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December 10, 2013

Grace Under Pressure. ~ Melissa Horton

I am a failing example of this, time and time again. Life gets challenging, the world seemingly caves in, and those warm bodies in close proximity inevitably fade into the darkness that surrounds a bad day, or week, or month.

The busyness that is so easily all-encompassing catapults me into the type of depression that no one cares for. Not the quiet moment of expected sadness that eventually brings peace and a calm that freezes time.

No, it is the black hole of emotional exhaustion that paves the way for a terribly pissy version of me. Don’t talk to me, don’t text me, and for the sake of your own well-being, don’t ask me what’s wrong. The self deteriorating deep fog comes in waves, and although I have the power to let it pass with grace at times, I have more encounters than I would like with a “ruined” moment that I cannot get back.

Time is a precious, intangible gift that we all must cherish. Be present, breathe, look around, grow. Four simple steps to each day, in theory, at least. We can be present and still miss the proverbial boat of present-ness, a less than mindful departure from our core, releasing a sort of toxin that we must either diffuse with uncovering a hidden joy of the day, or sit in, and rot.

We owe ourselves so much more than the latter option provides, but from time to time, it can be the struggle of our lives to move past it in a meaningful way.

Here are my tips to live gracefully, under pressure.

1) Prioritize to minimize chaos

My to-do lists are my lifeline, but occasionally can be more daunting than helpful. Having four legal-sized, white, lined pages of scribbles, all that must be done in the next two hours makes the head spin, and rightfully so. I’ve come to realize that it is less than necessary the majority of the time.

Instead, create tasks that are soul-feeding and manageable, measurable and clear. Not all of us are in a position that allows for filling the passion bucket on a daily basis, but whether this is the case or not, start with those tasks that make us happy. Send a thank you note to your most recent client, complete the task you were assigned by your boss that was holding him or her up from completing their tasks, do whatever it is we must, work-wise, to create a calmer day for us, first.

Some would argue that the purpose of creating to-do lists should be focused solely on those activities that give the most bang for the monetary buck. I am challenging each of us to hone in on what feeds our soul the most, as the other to-dos will follow with a higher level of ease, sans the less than pleasant attitude.

2) Plan for quiet breaks

Busy can be such a depressing state for the human soul to stay in for an extended period of time. Work and work and work some more until the sun is setting on the day and we have accomplished little, but are obviously physically and mentally wiped out. I struggle with this on a fairly regular basis, and have a hard time getting out of my own way when things keep piling up. What I have learned, through countless failed attempts mind you, is that a planned break, void of communication with others and no list is imperative to a successful (also known as joyous) day.

I have found that talking a walk in between e-mails, turning off the tunes on the commute home, or simply sitting on my couch in a calm kind of a quiet does wonders for my mind.

We are not all exceptionally comfortable without noise or connectivity to others, but to take a true moment for ourselves, even in small doses throughout the day will change our view on the outside as we begin to focus inward.

3) Be grateful, mindfully

I spent years in my immensely competitive career worried about where the next client would come from, and how soon. An empty calendar and no e-mails to respond to the moment I woke up made me awkwardly uncomfortable, with myself and, I have been told, for anyone within an arm’s reach.

My business partner, who has been sober for eight years now, suggested I start my day with notes of thanks, instead of stress for the upcoming day. For a year, we exchanged e-mails each morning listing three things for which we were grateful, and while some mornings my lists were a challenge to create, I started to notice a change in my psyche.

Over the course of a few months, three was not enough, so I transitioned to a Thankful Journal to record each of these things, people, moments I was truly grateful for. I also found that the process started to move away from material things (like coffee, for instance, that ended up in my e-mail at least twice a week), to moments and relationships with others.

We must remember that there is so much beauty around us, at any given moment, even when it seems we are drowning in the muck. Being able to open the journal and remember what I was thankful for the day prior, or last year, has been a blessing to say the least. Attitude adjustments come quickly once the process becomes a habit.

4) Remember our bubble

Overwhelmed and subsequently in a foul mood? People notice, even if we think we are hiding it well. Our energy resonates through everything we do. Facial expressions speak volumes, and can generate such a powerful bubble, or aura, that those around us feed off of. An immense level of pressure from outside sources can cause our bubble to be filled with crap, and the longer we linger in that mess, the more people we negatively affect. We must be aware of how much we are stinking up our environment, and work diligently to do one of two things: remove ourselves from the funk through following the aforementioned steps, or remove ourselves from others as to not impact their bubbles.

If we know it takes more than a few moments to get out of a bad mood, as is the case for me, be aware and back away. There is no shame in taking time to get back to center. Friends, lovers, co-workers will thank you for being cognizant of your funk, and steering clear of bubble infection (that sounds a bit gross, but you know what I mean).

All in all, grace under pressure is an achievable feat. It may seem damn near impossible some days, and a non-issue others, but keeping in mind that we must be the priority in order to affect positive change in our world is imperative to having consistent good days.

Looming deadlines, growing to-do lists, and personal sulking be damned; we are the light necessary to shine through those moments, so take good care to keep bright today.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: Flickr}

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Melissa Horton

Melissa Horton was raised in a sleepy Midwest town, and now thrives in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.  A lover of music and an avid writer, first, she has been a financial literacy professional for her entire adult life, starting her own financial planning firm in 2012. She prides herself on helping others envision and ultimately achieve their goals for the future, while keeping a mindful eye on her own passions and voice. In her down time, she thoroughly enjoys listening to tunes, journaling, and spending time with her family and closest friends.  She is committed to giving back to her community, feeding her philanthropic soul by volunteering for non-profits focused on education reform nationwide.  Above all else, she is a proponent for personal growth, both within herself and encouraging others to join the ride. Visit Melissa’s blog or Facebook page.