Adapting & Finding Purpose During Times of Challenge
There are so many changes taking place rapid-fire in this on-going season of COVID-19, and you are wired to adapt. It just takes learning how, and your mind is key. As shared in my last post, during times of perceived stress, your brain may either send signals to your body to release chemicals such as adrenaline or cortisol, or perhap restrict blood flow to go into a collapse/shut down state.
HOWEVER, YOUR BRAIN IS NOT RESPONDING TO ACTUAL STRESS IN YOUR ENVIRONMENT, BUT TO YOUR PERCEPTION OF STRESS.
Your perceptions determine whether you will get a boost of adrenaline, collapse in exhaustion, or have a moment of gratitude. In my last blog, I shared about the importance of listening to our bodies and regulating through movement, breath, and naming the felt sense. This is VITAL in releasing trauma energy and regulating through challenge, but may have limits when it comes to determining whether or not your nervous system will activate in the first place. When you learn to shift your perceptions, you can actually prevent, minimize, or alter that chemical stress response.
So… how can we begin to master our perceptions?
- Create a gratitude list of how your current challenge is serving you - Gratitude lifts your energy OUT of your hormonal centers. Hint: as you read over your list, close your eyes and notice where you FEEL gratitude in your physical body.
- Ask yourself good questions - “The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life.” - John Demartini
- How is this situation serving me? Forcing me to expand?
- What am I being forced to do that is actually helping me?
- What am I not having to do anymore?
- Where do I feel relief?
- What am I getting to learn?
- How am I receiving new forms of support and love? (How have I received new forms of wealth if I have lost wealth?)
- What was the drawback to life before this situation?
- Name Your Fears - Our brain craves order. Once your brain can identify all the fears it's working with, it can actually begin to work through them - sometimes without your awareness!
- Make a plan of what you would do if your fear comes true - Now you are bringing even more order to the chaos. Plans can also be a jump-start for inspiration.
- Get clear on what you value (prioritize) in order to identify your purpose. Your purpose is linked to the things you value or prioritize. Examine the things you talk about, think about, how you spend your money, and how you surround your home and work space. It's easy to have a fantasy about what you think your values are, but your habits, finances, mental energy and time reveal your true values. Check out the Values Determination (free) on the Demartini Institute website if you want to do a more detailed examination. (For those feeling shame or guilt about your true values - trust that there is purpose and brilliance in ALL values! I’ve worked with individuals who have had a high value on Netflix, social media, or substances and initially felt ashamed - but when we dug deeper, we discovered their particular activities revealed a deeper value and had an incredible function in their life.)
- Once you have identified your values, create realistic goals around these values.
- Creating goals that inspire you (& are based on your values) increases your energy, increases your sense of purpose, and strengthens your immune system.
- Ask yourself, “What are the highest priority actions that I can take today to help me achieve these goals?”
Setting unrealistic goals can actually set you up for another biochemical stress response. So can setting goals that are more aligned to someone else’s values rather than your own. Notice any temptation to subordinate to someone else’s values. I see many people attempting to set goals based on who they think they “should” be - essentially they are comparing themselves to others and have constructed a fantasy version of themselves. Yet “shoulds” and fantasy versions of yourself deny the brilliance and perfection of who you are NOW. The key is to make goals realistic & tangible AND to make sure that your goals align with YOUR values & loves.
Hint: Some days, your highest priority action may simply be to BREATHE. That is okay and ENOUGH. Other days, you may notice your highest priority actions are bigger or more complex.
Connection to your body is key. If you begin to intellectualize some of these exercises (like me!), pause to breathe, close your eyes, and feel the shifts that are happening on a somatic level as you work through these. In order for change to take place at a cellular level, your mind and body need to be in sync - your body needs to FEEL the shifts that are taking place in your mind.
The idea here is to use these suggestions and questions to widen your perspective, ignite your inner wisdom, listen to your intuition, and begin to create new patterns of balanced perceptions in your mind and body. Positive thinking can do more harm than good, but by finding BOTH the positive & negative, getting clear on your values, and taking actions that inspire you, you will adapt and become more resilient.