moving forward

One of the old habits I used to shrug on, as easily as an old coat, was unproductive, stressed-out worrying. Often tied to work, I would future trip, running worst-case scenarios that ultimately ended with me being fired, demoted or any other myriad of unlikely events.

My thought patterns would snowball into the most negative of potential outcomes, usually manifesting physically with an elevated heart rate, headache or the worst- sweating. Try walking into a performance review after you’ve mentally already fired yourself and are sweaty, to boot.

The truth is that the worst-case scenario sweating I was doing was usually for naught- I wouldn’t have anything to worry about, and the stressor was something that I had wound up a story about.

One of the biggest shifts for me was changing how I saw those events that stressed me out. I had spun them into roadblocks. Challenges. Impossible hurdles. Apocalyptic events. I took a step back and really examined my thought patterns, my choice of language. And flipped the switch.

Now, these were opportunities. This was a conditioning that took some time, but gradually, I started to see events for what they were- events. Whether it was a meeting, course correction, call, etc, it truly was just an event. I only made it stressful in my mind.

So by reframing to opportunities, everything became more optimistic. When the old, stressed-out thought pattern crept in, I tried to see the flip side. No matter how forced it sometimes felt, I always tried to see it for the potential positive benefit, turning a flight delay into an opportunity for a relaxed airport meal, lost contracts as an opportunity to try new things, changes in operations allowing for advancement in my professional development.

The best part about shifting my thinking? It allowed me to move forward. I wasn’t spinning in circles, stressed about things that were most often out of control. I could maintain a positive mindset and see opportunity further than I had before.

I was texting with a client lately about a current layoff they were going through. Completely unanticipated, the layoff stung. And my client was laser focused on the roadblocks this presented, and how things were horribly uncertain in their life. Focusing on these aspects of the layoff was firmly rooting my client in a cyclical, low-energy thought pattern that didn’t have a chance in hell of moving forward. Not helpful.

So what do you do? You reframe and get creative. We worked on some positive outcomes of the layoff- what does it allow for? What are new opportunities? What did they have more energy for? What did they want to invest their newfound time into? While some answers were more rooted in fantasy than pragmatism, we moved forward into a new space of opportunity, with the tools to create an action plan. Did the layoff still sting? Of course. But it didn’t throw up a roadblock and squash all potential.

When I'm stuck in a stressed out spiral or need to spin things so they go my way, I start with these questions:

·      How can I see this differently?

·      What opportunities does this allow for?

·      Where can I focus my energy to maximize my positive outcome?

alex kelly

public health + personal wellness