Challenges are a part of life. In 2020 we saw a lifetime of challenges. So many of us are still coping with them, even as the end may be in sight. But how we respond to those challenges is completely up to us. I have been teaching teens and young women how to manage their minds regardless of circumstance for many years. I continue to witness how transformative these life changing tools and skills have been throughout the pandemic. When I reflect back on the past 12 months with my clients, the trend is a positive one, in spite of the various and significant challenges that each of them has faced.
The majority of my clients were working with me pre-pandemic and were already developing the tools necessary to navigate their new circumstances. These clients were able to quickly pivot; shifting their thoughts and adapting to their environment. It was amazing to see how these young people not only mentally survived, but actually thrived.
For example, one of my college clients began working with me in the fall feeling completely overwhelmed, anxious, and fearful. Just this week she mentioned that she hasn’t felt this calm or at peace in a very long time. She even shared how hopeful she felt about her future. Powerful confirmation that these tools are for all stages and all challenges, expected and unexpected – and even effective – throughout a global pandemic.
Teens and young women aren’t the only ones who can use these tools. And not all of my clients had an established toolkit. Many of them connected with me after they realized the pandemic would be longer than the initial two-week shutdown. However, the emotional agility all of my clients are working on is something everyone can benefit from. In fact, I use these three steps regularly to keep my own thoughts from being unproductive. I would highly recommend working with a certified life coach to expand your own toolkit. And if you know of a teen or college-aged girl struggling with the lasting effects of the pandemic, let’s connect. But if you’re not ready to make that leap, start with these three helpful steps in order to begin to develop the tools that will enable you to manage your mind, regardless of your circumstance.
1. Accept what is. As I explained here, “accepting what is” isn’t about giving up and retreating. To accept what is, is to realize that what is happening in your world is your reality at least in this moment. Wasting energy by resisting and rejecting something that cannot be changed causes additional and unnecessary suffering. Acceptance is an active process. Acknowledging what is present and also what is reality, even if it is not what you want it to be, is acceptance. Once you have reached acceptance, you can let go of the additional pain and suffering that you’re experiencing.
2. What we focus on expands. Your mindset is crucial in determining what possibilities exist. Shift your focus to having a positive mindset and you’ll experience a snowball effect of positivity. The most resilient people are not people who don’t feel difficult feelings. In fact, they generally feel all of their emotions intensely and openly, but they look for meaning within the challenges they’re experiencing.
- Remember, having a positive mindset does not mean that you can only have positive thoughts and feelings. Everyone feels sad or has negative thoughts – you won’t get stuck there. Allow yourself to feel the negativity. Embrace and acknowledge the uncomfortable thoughts, accept them, and ask yourself “What are these feelings trying to teach me?” Your feelings are simply your internal GPS and are meant to guide you to a deeper understanding and appreciation for what matters most to you.
- Practice gratitude and honor what is also going well in your life. Your brain is wired to be more sensitive to the negativity bias, so embrace the full range of emotions and look for the good.
3. Find your creativity. Use the challenges you face as opportunities to grow and change. How can you shift your thoughts to be helpful or productive? Using a challenge or difficult situation, reimagine what you want your life to be like. Take each challenge in, embrace it, and give yourself space to connect with the challenge and how you’re working through something difficult. You can create the experiences you want for yourself by learning how your thoughts create your reality. Choosing your thoughts intentionally will create more of what you want in your life.
Consider using this time to get really curious about who you want to be right now and what is yours to do. Remain curious about any feelings that arise during these uncertain times. Now is the perfect time to work with a life coach who can help you strengthen the connections to yourself and others in your world. If you know a teen or college-aged girl who could use some guidance and support, visit my website WillseyConnections.com for more information and let’s connect.
As posted on Psychology Today.