When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going
Unbroken record of success is something, very few people achieve. And, if they say they have, then in all probability they have not shared their failures. The fact is, we all have our share of success and failure.
If you are going through a rough patch in life where things haven’t gone your way for some time now then you could be under pressure, feeling negative and perhaps discouraged.
When you are in the middle of problems that don’t seem to go away, it can be pretty tough for you and can drain all your energy. So, what do you do if you are experiencing a rough patch like this?
Here are eight suggestions to consider.
- Bring in some physical activity into your routine
Continuous problems and an inability to deal with it, can sometime lead to a negative mental state and flood the body with toxins. If you are experiencing something like this, it is important to break the chain of negativity and eliminate toxins from your body.
There are two ways you could do this.
One way is to try and change your thinking by analyzing your problem, looking at the worst case scenario and then understanding that your situation is not as troubled as you had thought it to be. But, changing your thinking mentally is not very easy.
The other option is to get endorphins flowing in your body through physical activity.
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters, chemicals that pass along signals from one neuron to the next. Neurotransmitters play a key role in the function of the central nervous system and can either prompt or suppress the further signaling of nearby neurons.
Think of endorphins as the body’s natural mood elevator that make you feel good. It also counteracts the effect of stress on your mind and body.
Runners experience what is called a ‘runner’s high’, which is basically endorphins flooding the body that gives them a feeling of well being. By getting into a session of physical activity you could experience the same thing. It doesn’t matter if you go to the gym or just go for a walk in the park or even climb a few flights of stairs. It is more important that you get some exercise in any form.
Once you reach that state, you break the chain of negativity and you are then in a better state to be more positive and creative.
- Disrupt your routine
Having a set routine can be a great time saver. You don’t have to think. But, if you are in a mental state that you are not happy about, then you need to do some disruptive thinking. Obviously, whatever you are doing is not giving you the results you want. Your daily routine, is an integral part of what you are doing. Continuing with the same routine in a situation like this can therefore, be counter-productive.
Try changing your routine and introduce new challenges. It could start with something as simple as changing the route you drive to office and perhaps the sequence of work you do. For instance, if you see your mail first thing in the morning, then defer this to a couple of hours later and make a list of what you want to do instead, at that time. A series of changes in your routine will upset your comfort zone and make you open to exploring new alternatives.
Coping with changes, no matter how small, engages the brain and disrupts the process of worrying about your current predicament.
- Learn something new
Quite often, boredom can be one of the most potent reasons for discontentment. The human mind craves excitement and in the digital age we live in, there is so much stimulus that we are literally hooked on to it. How often do you check your mail on your smart phone? How often do you log on to social media? Think about it. All this satisfies is your craving for some excitement in your life.
If instead you channel your energy into learning something new that you enjoy, it could not only engage your creative instinct but also stimulate your brain to work differently. For instance, if you are an accountant and start learning music, you will be using a completely different part of your brain. This is so as the parts of the brain responsible for logic and creativity, are different. The left brain controls logic and mathematics skills while the right brain controls creativity.
- Count your blessings
One of the things I have done for several years now, is to maintain a list of things that I have or events that have happened to me that I am grateful for. Every time something nice happens to me or I accomplish something, I add it to this list with the date. Over time, this list has grown quite long and whenever I feel low or disturbed, I open this list and go over it. The results are very gratifying.
When you only focus on your problems continuously, then over a period of time you lose sight of the good things in our life. If you look closely at your life- your health, your relationships, your past accomplishments and so much more, could all be powerful reasons to be grateful for.
According to a study by the University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, a brain that is experiencing gratitude, specifically gratitude focused on a specific person — i.e. thanking other people for their behavior towards you, rather than thanking fate in general — is flooded with positive chemicals of a unique kind. The brain’s response to gratitude is to activate a reward center, one specifically targeted at boosting our bonds with other people. It rewards you, makes you more inclined to want to feel this feeling.
Shifting your focus to things that you are happy about or grateful for, can activate a completely different set of positive emotions that are conducive to problem solving and good health. This brings you into a positive state that is essential for problem solving.
- Commune with nature
Being in the midst of nature, can be extremely calming and therapeutic. Many of us live in concrete jungles where the pressures of city life can add to the existing work stress and send it spiraling upwards.
Successful companies realize that highly stressed executives cannot come up with the best corporate strategy. It is no accident that when companies do a strategy session for their leadership team, they do it in retreats and places where they will not only be undisturbed but will also experience calmness from the surroundings.
When you are in the midst of problems, take some time off to go to any place that is away from the concrete jungle and close to nature. A park with plants and chirping birds or a creek nearby or a hill, will do just fine.
When you spend some time sitting in the middle of nature you could come up with some very creative solutions. If nothing else, you will get the right perspective on your problems.
- Practice mindfulness
One day on my way to office, I caught myself texting a team member, while listening to music and eating a sandwich. And, all this was while driving in Delhi’s rush hour traffic at about 50 km an hour. It is inconceivable for any sensible person to do this, but you would be surprised how many people on Delhi roads do this, including me.
We live in a digital age where there are so many distractions that it is very difficult to focus on one thing at one time. You check your mail frequently, get into conference calls where you put the phone on mute and continue working on your laptop while drinking a cup of coffee. The human mind is not designed to work on more than one thing at one time. Multitasking causes severe stress to the human brain.
In a situation like this, it is a good idea to practice mindfulness where you sit down in a quiet place undisturbed and simply focus on breathing deeply using your stomach. As your breathing slows down you will find yourself in a much calmer state and in a lot better position to solve your problems, creatively.
There is an excellent article on mindfulness published by Dr. Travis Bradberry on LinkedIn, that you could read in case you missed it. Read it here.
- Connect to people
Suppose you have missed some deadlines and your work is under pressure. The annual appraisal date is coming up and you don’t know what is going to happen to you this year. At a time like this, if you succumb to pressure, you could end up isolating yourself in an effort to avoid negative attention and more criticism and your work itself could suffer. More importantly, being out of circulation could choke your information pipeline and make you speculate, which could be even worse.
The best thing to do in such cases is to keep your communication channels open and proactively connect to people to ensure that all the elements of your work are taken care of and people get the right messages, directly from you.
- Create a worst- case scenario
At times when you are in the middle of a problem, you don’t really comprehend the real ramifications of the problem. As a result you tend to blow up the problem and it then seems bigger than what it really is. Besides, if you don’t know precisely how a problem will impact you, then your solution could well be haywire.
In such cases, step back and define clearly what your problem really is. Next, come up with a worst case scenario showing what is the worst possible outcome to your problem. When you do this, you may discover that the worst case scenario is not as bad as you thought it was. Also, contemplating the worst case scenario prepares you for that eventuality and dissipates your fear. It also allows you to then focus on finding the right solution, instead of just dreading the problem.
Finally, come up with some alternate solutions without questioning your logic. You could come up with some very workable solutions to your problem that no longer overwhelms you.
Remember the old saying-
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
About The Author
Srinivasan is an independent consultant working in the area of strategy and technology interventions in the public sector domain. He has worked in companies like IBM and TCS and has over 30 years of experience spanning 24 countries.