You Are Stronger Than You Think
A few years ago when I was preparing for a TEDTalk, my mom gave me a necklace with a quote from Christopher Robin (Winnie the Pooh) that said, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” It became my foundational mantra and inspired the title of my second book, Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience, and Triumph.
I think it’s safe to say that the coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken us all by surprise, and quite frankly, it’s kicking our asses. As we balance physical health, virtual work environments, caring for children and elders, and economic concerns it is hard not to feel overwhelmed, stressed and out of control.
Life is full of twists and turns, bumps, potholes, and sometimes even a pandemic or global crises. I can say with complete confidence, that this is hard. I also know that we can do hard things and grow stronger as a result.
I have been working with teams all over the globe to help them build resilience and navigate this uncertainty, as well as doing interviews and writing articles. A surprising theme of these conversations has been that so many people feel like they are alone in struggling with how to cope with work, life, and everything in between.
“Life is full of twists and turns, bumps, potholes, and sometimes even a pandemic or global crises. I can say with complete confidence, that this is hard. I also know that we can do hard things and grow stronger as a result.”
I can assure you, we are all in this sh*t show together. Everyone, me included, is having conflicted feelings, anxiety, and fear, and that makes it hard to focus, regulate emotions, and feel sane.
When you start to doubt your strength, feel alone, or question your ability to bounce back, here are 5 ways to reset:
#1 – DON’T RUN FROM IT
Fear, anxiety, and other uncomfortable emotions don’t feel good, so we try to run away. We think we’ll deal with it later, or we numb the pain with Netflix and wine. Unfortunately, not dealing with the emotion only serves to increase the intensity and duration of it.
Emotions are simply information, and they cause a neurological and physiological reaction. Just pay attention to it. Sit in it. Don’t judge it. Emotions are not good or bad. They are simply alerting you. Take a few deep breaths, experience the feelings, and then move on.
#2 – CHANGE YOUR INTERPRETATION
When we are stressed, tired, or under pressure, we are more likely to fall back on habitual patterns of thinking and behaving. Why? Because most of us don’t realize that the battle for changing habits isn’t only in our doing, it’s in our thinking.
Our beliefs drive our behavior. Anytime we’re triggered, that trigger causes an emotion. Emotions are neurobiological. We cannot control them. Where you have control is how you interpret it. If your interpretation of a situation is, “The sky is falling! The whole world is coming to an end!”; that is going to drive a different neurological and physiological response than if you interpret it as an opportunity to reevaluate what is most important. Dave Hollis made a great point: “In the rush to return to normal, consider which parts are worth rushing back to”.
#3 – MAKE TIME FOR PHYSICAL & MENTAL HEALTH
Exercise is not something I gravitate toward naturally. I can find all kinds of great excuses for not exercising, but I have had to make it a non-negotiable.
Your mental and emotional health is equally important. One in five adults and children struggle with mental health, and that number has skyrocketed. Depression is a serious mental illness and is typically treated best by a combination of therapy, medication, and self-care. Exercise also helps mental health.. It allows your brain to repair neurons damaged by stress, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and heart disease, produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety, and the list goes on. It creates the good stuff your brain needs when you are in a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety.
You don’t have to run marathons, climb tall buildings, or swim the Atlantic to make dramatic improvements in your cognitive ability and resilience. Even 10 minutes a day builds health, strength, and resilience.
#4 – CHOOSE OPTIMISM
One of my favorite authors is Simon Sinek. I’ve read his books, watched his TEDTalk, and even heard him speak live. When tackling the subject of optimism, he said, “Optimism is not wearing rose-colored glasses. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. That we will find a way to get out of it.”
I think sometimes it is easier said than done when you’re in the middle of it, but choosing optimism means you are deliberate about the way you interpret the adversity in your life. Every situation, especially the cruddy ones, provides an opportunity to challenge our self-defeating, negative thoughts.. And this isn’t just fluff. Scientific research has proven that when we look at life through a lens of positivity, we are more likely to enjoy better mental and physical health. When we attune our attention to the good things, we find more of them because we find what we look for.
Last week I did a Facebook Live with Mo Brossette. Mo is a Mindset and Mediation expert who has created a series of guided meditations to train your brain to respond with gratitude and a readiness that will prepare you for any challenge ahead. You can watch the replay of our conversation on my Facebook page.
#5 – STAY CONNECTED
Like optimism and gratitude, the happiness boost you get from connection with others is crucial to your health and well-being and a key element to building resilience. Having friendships and a sense of belonging is considered a core psychological need and has a big impact on our physical health.
Our new “normal” has flipped the way we connect upside down, but it hasn’t changed the need to connect. Social distancing does not mean social isolation.
Whether you are overwhelmed by your own stress or the suffering of others, the way to remain hopeful is to connect, not to retreat. Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains that when we are stressed, our body produces oxytocin (the cuddle hormone). Our brain produces hormones that signal us to search for connection. In a time when it’s easy to feel isolated and alone, make a genuine effort to reach out, especially to friends and family that live alone.
We will get through this. It is my sincere hope that in these turbulent times you find your inner voice of courage, continue to grow your emotional health and resilience, and reconnect with your triumphant spirit.
Always remember, you are stronger than you think.
Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.
Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work and Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph.