The phrase, ‘keep calm and carry on’ first appeared on a British Government poster at the outset of World War Two. In these challenging times, it’s a phrase I’m using myself, a mantra to manage my well-being and to control what’s within my control.
If we are not vigilant, it’s all too easy to allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by the statistics, incessant commentary and economic doom and gloom that bombards us daily. We can easily succumb to pessimism and cynicism and then unconsciously perpetuate it in our conversations.
So how do we keep going in the face of adversity? We ‘carry on’ when we determine what the reality of the current challenging times means to us directly. We ‘carry on’ when we focus on what is within our control. We ‘carry on’ by adapting, thinking outside the box and getting curious about new ways to engage with the world around us.
My well-being is precious, I value it, therefore I put conscious effort into what fuels my mind, body and spirit on a daily basis. From a mental well-being perspective, this means being conscious as to what gets my attention and actively controlling the inputs. For example, do you really need to have a 24-hour news channel droning in the background?
Do you have to have news alerts on your phone? Do you find yourself scrolling social media, a habit that seems to just stoke feelings of annoyance, confusion and anxiety?
For many years now, I control my exposure to ‘the news.’ That doesn’t mean I don’t stay informed. I get the facts and ask myself ‘how does this impact me?’ I draw my own conclusions from the facts. I’m not interested in media commentary and I’m certainly not interested in the echo chamber of social media. With just a little more self-awareness we can control the information we absorb. You would never fuel your body with other people’s garbage. We can apply the same outlook to our minds and spirit. Controlling the inputs is step one in managing our state and well-being from the inside out, as opposed to the outside in.
Enduring challenging times doesn’t mean we won’t be scared. We are not naïve when facing obstacles and difficulties. When I think of the challenges I’ve faced, including two cancer diagnoses, inaction is not an option.
Burying my head in the sand usually means unpleasant decisions are only postponed. In uncertain times when we find ourselves way outside of comfort zone, we are going to feel anxious and self-conscious. All we can do is work on staying calm, as best we can, whilst dipping into our reserves of courage and resolve.
As Martin Luther King said ‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’
It is in times of crisis when our backs are to the wall that we show what we are made of. Think about those times in the past when you found your courage when you chipped away to overcome a challenge when you committed to something and showed your determination when you persevered in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties. We are stronger than we think we are. Our ancestors endured famine and wars. Their resilience is in our DNA.
When times are tough we can easily sink into the quagmire of ‘poor me.’ This might get us attention or sympathy but it never feels good and doesn’t achieve much. If you are looking to feel more upbeat or more confident, put a little effort into supporting and raising the spirits of someone else. As you share words of encouragement with them, you will hear the sound of your own voice.
I’ve found that when I’m feeling low and I want to feel better, I’ll try to shift my focus away from that all-consuming introspection and towards someone else. It helps me get out of my head and into my heart. In being a friend to another, I’m being a friend to myself. In being pleasant, kind and compassionate to another, I’m being pleasant, kind and compassionate to myself.
There are times when we have to raise our hands and ask for help, whether that is simply a listening ear, or more practical help when we feel we cannot cope. In recent weeks, I’ve had to ask for help as I felt overwhelmed with everything I was facing.
My Dad is receiving palliative care in his battle with pancreatic cancer. In additional to anticipatory grief, the frustration of limited hospital visits and the impact it’s all having on my family, it has also brought up issues around my own health. There’s also the on-going impact of Covid 19 on my business and life routines and my milestone birthday in June stirred beliefs about mortality.
As someone with broad shoulders, the most challenging part was acknowledging that even with my habitual glass half full perspective, accrued wisdom and the self-management strategies at my disposal, I still needed external help and support. Sometimes the most courageous action is to raise our hands and ask for help. New layers of inner strength are found on the far side of vulnerability.
When life challenges us rather than slipping into victimhood we have the option to manage our state and mindset, to keep calm and carry on. We will always do our best, but our best is never static, it will fluctuate daily, sometimes hourly. We deal with the daily realities but can allow ourselves to glance to the future and to the time when this crisis ends because it will end. ‘This too shall pass.’ Then it won’t be about getting back to normal, because we have gone through too much to regress to the habits of the old normal. We can endeavour to reach for something better because we’ve worked on being just a little better ourselves.
If you enjoyed reading this then do check out my post on Rebooting Business (& Life)
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