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June 2nd, 2015

Staying Positive in Tough Times

Sometimes life can knock you off your feet and throw you into circumstances you aren't prepared to deal with. So what should you do? From my personal experience, staying positive and pushing your way through hardships helps a lot. That said, it is easier said than done! Here's some of what I learned from my recent rough patch:

1. Allow yourself to feel.

Being upset, angry, in shock, or panicked is normal. Give yourself time! If you let your feelings out, you'll be better able to process and understand them than if you keep them all inside. Don't worry if you need a few days, a week, or even longer, to start feeling more like yourself and "settled" into the new situation. It's okay if you're not 100% "recovered" at the end of that time too. Suppressing your thoughts and feelings only delays your recovery time, so don't. You'll be much more level-headed after you release some steam. Let yourself process before you react; not the other way around.

2. Be honest.

If people need to know about your change in situation or circumstance, speak honestly. Admit your own shortcomings, and if another party or person was involved, try to understand their perspective (this doesn't mean you must agree with them, of course). Don't avoid the topic with close family or friends either. A strong support network helps immensely when you're in a bind. The better your support network understands your need, the better they can offer help and encouragement.

3. Act like it's "old news", even if it isn't.

Act like you're "over it" when the topic has to be discussed. This does NOT mean you downplay the issue or act like things didn't affect you! Treating the matter as if you've already processed will help you actually do so. You're acknowledging what happened sucked, but not letting the event(s) define or control you. Bring the focus on the present and the future, so if you already made a plan of action (see below), bring it up! Say something like: "[This is what happened]. I felt [this emotion], but [here's what I'm doing or going to do]."

4. List the bright sides.

No matter how bad things get, there is still something good to be found (even if ironic). The big hardship for me last month came from losing my job. Shocked and devastated, I spent days afraid and anxious. So what was my "bright side"? The sudden influx of freedom! Things I hadn't had time to do—like creating new work for my portfolio and learning new skills—were now how I could spend an entire day. Look ahead at the possibilities instead of staring back at what's lost. There is no "undo" or "reverse" option for life.

5. Plan your next steps.

Once you've processed the events and understand how things will be different here on out, take time to craft a plan. What did you learn from the experience? Consider what you can do, want to do, need to do, and ultimately will do. Prioritize your tasks, and work however is best for you. Don't feel guilty if one day is too hard to get much done. (Remember my tips for stress?) Ask for help if you need someone to keep you company and help you focus! Don't underestimate the power of your support network. Take care of others and they will take care of you.

After having a few days to process my feelings and reflect, I determined my priorities: 1) create new work for my portfolio and 2) apply to companies who align closer to my values. This is what I ended up doing, and now—less than a month later—I already gained a new, great position I'm excited about. And you know what? Now I think losing my job was the best thing to happen to me!

Not knowing what will happen next

doesn't mean it won't lead to something wonderful.