Winning in tough times

Tracy Hutchins

Mindset really does matter and the good news is we are in total control of the way we choose to think.

Have you ever found yourself going through a tough patch in your life? It just feels like everything around you is caving in, all that was familiar, comfortable, fun, now seems foreign and scary. You may have found yourself there more than once, maybe after a relationship breakup or perhaps you have had issues at work, a new boss or you may even have faced the possibility of being retrenched. You could have experienced an upset with a close friend that you can’t explain. Some feel this way, while going through a divorce or when they have issues with one of their offspring. In my case and the reason for this blog right now is the onset of the Corona Virus. 

For the record, I have also had my share of tough times. I however can’t remember being in a situation where my, or our world has been turned so completely upside down as it has been “in lockdown.” I battle daily to come to terms with the fact that this is a world wide pandemic and that barring none, every country and every household has been affected in some way or another. I realize the seriousness of it all and also appreciate that some people will be affected by it more than others.

What stands out for me though, is that there are those of us that remain positive, optimistic although a little on edge, but in control and there are those that are really not coping at all. This is why I thought I would offer up some coping mechanisms because basically everything relates to mindset.

Lockdown for many, highlighted how different life could be. Many families enjoyed their togetherness, mom cooked, dad mowed the lawn, everyone played games together. Families started having zoom lunches and games evenings, and being on line most of the day was not uncommon. There was a throw back to what life could be like without the stress of working parents, school commitments, traffic and the need for material things. Some reveled in their new found freedom and enjoyed the moment.

In contrast to the above, there were those that are living in fear, fear of getting the virus, fear of losing their jobs, fear that their kids are not being educated, fear that relationships would worsen. Some spied on and reported their neighbours for minor offences. Others retreated into their shells and never communicated, spiraling into a depression. Let’s be real, some of the fears are in your face and frightening, but they should never become all consuming.

The question is, what separates the two types of people? The answer is easy, mindset! Mindset really does matter and the good news is we are in total control of the way we choose to think. People with a growth mindset are always looking for solutions, always looking for the rainbow, always looking for the lessons. Being positive is a choice, now it’s not always an easy choice but it still remains a choice.

So I thought I would share some coping mechanisms with you, some choices we need to make daily. Some of them sound so simple and the reality is they are. To be honest with you, they all just boil down to making a decision.

Firstly I would suggest you stop stressing. Now just reading that could evoke anger and it may appear I don’t know your circumstances. It may seem insensitive and out of line but what I am going to suggest to you is to stop stressing about things that you have no control over. There are definatly circumstances that we are in charge of and there are others that we cannot do too much about.

When you find yourself hyper ventilating over your unpaid bills or the fact that your child is not coping with his or her schoolwork, think on these things…….If circumstances were different and if you were working, would you pay your bills? Have you always, other than now been a good payer? Do you normally shirk your responsibilities? When you are back at work will you do everything in your power to catch up any debt created in these very unfortunate times?

In terms of your teaching ability, do you have any training, did you every choose this as your profession, is this new way of doing things, only new to you?

In the case of your finances, did you every expect not to be earning a full salary and in terms of education, who would have ever imagined you would have to become a teacher without any teaching skills. Everyone has had to make adjustments and everyone has had to change in some way. We just have to do our best to cope, no more or no less.

In the above scenarios both changes happened unexpectantly and no amount of stressing will make that right, the thing to remember is, in every situation there is always a lesson. Perhaps you need to examine your finances and perhaps you have come to the conclusion that you need to have more than one stream of income. The lesson might be to start a budget and to create a nest egg. You might have just realised that you buy things unnecessarily and it is a habit you could curb.

In terms of your teaching abilities, you may have come to the realisation that you need to improve you skills in the area of IT. You may have discovered a new found respect for the teacher who you thought was useless. You may have figured that your kid needs help in the area of discipline. Whatever the discovery, note the lesson, act on it and move forward.

Stop sweating the small stuff is another great lesson. When life is tough and circumstances are not as they should be, cut yourself some slack. It’s the piles of laundry, the untidy kitchen, the floors that need mopping that really get to us. While I am a bit of a neat freak, sometimes you just can’t get to everything and that’s all right. Don’t fall into the comparison trap, don’t look on Facebook at all the happy together families that are eating like the rich and famous and doing the most amazing activities. Don’t stress if your kids are not eating at least 5 different coloured vegetables everyday, in all likelihood most families are not. Truth be know, you may see the perfect finished activity but you don’t see the mess it created and the screaming that went on to get it all tidied up.

What you need to understand, is that at certain times there are things that are urgent and important while there are other things that can be put on hold temporarily. They may still be important but not necessarily urgent. Learn to distinguish between the two. You were not born to be super woman or superman.

You might want to stop complaining! This may seem like an obvious statement but the sad reality is so many people walk around looking for things to complain about. I find that this becomes a habit and something others are not conscious they are doing it. I have an acquaintance like that. I would like to call her a friend but I am guilty of avoiding her at times.

To be honest she has a heart of gold but I am critically aware of the fact, that when she approaches me, I am going to hear about how useless her husband is and how he never helps. I am going to be told of how they abuse her time at work. She is going to tell me about how irresponsible her children are. I’m also going to hear about the impossible neighbours and their barking dog and I’m probably also going to hear about her crazy hairdresser that couldn’t accommodate her and on and on and on.

You might find you are complaining about the cigarette and alcohol laws or being told at what times you can and cannot exercise. Truth be know you haven’t exercised in years and you may not even drink or smoke but you just fall into the habit of complaining because that’s what you do.

People with a positive mindset don’t always like everything about everything, they don’t always agree with what’s happening but they certainly don’t complain about it all day long. They look for solutions, they sometimes just go with the flow but one thing for sure is they don’t allow themselves to be sucked into a negative vacuum.

I always relay a story that happened while my kids were still at school. A mother drove herself crazy everyday, because Johnny would not do his homework. In fact she got so irate that she looked for professional support and backup. While visiting a psychologist, she patiently delivered all her woes and expected a magical solution to her problem. I love the response she got……After her long explanation the doctor simply asked, “So what’s your problem?” Exasperated she began to describe the scenario to him again. Again the doctor asked, “So what’s your problem?” Now getting annoyed she tried to explain her frustration again, this time the doctor replied, “That's not your problem, that’s Johnny’s problem and he must face the consequences of his actions.”

There are always answers and solutions to almost everything we complain about. Do you have a fixed mindset that chooses to look at all the pitfalls and negatives or do you have a growth mindset that is willing to look for solutions and answers to some of your complexities. There is always another way of looking at things and we need to train our brain to look for the lessons, look for the positives, look for the solutions because optimistic positive people are always happier than pessimistic negative people.

Another idea around what keeps some people happier than others revolves around the conscious decision to be healthy. Now this on its own is another whole blog but there is a direct correlation between those that are miserable and things like, poor eating habits, poor exercise regime, little or no supplementation and inappropriate association.

People that are positive understand the need to be healthy and that includes mental health. They have habits that they keep, they watch their diets, they train their bodies, they generally supplement and they watch the company they keep. Again all these examples are a choice and they do take discipline.

I can hardly ever have a conversation without the abounding value that should be placed on being grateful as a means to keep you positive. Inheritantly humans in general tend to look at all they things they don’t have, while people who are optimistic are grateful for all they do have. They may not have the ideal job, but they have a job, they may not have the biggest house but they have a wonderful home. They may not have the biggest bank account but they can service their bills. Grateful, keeps you just that, grateful and it is a wonderful attribute to have, so think on what you could be grateful for today?

The other attribute that tends to set pessimistic and optimistic people apart is the mere fact that optimistic people have worked on their dreams and they have something to look forward to. They know what their future holds, they have a plan of action, they have something to aspire to. Now it is true that not all dreams do come true but it is also true that; without any forethought very little comes to fruititian. Dreams provide hope and without hope, people perish. Having been an individual that has worked on her dreams over a number of years I discovered that genuine wealth has very little to do with money or things and much more to do with memories and adventures. What can you do today to work on a positive future and what can you do today to create magical moments in your future?

Another factor that keeps a person upbeat and positive, is the exercise of making a difference to others. This could include a million things and some of them as simple as caring, doing community service, giving to charity, helping with the elderly, making a call to say hi and the list goes on. Knowing you have added value to someone else’s life is very gratifying and certainly lifts ones spirits.

So in summary, it would be suggested that you “Choose the Happiness Habit” Make your home and your surrounds a “No negative zone.” Just imagine that you could wipe your slate clean and start a new way of thinking, being or doing. How different could you life be, what would it look like? Maybe you could journal your thoughts, get any negatives onto paper and out of your head. On the contrary you could journal all the things you are grateful for and all the good things that impact your life daily.

There are two things that are true - People that are optimistic are naturally happier, more successful, more creative and more loving. That said it is often true that most of life’s gifts come from the dark side, times when you are frightened, sad and unhappy. It is in these times that we need to look for the lessons and how we can change, develop and grow into a positive, optimistic person who is grateful for all that life has to offer. Try to focus, on whatever your personal tragedy involves, and remember that this too shall pass. You are always on a journey and while sometimes the road is a little bumpy there is almost always light at the end of the tunnel.

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Tracy Hutchins
Tracy Hutchins

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