As we head into the holiday season, I am reminded at every turn what last year’s Christmas looked like:
My usually healthy father was facing potential death after an emergency diagnosis of a tumor and subsequent hormone crash that almost took his life. One Sunday, we were at the Santa Brunch with the kids, and by New Year’s Eve, I was at his hospital bedside.
Life changes on a dime.
We all have been personally reminded of this the past year. It goes without saying that 2020 stretched us in ways we never imagined. We have each faced adaptations, loss, and shadows particular to our own experience.
We have seen COVID-19 affect our communities, healthcare, and economic systems. Some experienced unrelated health crises in their families that were further complicated by the pandemic environment. Some lost jobs or a purpose for existing every day. Our kids have no little friends to play with anymore. It’s fair to say almost every human has felt lonely, grieving, or just plain sad at some point over the last year.
We keep going.
Every day offers the chance to keep trying, keep adapting, and keep living. And it is exactly that—what keeps us going—that I want to dig into.
Call it what you want: a positive mindset, a grateful heart, a spiritual perspective—perhaps they are one and the same. But the point is, they all generally embody the same key themes. And maintaining that mindset is what is going to get us through even the most challenging of times.
It is what allows us to see the miracles in life in spite of the hot mess currently in front of us.
Curious? Let’s dive into what those themes are:
Hope: do you choose to accept this growth mission?
Having a growth mindset is what is going to propel us to face our challenges and curveballs head-on.
Let’s face it: no one would ever really choose the hardships they’re dealt, but at the same time, no one on this earth can escape them!
Why not face the challenges head-on, owning them as our own lessons to overcome? To advance to the next level, one must experience this phase. To turn the page, this chapter must first be written.
I have always held the mentality that Earth is a school for souls. We are handed the cards we are dealt as part of the personal curriculum we have come here to master. When we accept that, it propels us to accept life’s challenges for what they are: challenges. Inherently temporary, and something to overcome. It gives great hope.
Grace: there is a way through every block.
These challenging moments really have a way of piling on all the other stuff we don’t want to deal with—am I right?
Like when we are already dealing with another crisis, whyyyy does the guilt, anxiety, or negative self-talk have to play such a huge role at the exact same time?
Another inconvenience: times of stress typically wreck havoc on what? Our physical wellness! Say hello to insomnia, increased coffee and/or alcohol, drive-through meals, and not remembering to drink our water. All seemingly trivial things when faced with the mega-challenge in front of us, but also, kind of essential things to keep us feeling our best.
So what do we typically do? We feel bad about all of the above. And then so much of our experience through whatever the challenge is, is spent absolutely wasted on excess negative emotions like guilt, shame, and self-critique.
We shame ourselves for eating McDonalds because we have nothing else to give. We don’t wake up early to journal, exercise, or meditate because it’s more comforting to our souls to be in bed for 15 minutes longer—and instead of allowing ourselves the grace of getting through a challenging period, we just tell ourselves we “should” be handling this better.
By acknowledging the season we are in, and by knowing where we tend to fall short during times of high stress, we can give ourselves the grace to let go of some things in order to prioritize the kind of self-care we require during this time of need. With this knowledge, we can have extra supports in place and also give ourselves the green light to let go for a while. Give yourself permission. Get rid of certain daily tasks to focus on the one big important thing right now. And—this is the most important—have the confidence we will return once again (when the next chapter has started).
Faith: all is well; I am held; I am being guided.
When we embrace our difficulties as a temporary challenge to overcome, with hope on the other side and grace in ourselves, it is a lot easier to accept the universal support around us (what I consider to be faith).
Using affirmations is such a powerful way to connect with the feeling of an empowered presence, making us feel like the universe has our back.
For instance, adapted from the great Louise Hay, one of my favourite affirmations for times of stress, and that I love to say out loud is, “All is well; I am held; I am being guided.” I close my eyes, breathe in the feeling of support and trust, and breathe out.
Whatever happens next always allows another opportunity to breathe and affirm. It might take repeating this 10 times to feel the effect, but the inexplicable relief is undeniable. Knowing that a bigger force surrounds us and places us as part of a larger plan makes our unique troubles seem a little more temporary.
Love and peace: an attitude of gratitude.
When one is struggling, perhaps the most overlooked or eye-rolled advice we receive is to find gratitude in the experience.
But, perhaps the one doing the eye-rolling has not truly grasped what the practice of gratitude truly enables.
It is the purest form of self-love one can offer themselves: to choose to see the good in themselves or in their life, despite all the emotional mire they find themselves currently wrapped up in.
Gratitude is a muscle to be flexed. It takes practice, and it is not always easy. But there is usually a shred of at least one thing to be grateful for. And in the worst case scenario, being thankful for the growth experience turns out to be the most impactful. It goes back to the growth mindset we touched on earlier: as in, it is essential to tackling any stressful, challenging, or even traumatic experience.
To be grateful to be able to grow through life is essentially to be grateful to be alive.
It is gratitude in its simplest form. To be grateful for the trauma…because it is required of our time here. It is thanks to the trauma that our resilient and powerful selves step through. And that is the fuel to keep us going as we continue to grow through life.
Truly, when times are so tough and there really doesn’t seem like there’s all that much to be grateful for—the one thing we have to hold onto is that we are alive. And just like us, time is always evolving.
I actually can’t think of a better way to find inner peace in light of any sh*tty situation…can you?