Do You Have ‘Bounce Back’ Ability?

I was recently surprised by someone’s actions. One day they were sad, not psyched up to do anything – either feeling lazy or just unwilling to get out of bed; then the next day they were buzzing around full of energy.

It might not be a remarkable feat since many people do that and have done that before. What piqued my curiosity is how some people are able to pick themselves up while others wallow in their sadness till it trickles into other areas of their lives. Next thing you know, they are sucking the joy out of an engaging conversation or they are complaining about how life has been unfair to them.

Which person are you: the one that wallows or the one that picks themselves up? Where do these positive people get this bounce back ability and how can you get this trait today?

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Life is full of roses…and thorns!

I have said it before, life can be difficult. You hear all these motivation gurus say that the world is your mirror and if you are being negative then you will attract negative stuff into your life. In truth, life just happens. Even the most positive people get unexpected curveballs in their lives.

For instance, you get a phone call from the office telling you to come and pick up your stuff because you’ve been laid off. Then they insult you by saying it’s not that you were doing a bad job, it’s just the economy is in shambles. How do you respond to that? What if you have a family and they were counting on that pay check? What if you had just taken a loan and now you don’t have the income to pay it back? What if you had a medical condition and being employed helped you tap into the health insurance cover your employer provided. Where do you get the money now?

While all this is hypothetical, there are people who have gone through such problems; probably even worse. It is in stories such as these that you discover whether you have a bounce back ability or not. Some people lie down and complain about the problems they are facing. They go around looking for an audience to hear their sob stories. In time, they refine their stories to the point that deep down they enjoy sharing it. Other people try to get back up as quickly as possible.

Here is how you can bounce back:

  1. Don’t let yourself wallow

I’ve read before that if you are feeling sad you should allow yourself to feel sad and that it will eventually ebb away. Some of us look for every excuse to listen to our favourite sad songs. The musicians just seem to understand exactly what we are going through. But isn’t life too short to spend it being sad? Wouldn’t you rather be smiling?

Recently, I’ve discovered this principle that while feelings cause actions, actions can also cause feelings. For instance, if you are sad (feeling) you are likely to listen to sad music (action). However, if you listen to uplifting music (action) you are going to be happier (feeling). Try it out.

Writers and people in other creative professions understand this concept well. If you don’t feel like writing, you will stare at your Microsoft Word for hours. But if you decide to start writing something anyway, you will start feeling psyched up to write even more than you had originally planned and the words will keep flowing.

  1. Take out the emotion and understand your problem

Simply put, you can’t fight against what you don’t understand. For those who’ve had a big problem such as being fired unexpectedly, it usually comes as a hammer blow. Your emotions are all over the place. What’s worse, fear starts to kick in spinning all types of tales about your imminent demise. It is a bad place to be mentally.

If you can somehow strip away all the emotions you are feeling and confront your problem with solutions in mind, you will be able to come to terms with your situation.

For instance, if you’ve lost your job, here are some ideas of what you can do:

  • Figure out what you are good at e.g. perhaps this is your chance to become a freelancer in writing, a consultant, a businessman, a salesman, develop a product from home etc.
  • If your quality of work led to you being fired, come up with ideas on how to tackle that problem so that it doesn’t threaten your next job.
  • Could you go back to school to improve your credentials?
  • Had you been planning to take a break from work to go on a sabbatical or extended holiday?
  • Do you have a connected network that can help you get a new job?

These are all ideas that can take the emotion out and help you focus on solutions.

  1. Go for counselling

There is a stigma around seeking support through counselling sessions no matter what problem you are facing.

Counselling should not always be used as a last resort.

It helps you get out of your head and see your problems from a different perspective. You get to speak to someone who is concerned about your well-being and wants to see you get back on your feet again. Most importantly, you get to share your thoughts and fears in a non-judgemental environment. Going for counselling can help you bounce back sooner than you would have if you did it alone.

Plus, it doesn’t always have to be a professional counsellor. Maybe you have someone who cares for you and always gives you an ear when you need advice. Seek them out and share with them. As I always say, be there for others also. If you see someone who you think is struggling with a problem, reach out to them and offer to help them find solutions.

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  1. Take it on the Chin

Unfortunately, the more you go through negative situations and come out of them ‘alive’, you build character which helps you every time you face adversity. Bounce back ability is a learned trait.

What happened the first time you fell off your bike? You had to get up and try again till you finally got it. That is true of life. You will face different tough situations and each time you will have to decide whether you will shy away or you will take on the problem head on. The more you face your demons, the greater your bounce back ability will become.

  1. Have faith

I am reminded of the story of the origin of the Christian song ‘It is well with my soul’. This man put his family on a ship and was going to meet up with them later but then received word that the ship had capsized. What a devastating moment! But do you know what happened when his ship got to the spot where his family had died? He wept for them and wrote “It is well; it is well with my soul”. You can imagine all the pain he felt at that moment. Yet he spoke from a point of faith that everything will be okay.

It would be a lie if I said that you won’t have scars; that you won’t face overwhelming battles. That is just part of life. The key is to have faith that everything will be okay in the end. As motivational speaker Les Brown says, “It is much easier to have faith when everything is going well.” But it is in those moments when you are afraid, when you are in pain, when you are beaten down that you have to find a way to have faith. Once you lay hold of it and believe in a positive outcome, you are able to cope with whatever you are facing.

All these tips will help you as you develop your bounce back ability. Just remember, even fighters who are champions get hit from time to time. The only difference is they keep coming back over and over again until their problem (the other fighter) is defeated. You can bounce back as well!

 

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Your Life on Earth

In recent times, I have been constantly talking about how your life is precious and why you should never consider giving up even when the pressures of life keep stressing you.

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The BBC website has a great interactive feature that shows how much the world has changed since the time you were born. It is an interesting interactive segment that you should go and check out using this link: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141016-your-life-on-earth.

We are all part of a great Earth Story and our lives are “connected by invisible threads”.

Enjoy that great feature!

Life Issues: Who’s Got Your Back?

The reality of life is that it goes on even if your world is in turmoil. Sad but true.

You look around you and you realize that everyone else is going through their own personal trials and tribulations. That is the nature of life.

When John Smith* came to the conclusion that his dream had failed and there was no means to salvage it, he gave up on living. The failed dream broke him in many ways. Here was a devastated man with no one to turn to because everyone else was facing their own struggles. He felt all alone and depressed. So he did what many broken men/women do when they don’t have a reason for living: he started planning his suicide.

Who can blame him? After all, we all respond differently to trying circumstances in our lives. But perhaps there was a better way for him to deal with his problems. Perhaps what he really needed was a support system.

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What a Support System Entails

A support system can be anyone or any group of people who are willing to share your burden by offering mental and emotional support. It can be a family member or a close friend who allows you to unburden yourself or people who have formed a group to support each other through tough life circumstances.

Benefits of a Support System/Group
  1. You get to unburden yourself

The problem with feeling alone is that you are stuck with all your problems inside your head. Sometimes all you need is a different perspective on things, hence the saying “A problem shared is a problem half-solved”. Talking to someone can help you better understand what you are going through. You also get to bounce your ideas off them. If you are in a support group, you can hear from people’s experiences and be able to work out a solution for your problems based on what you hear.

  1. Comfort from comrades

It is always a relief when someone who was struggling discovers that there are other people going through similar struggles. It creates a sense of brotherhood and peace of mind that you can work with your ‘comrades’ to eventually find a solution to your pain. No one wants to be alone, and thankfully, you don’t have to be.

  1. Get advice and feedback

Some people are trained to provide helpful counselling to those who are struggling in life. Even in the context of support groups, there are those who are either trained or have enough experience of dealing with situations in their lives and can therefore offer you relevant advice and feedback that can help you through your own issues.

How to Find a Support Group

Finding a support group is not as complicated as it might appear. Although they don’t advertise themselves, there are usually a lot of support groups scattered around any city. Here are a few tips to help you find one:

  1. Do a Google Search for your area

You can try using different search parameters (e.g. mental health support group+location etc.). The search engine provides a lot of information about forums that are discussing your question and you can therefore find something listed about your area.

Note: If you are more comfortable talking to people online as opposed to face-to-face meetings, you can give it a try. Nevertheless, it is better to meet people and connect with them.

  1. Check the yellow pages and contact health organizations

Health organizations are a rich resource for finding information on health issues. They usually have lists of groups that provide counselling and support. Therefore, if there is an organization in your area, you can ask them for directions to the nearest group.

  1. Get referrals from your doctor or health workers

This is similar to the previous point in the sense that doctors always know someone who can handle a specific health problem you have. Therefore, most likely, a doctor would know about the presence of a support group in the region or at least refer you to someone who might know.

What can you do?

Life is difficult and we cannot make it on our own. Find a way through which you can be there for someone to help them through their struggles. Sometimes the only thing that people need is an ear.

Point to Note

John Smith* is alive today because someone chose to let him share what was bothering him. Until that point, he thought that no one cared about him and that no one would miss him if he committed suicide. Such kind of thinking is usually unintentional, just a symptom of the greater mental health and depressive issues afflicting one’s mind.

If you are out there and you have no one to talk to, consider calling a local Helpline. They always have counsellors on stand-by who are willing to listen to you and let you share your problems with them.

If you can’t find someone to talk to, feel free to contact me as well through my contact form.

We all need each other. Sometimes, though, help is not forthcoming. When you find yourself alone and scared with no one to turn to, never give up.

There is always a way out for everyone. Nevertheless, you need to prepare yourself beforehand for tough moments. Ask yourself today, “Who’s got your back?”

*not real name

Find the Meaning in the Suffering

Life isn’t easy. It can be painful especially when you’ve tried so many times and still failed. This is the point when you just throw your hands in the air and declare, “I have had enough of this!”

Who could blame you for giving up? After all, you have tried and tried without much to show for your efforts. That’s not the issue though. The problem is what is going through your mind right now. By putting the label ‘failure’ to your experience you have altered the mindset you should really have about what has happened. Thus, you are now feeling depressed because you think that you are not good enough. At worst, you are even contemplating suicide. There are a lot of people who are winning and achieving great things, therefore, you mistakenly think that no one will miss a failure like you.

Hope in the midst of suffering

But I wonder; after putting so much effort into succeeding, will you let all your energy, desire, work and effort go to waste by stopping now? You have suffered a lot already. See it through to the end. Someone once said, “When you are exercising, the real work out begins when you are tired”. It BEGINS when you are tired. Not when you are strong, motivated, or succeeding. The real work begins the moment you want to give up.

In life, it’s never really what you accomplish, but rather, who you become by accomplishing a particular goal. You learn new things; you build your character; you build your strength; and you increase your belief the moment you decide to push through the pain. What would have become of the electric bulb if Thomas Edison had given up after failing over a thousand times? You have something to give to the rest of the world. You might not know what that is right now. Nevertheless, the world is lucky to have you. You are important.

Pain in Suffering

We hurt deeply when we lose something amazing in our lives. It’s always unexpected and painful. But no matter what you go through, you are stronger than you know. In his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Dr. Viktor Frankl describes how he lost his family, his house, his job as a respected doctor, and his unpublished book manuscript. He found himself at a Nazi concentration camp where he lost many of the friends he made and lived everyday amidst dying comrades, starvation, spreading diseases, harsh weather conditions and the threat of being taken to the gas chambers. There didn’t seem to be any point in living.

But despite this harsh existence where it was easier to die than to live, Dr. Frankl said that regardless of what happens to us, we don’t lose everything. We are still left with the one thing that matters: the power to choose how we will respond to the crisis in our lives. We have the power to decide whether we will approach life’s hardships with a positive mindset or a negative one. He describes the essence of his book as this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, “To live is to suffer; to survive, is to find some form of meaning in the suffering”.

Dr. Frankl suffered, but he left a profound legacy on the world that has helped many people. He chose to survive and to share his life with others. As a result, he inspired many people with the message that no matter what you go through, there is a lesson to be learnt.

Tough Lessons

It is important to avoid the mindset of absolutes. Good things will not stop coming to your life. That isn’t to say that losing something precious won’t hurt because there are good things yet to come into your life. It will hurt. It will not be easy but you shall survive.

There is always a lesson in our suffering. Once you learn, you can teach and inspire others. Don’t give up. Choose to face life’s tough circumstances and soon you will find yourself on the other side. It won’t be easy, but only you can find the meaning in the suffering. And when you do, you will realize that you are a better ‘you’ than you were before.

Believe that you can get through life’s hardships. Just find the meaning in the suffering.

No Matter What Happens, Never Give Up!

You are going to go through a lot of pain in this world; that is guaranteed. There will be sickness, heartbreak, loss and failure. These things will make you feel weak and insignificant. In other moments, you will find yourself feeling alone and judged. In others, you will be indifferent to what is going on around you. Worse still, there will be moments when you will believe that the world would be a better place if you were dead.

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No one signed up for this. You were put here for a reason. It is up to everyone to find their own purpose in life. Finding one’s purpose can also become a pain. After all, what are you supposed to do if you don’t know what you are meant to be doing? Sometimes it can even take a lifetime to discover what your purpose is and it’s frustrating when you look around and everyone else seems to know what their purpose is. You see your friends, your neighbours and your family members waking dutifully everyday to fulfil whatever their purpose might be and you are just there wasting away into insignificance.

How can you not get jealous? You look around and all your peers seem to have ‘made it’ in life. Look at their big house; their amazing spouse; look at the big, expensive car they are driving. Where did you go wrong? How will you get out of your rut? Even the people closest to you don’t believe in you anymore. You could have been this; you could have been that. Just face the facts, you are a failure. The world would be better off without you in it.

Don’t Believe Them. You Have a Purpose in the World

Despite how harsh life may seem, there is always one constant: Everything in life happens for a Reason.

No matter what happens to you, there is a reason; a story that is being created from that moment you have experienced. The reality is that every important lesson you learn is going to be painful, in one way or another. There is no escaping it. Life will lift you up and throw you down and there is no guarantee you will land on a pillow. You are going to get hurt mentally and emotionally.

Wherever you are and no matter what it is you are going through, don’t ever give up. It may take a while for you to get out of the rut you are in but if you stay positive, eventually you will make it out. Your painful journey changes you in so many imperceptible ways. But at the end of it all, you will realize that all your struggles were merely chipping away at the person you are not in order to reveal to you who you really are.

You are stronger than you have ever known or imagined. Problems in your life seem greater than you but they can be overcome.

Ryan Blair, in his book ‘Nothing to Lose’, says that, “All pain in life is derived to make you stronger; a battle test from God. The greater the test, the greater the strength you will derive from it”. No matter where you run to you will not be able to escape pain. It is inevitable. Dr. Viktor Frankl says in his book ‘A Man’s Search for Meaning’, that we can never truly lose everything because we are still left with the power to choose how we will respond to the problems in our lives. We have the power to decide our attitude toward our problems.

In life, you are not meant to have the same experiences as your family members, neighbours or friends. Everyone will get what is meant for them and so will you. Comparing yourself to other people will only make you bitter and jealous. You will pierce your soul with envy. The better thing to do, instead, is to choose what you will focus on. Look closely at your life and you will find you have a lot of things to be grateful for. You might not have the big car or the house but you have your body. You might not have the latest smartphone but you have your mind intact. These are just examples of things you can be grateful for. You will be happier when you do so.

What do you do now?

As Anthony Robbins says, “It’s not what’s happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it’s your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you’re going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny”.

Everyone who has achieved anything significant has gone through failure. Failure is not a bad thing. It just shows you what you need to correct in order to succeed. If the people around you mock you or make you feel unworthy of love then you need to leave them behind. All the people who truly care about you will want the best for you and will encourage you. Those are the people you need to surround yourself with.

Just remember that the “Night is darkest just before dawn”. You will go through tough times. Believe me, you can bear the pain and come out a better and stronger person. So no matter what happens, never give up!

2015: The Keys to a Healthier You

The new year brings a sense of pride in having survived 2014 and a sense of optimism for what the future holds in store in 2015.

There are those who are excited about what they are setting out to accomplish, whereas others are merely trudging along, dealing with situations in their lives as they arise. For those with mental health issues or know someone with a mental health problem, life is looked upon with different eyes. There are challenges that seem more daunting than they really are while others are simply overwhelming.

Looking to the future

This year, 2015, provides a great opportunity to utilize all the information we have gathered in the previous year to set ourselves on the path of being healthy. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Go for a medical check-up

With sky-rocketing costs of medicine and healthcare insurance premiums, it is easy to avoid visiting the hospital when you are ‘feeling fine’. There are many diseases which don’t exhibit any symptoms until your immune system is fully compromised and overwhelmed. Going to the hospital for a check-up has helped a lot of people to spot life-threatening diseases before they took hold over the body. So, no matter what the prices look like, remember that you are saving yourself more money by knowing the status of your health.

As recently mentioned, you can ask your doctor to test for the MTFHR gene mutation which will give you a heads up on whether your family will be beset with mental health issues. While some mental health issues can be linked with one’s lifestyle, the key cause of mental health issues lies within this gene mutation. You can spare your family a lot of heartache by getting tested and knowing your status, so that you can live responsibly and also so that you can be better taken care of. It is always better to know the monster you are facing.

  1. Learn to Manage Stress

Stress is an essential component of our lives. It makes us more aware of our decisions and choices, and it also helps us identify problems and solve them. In our society today, stress can become unmanageable to the extent that one’s quality of life deteriorates. Stress affects relationships, hinders personal development and even weakens the body’s immune system thus making people prone to diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

You need to find ways of managing stress. The first thing you should do is identify the stressors and take charge. If you are always reacting to the stress that means you are not in control of your life. Be more assertive and don’t take on more than you can handle. But most importantly, you should approach any problem with a positive attitude and perspective.

  1. Keep depression at bay

Depression is a silent killer. Many people never know they are depressed until their lives break down completely. Other people never know that someone – including a loved one – is suffering from depression until that person shares their problem or attempts to commit suicide. Everyone is going through some sort of struggle and it is easy to suffer in silence because no one seems to care about you.

Stay healthy and free from depression by managing your stress better. Ensure that you maintain your social life and interact with other people. Go outside and get some sunshine and some fresh air. Find a purpose in life that excites you and pursue it. These are just some ideas to tackle depression before it ruins your life.

For more information on how to keep depression at bay, you can read my article here.

  1. Help others. It will help you.

We spend our whole lives focussing on ourselves: our problems, our relationships, our happiness etc. There’s just too much going on in our lives to focus on other people. Life however shows that by helping others, we help ourselves. Once you shift your focus from your life and struggles and focus on someone else, you begin to see life in different eyes. You get a new perspective on what is important in life.

One issue that I highlighted last year was that, people don’t ask others how they are doing. Sometimes people struggle in silence and it takes someone who cares to understand them and uplift their spirits by sharing in their pain. Aim to be that person this year. It will work wonders on your health as you will have different approach to life. Empathising with others also gifts you a mental fortitude to help you in your life’s journey.

  1. Keep your mind active

Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease. These are all mental health diseases that have brought fear and pain to our society. Some mental health illnesses can be kept at bay by constantly keeping your brain active. This year, choose to become a reader. Read a lot and gather a lot of information. Analyse things in your mind and challenge your brain to solve complex issues and recall information.

There is a fear amongst people that as you get older, your memory wanes. Well, if you don’t exercise your brain, this issue will become your reality sooner rather than later. Exercise your mind. It will protect you from diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Staying healthy this year and beyond, is important not only for you but for the people who love you. Keep yourself healthy and have a positive outlook on life. Things are not always as bad as they seem.

Happy New Year. Have a Blessed 2015!

When the Pressures of Life Weigh You Down

Life is brutal. There is of course the “You get what you expect in life” aphorism or the one about how “You can see your life through different lenses; either a positive outlook or a negative one, and in each case you will be right”. None of that changes the fact that life is brutal. It is impersonal. It does not care about your status in society. Neither does it matter whether you are the kindest soul or the vilest person on the planet. It will dish out its brutality in unequal measure. At least that’s how it seems.Pressures of life

You have bills to pay. The kids haven’t had a decent meal in a while. Your landlord wants to evict you. You’ve just been laid off. Your department is no longer needed and therefore they won’t require your services anymore. You’ve just found out your spouse has been cheating on you with your best friend. The doctor has just announced that your only child has a terminal illness. A reckless driver just totalled your car and now you are paralysed from the waist down. That vacation of a lifetime took you to an area where you contracted a flesh-eating bug. That pimple on your face is actually a cancerous tumour. It’s brutality everywhere. That is life.

It all sounds bleak. Perhaps it is true when they say you should focus on the positive things that life has to offer. As one song says, “Count your blessings name them one by one”. Apparently, when you count your blessings, your outlook changes and you realize that things are not as bad as they appear. Is that supposed to be comforting? How will you solve your current problems? Who will help you when everyone around you is going through their own personal hell? Why do bad things happen to good people?

That is the nature of life. Sometimes the pressures of life can weigh you down and there doesn’t seem to be any respite in the near future. Your friends have turned their back on you and your family doesn’t seem to love you anymore. You are all alone. You are broke and all your creditors want a piece from you. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. People say you are useless; foolish even. The world would be better off without you.

Surely, what’s the point of living? Might as well escape the brutality, right?

New Eyes

If you’ve read the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl (if not, I would definitely recommend it), you realize that life will do with you as it pleases. It will tear you down to your bare bones till all you can see is the real you. You will question your purpose on this earth when all the pressures of life weigh you down. You are here for a reason but what is it? Were you just put here to suffer?

Most of the kindest people on earth are those who have suffered deeply in their hearts and minds. The only thing that separates those who make it through this life is willpower. Yes, you are suffering. But you are not the only one. You are not alone. There are many other people going through the same struggle. There are millions more whose struggles you would not wish to bear. We are bound to one another through our lives; through our shared pain. We are all in this together.

That’s why you are always urged to smile at people and be kind whenever possible “because you do not know what struggles they may be going through”. It is just a small way of saying, “Despite the pain you are feeling, I appreciate that we are in this together”. It’s a shared kinship.

Life is not that bleak. It is true you need to teach yourself to look at life with new eyes. There is so much beauty around us that goes unnoticed. When is the last time you took a second to stare at the moon? When is the last time you closed your umbrella and just raised your head to the sky and embraced the rain? When’s the last time you tried to share a joke with the quiet person in the room? When is the last time you just smiled at a random stranger as you passed and they smiled back at you?

Like in other things in life, it is the little things that matter. How did you make a million? I just decided to change my product from green to blue. How did you win that football match? I just tweaked the tactics a little and we took control of the game. What do you love about her? There’s this little noise she makes when she laughs. What do you like about him? There’s this little look he gets when he sees me.

It’s the little things that matter!

Look around you and find whatever it is that makes you happy; even for a moment. The pain will always be there but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be interspersed with moments of sheer joy. Perhaps it’s even a good idea to start living your bucket list right now. There are so many people who are trying to complete their bucket lists quickly because they’ve been told they have a terminal disease.

Maybe taking the attitude that we don’t have long to live can spur us to great heights. We can love deeply; live without fear; speak kind words to one another; share our meals with those who don’t have the means; give a stranger our parking space; be patient with one another; appreciate our earthly possessions more; go to all our kids’ ballgames; sing passionately; and even sleep peacefully. Life would be an expression of love.

Life brings suffering but Love is effusive. Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “To live is to suffer; to survive is to find some form of meaning in the suffering”. We can choose to see the world with new eyes. We can accept the reality of the world and still do the things that will bring joy to our lives. We can love our lives in spite of the inherent flaws. Only then can we connect with others in the eternal bond that binds us together: Life.