People often ask me, given everything that’s going on, how on earth I cope… how do I stay calm… how do I stay positive… and how come I’m not falling apart?
To me, this is just normal. I believe that every one of us has strength, super strength, both physically and emotionally. We just don’t have to show or use it all the time. It’s generally only when something big hits us that we dig deep and find that strength. I therefore don’t consider myself any more strong, special, inspirational or incredible than anyone else out there. The difference is that I’ve had the opportunity to think about it, the chance to dig deep and learn how to find that strength when I need it. (It’s actually not that hard, when you know how… I just look to my friends, family and followers – you guys generally know how to pick me up if I feel low. Again, no different to anyone else out there.)
But recently, I’ve had this conversation with two people, and it occurred to me that I haven’t written anything on my blog for a while. My intention in writing has always been to help people understand this thing, so they feel less uncertain, scared or helpless if they’re ever faced with it (to quote a Nike colleague) “in the eyes of a friend, a family member, or in the mirror.”
(AN: Despite writing scripts and speeches for Nike leaders in the past, I must admit I didn’t write this one! But I still love it… thanks Edgar!)
So, what’s the conversation?
It’s true and unsurprising that, over the past few years, I’ve had times when I’ve felt despair with my situation. Who wouldn’t? But I’ve also learnt how to deal with that, and found it really helpful in pulling me out of those dark spirals when they do happen.
I talk in analogies. It’s a thing. I think with a pen in my hand, draw what I’m describing, and visualise things in my mind. So that’s how I deal with this.
It’s like being in a well as the water’s going down, or in a downward spiral that you just can’t seem to stop. I know crying can be a release and, aside from feeling dehydrated afterwards, you generally feel better for a good cry. But like Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, sometimes I try this and just end up pulling funny faces in front of the mirror. Or it doesn’t feel significant enough to make me want to cry. I just feel low.
And what’s my solution?
Go back to the well analogy; it’s a dull day, it’s probably raining (it usually is in the Netherlands anyway!) and in the midst of those grey clouds, you spot the tiniest break, as brighter light slips through, even if just for a second. This is like someone throwing a rope down to you. The trick is to grab that rope or focus on that shaft of light.
Negativity encourages negativity, hence the downward spiral. But positivity encourages positivity, hence why ‘happy people’ are often happy most of the time! By grabbing the rope, and focusing on the positive thing, however small it might be, you take the first step in climbing up out of the well.
I haven’t had a ‘low point’ for a while now but this week I did, and my shaft of light was the thought of a roast dinner on Saturday. Crazy right? How does that stack up against cancer?! But believe me, it does!
Maybe it was because I did a big run on Saturday that I was feeling tired and run-down, but on the phone with a friend last night, I was moaning that I couldn’t find Heinz baked beans in my local supermarket (not something I eat a lot, but sometimes things like that are just comfort food when you’re feeling sorry for yourself, right?) We got talking about comfort food, and I mentioned that I was looking forward to having roast turkey on Saturday in London with my family. As soon as I mentioned that, it was my shaft of light, my rope out of the well. My tears immediately dried up and I started to get excited about something!
It’s the little things
Something as simple as lunch can be all it takes. They key (I’ve found) is to recognize you’re falling into the well, talk about something, anything, just to trigger your mind. And most importantly, recognizing that the smallest positive thing is all it takes to pull you out of it. Grab that rope, hold on tight and you’ll be just fine 🙂
And today, I found Heinz baked beans in Albert Heijn – gamechanger!