When you’re going through hell: 3 ways to help yourself keep on going

What do you do when your workload is out of control?

As Winston Churchill said “When you’re going through hell, keep going”.

COVID has thrown another round of change and uncertainty at us. Some people are working harder than ever before where it’s ‘all hands to the deck’ to keep the ship sailing. For others in Victoria, this week may be their last week of work as the full impact of businesses closing becomes a stark reality for business owners who won’t survive the latest lockdown storm. In fact, earlier on today Scott Morrison reported that as many as 400,000 jobs could be lost in Victoria.

I’m based in Melbourne. A few days ago my 8-year-old daughter’s teacher Mandy reached out to parents with the following message “I noticed this week in our check-ins that many (children) reported feeling tired and perhaps less upbeat than in other weeks”.

Are you feeling tired and wrung out?

Mandy’s note then went on to say “I remind you that I am here to help if you need it. I can offer a pep talk, clarification on tasks, or just another person to talk to if they need it! Just let me know. Please know too that I think you are all doing an amazing job”.

Adversity brings us closer together

We feel good when we reach out and help others in need. One of my clients set up a buddy system where colleagues across the country have been assigned a buddy in Victoria. A General Manager today commented “I didn’t know my buddy and yesterday we chatted for 90 minutes. I think he just wanted someone to talk to”.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else. Feeling heard and supported goes a long way for people doing it tough.

As leaders we put the needs of others before ourselves – it’s our job. We focus on the immediate priorities, get things over the line, and provide support where it’s needed the most.

What about you though? Is your inner voice helping you keep strong and resilient?

We all have an inbuilt negativity bias

We tend to focus on what’s wrong or make assumptions about what could go wrong.

On average we have 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those thousands of thoughts, 80% are negative and 95% are the same repetitive thoughts as the day before¹. Our thinking patterns are a self-protection mechanism to keep safe. To be prepared for the worst. Just in case.

Acknowledging this bias is important. We all have ‘stuff’ we’re dealing with. While on one hand, we show support and compassion to others, on the other hand, being self-aware enough to listen to and recognise the patterns in our internal dialogue is also important. Why? Being kind to others is much easier when we learn to be kind to ourselves.

When you’re in struggling to have time for yourself and / or you’re in survival mode, here are 3 ways to be kinder to yourself through your internal dialogue, so you can keep on going:

1. Acknowledge yourself

Your positive impact may be greater than you realise.

Take a moment at the end of your day to acknowledge yourself for something. However hard that might be for you. Think about the things you’ve given attention and effort to. It might be as simple as giving someone the space to talk in a meeting, connecting with others through humour, or prioritising calling someone over sending an email.

2. Be aware of your self-talk

You are not your self-talk

Our self-talk, by habit, can easily focus on what we haven’t done or what we haven’t done well enough. Everyone has negative self-talk from time to time and under stress, we can become self-critical. Noticing your self-talk gives you the opportunity to accept it, quieten it down and shift your focus. Your self-talk is a reflection of the relationship you have with yourself. Remember, you are not your self-talk. You are good enough. You’re doing your best – you can’t expect any more of yourself than that.

3. Acknowledge your feelings

It’s okay to feel however you feel 

We’re not designed to have a thought and not react to it in some way. It’s instinctual.

Believing that we have to be ‘positive all the time’ is rubbish. We all have sh*t days. We all feel self-doubt sometimes. The human experience is to feel the range of emotions available to us – both negative and positive. Accepting your feelings without judgement gives you a choice – to keep on feeling as you do or change how you feel. If you change your thinking, you’ll change how you feel. Your feelings are always your choice!

Bringing it all together

It’s takes communities, families, friends, and teams to help each other get through tricky times. Remember to give to yourself too.  Being self-aware means being mindful of your inner dialogue in a way that serves you. Your emotional wellbeing drives what you can give to others. How are you going to be kinder to yourself in a way that makes it easier for you to keep on going? I’d love to know.

¹https://tlexinstitute.com/how-to-effortlessly-have-more-positive-thoughts/#:~:text=In%202005%2C%20the%20National%20Science,thoughts%20as%20the%20day%20before.

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