tells us that the endorphins that are released when we are physically active can reduce our perception of pain and lift our mood.
At my house, “Why don’t you go to the gym?” is code for “You’re overwhelmed/too stressed/worrying too much.” Inevitably, when I follow this prescription, I come home in a lighter, happier place and am better able to manage the competing priorities in front of me. A few weights, a vigorous (or not so vigorous) walk, or pushing your child on the swing are sure to lighten your load.
If change is all around you, your natural tendency may not be to think about personal or professional development. Sometimes, however, it may be just the right thing. As one of my clients found, focusing on her own development has given her not only additional skills but also greater confidence as she transitions into a new job.
Consider former president George W. Bush, who famously learned to paint since he left the White House. Leaving the presidency and re-entering private life must bring its own stresses. President Bush chose to successfully navigate his transition by learning a new skill.
My husband recently lost his sight. While he has had medical issues for years, they were nothing compared to this recent change. It is tempting to insulate yourself when really tough stuff is happening. However, I am learning that I am better and stronger when I connect with others and when I let others help. A very dear friend said to me, “It’s OK if you ask for help, it is a gift I want to give you.” Talk about changing perspectives!
Change comes in all shapes and sizes: job loss, serious illness, getting married, getting divorced, moving cross country and the list goes on. Whatever changes or hardships you experience in life, there is hope and light and life available when you are open, active, mindful, growing, and connected.
Previously published on forbes.com