Looking Within and Reaching Beyond
We learn as we grow older and collect experiences along the way. Slowly but surely, I am learning that there is much in our lives that is beyond our control. So, from someone who tried to plan her life as much as possible – I have slowly started to yield to the unknown and embrace what the universe has to offer.
Even so – I would hate to believe that nothing is in our hands. We can always control how we play the hand that life has dealt us. We owe it to ourselves to give life our best shot and for that it is important that we understand ourselves better, connect with our inner selves and strengthen our core. So, in my first post of 2022 I would like to share what I learnt and tried practicing last year.
2020 had been a tough year in more than one respect and the challenges had far from ended when December rolled in. I stepped into 2021 battered and bruised, emotionally drained and besieged by an unusual lack of confidence. I felt lost, disoriented and adrift. But subconsciously I knew I needed to pull myself out of this whirlpool.
In many ways 2021 was a year of recuperation and rejuvenation. Knowingly or unknowingly – helped by people along the way, I gained back my inner strength, my confidence as well as my peace. I reached within to tap into my inner self, and I reached beyond – to get strength from others.
I write this because I know I am not alone. Because we all go through the lows as certainly as the highs. Because setbacks, big and small are part of life and it is important that we are able to recover and move on. I hope you will find some meaning in what I share today.
When you are emotionally low negativity spreads throughout you like cancer. From being stressed and sad, to questioning my capability to telling myself I was useless – my mind traversed a lot of ground in those days!
But at that time – when my brain felt all muddled, I was lucky to find a believer in my capability – my manager. I confided to him that I was stressed, not feeling very confident. “You have so much to give, to contribute. Come out of your shell”, he told me. And I held on to his words like my mantra. He pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, gave feedback and tips and areas for improvement.
And so, I did just that. I am lucky to be in an organization that offers a plethora of learning resources, and I decided to take as much advantage as possible. And it helped. A lot.
While the concepts themselves were not unknown to me – but revisiting them and the timing made all the difference.
Connect with yourself
The first workshop I attended was on MindKindness and of the eight practices they teach you – the first is checking your internal weather – what and how you are feeling. This is the beginning of connecting with oneself and was especially relevant to me given my internal weather at that time was turbulent. Many pessimistic feelings crowded my mind. My response to a host of stimuli was more negative than it might have been in normal circumstances. e.g. heightened feelings of helplessness, frustration, insecurity and low confidence! Acknowledging and understanding them helped me to slowly stabilize my feelings.
Manage Stress Optimally
Another course put a very interesting spin on stress and again it was very timely, because that was my prime emotion then. It demonstrated how stress and performance are interrelated and how one needs an optimal level of stress to reach peak performance. Too little stress – low performance; too much stress – disease and breakdown. The key is maintaining a healthy level of stress.
Usually, a change in one or more aspects of our lives leads to stress and creates the feeling of being overwhelmed. The course explained the theory of – “change – pivot – transition”. Simply put, change is the external stimuli, the part beyond your control, but you can decide how you respond to it – which is pivot and you use that to transition yourself into a different person/ new reality. By doing this one continues to grow and evolve.
While this was the first time I heard this theory – I realized that this is exactly what I had been doing for the last few years. I have ploughed through many changes in the recent past, but in my own way, I managed to pivot and transition myself through most of them. So, I can say with confidence that this concept works.
Expand Your Knowledge
Every time I experience a low, I start questioning my own capability and usefulness. Regardless of what caused the stress in the first place, my mind always brings me to question myself. This time was no different. Even though my stress was largely due to personal circumstances, my brain had started playing its vicious games with me.
I decided that one way to counter that would be to start learning and apply that learning somewhere. I again relied on the number of learning opportunities my organization offers and read through many different topics. It not only gave me a sense of having gained some knowledge but also a sense of control.
Finally, it is all about resilience. The ability not to buckle under pressure, the ability to spring back or as I mention above – pivot and transition. Resilience might come more easily to some people than others, but it is something that can be learnt – one can train themselves to be more resilient. A Google search will provide a number of tips on becoming more resilient but let me recount my own experience here. When I look back on my periods of stress – I can see how muddled my mind was – making it difficult to respond logically to any situation. But what has held me through those time is a) a belief that this is not forever – this too shall pass. b) trying to find some meaning from the situation – and clutching to it like the last straw.
If looking within provided me some stability, extending outward gave me inspiration.
I am a people person. I love meeting new people, people from all walks of life, all circumstances. In 2020 and especially 2021, my world opened to many different people – with diverse life experiences and approaches to life.
Blogging opened a new world to me – that of writers. My daily blogging challenge of 2020 not only led to my debut book – it also introduced me to the fascinating world of bloggers, podcasters and content creators. I also joined a group of freelance writers on Facebook which has some really amazing people. Towards the end of 2020, I also became part of alumni groups of both my graduation and post-graduation colleges.
You may wonder what’s so great about that – these days everyone is part of a hundred WhatsApp groups!! But for me these groups were nothing short of inspiring. I met (virtually) these 20 something girls who were already powerhouses as well as highly accomplished women with 30-35 years of experience. I met journalists who do brilliant writing as well as bloggers and podcasters who have painstakingly built a substantial body of high-quality content. Each of them inspirational in their own way. Unknown to them, they have fired my imagination, stoked my ambition and made me want more, do more.
These groups also taught me the power of a community. From coming together in response to a tragic situation, to bonding to raise our collective voice, I learnt the importance of harnessing the strength of a collective.
In many ways I pieced myself together in 2021, brought the focus back to my inner self. But that alone is not enough – mind and body need to act together and complement each other. Going forward I want to put self-care as an important goal – try and move towards a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Not sure how far I will reach, but I will continue to share my experiences with you. Wish me luck.
And finally, I hope you found this post meaningful. Honestly, every time I write about my personal challenges, a part of me worries if I sound like a whiner or someone making a mountain out of a molehill! But then reminded of how much stress is going around in this world – I feel compelled to write, to share, because my journey could be someone else’s too. It is not about how big or small our challenges are – it is important that we try to overcome them and reach out if we need help.
I would love to hear back from you – how you handled a stressful situation or challenges – and please do share this post ahead!
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