I never thought I’d be writing this. It’s so hard to think about the lessons you’re being taught or the messages that are revealing themselves when you’re in the middle of a mess.
But, they are always there, just waiting for you to get out of your own way so you can see them.
I learned this the hard way.
For two years I felt like my life was just one big mess. I had left a successful career in corporate America, survived being on mandatory evacuation during a devastating wildfire, sold my dream home, lived out of boxes for 10 months and had to let go of my two Bouvier des Flandres within a four month period (one at 7 years old due to an aggressive cancer).
I felt lost. Even worse, I had lost my confidence.
But, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. A new chapter was supposed to be an exciting time. So, what went wrong? Why was I feeling this way?
Then, it hit me. Because I forgot to apply one of the fundamental concepts I had used over the years in coaching employees, family members and friends through life and career transitions. It’s simple.
Change is going to happen. Change is a process, not an event. Change is usually messy. In fact, you can count on it. It’s how you manage it that counts. And, it’s all about recognizing the lessons — the messages — in the mess.
Here are just 4 tips to help you stay focused on the messages instead of your mess.
1. Plan and prepare
To the extent you can plan your transition, do it. You may be in a job you hate and you want to make a change. Plan it. You may suspect your company may be headed for a sale, merger or downsizing. Plan for it. When I planned my first exit from corporate life, my transition went a whole lot smoother than the second time when I didn’t.
But, I get it. You can’t always plan because sometimes life throws you a curve ball. When that happens, you can still plan and prepare for what’s next. You’ll just have to rely a little more on the next 3 tips.
Just remember. Transitions will hold a special place in your life memories and if done well, they can shape your next chapter, mold it into something that is better than you even dreamed imaginable.
2. Check yourself before your wreck yourself
Stress can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, so definitely check yourself before you wreck yourself. In the short term, the stress response (you know, the fight or flight) can help you navigate a difficult situation. But chronic stress can lead to serious health issues.
When you’re stressed out you’re not thinking clearly. You may be holding on to the past and freaked out about the future. That’s fear taking control of your thoughts. And, you’ll definitely have a hard time focusing on the messages when that happens. So, try these to calm your mind so you can think more clearly.
- Take a few deep breaths to calm your mind and body
- Eat a regular, well-balanced diet
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Try meditation, yoga, prayer, listening to your favorite music or spending time in nature
- Get enough sleep
- Hug your dog (I do this a lot!)
Focus on what’s positive in your life. Turn your negative thoughts into positive thoughts. Remember to keep your sense of humor and exercise it often. Laughter goes a long way towards making you feel relaxed.
Above all else, go easy on yourself. Accept that you can’t do things perfectly no matter how hard you try. Give up the need to control everything in your life. Do yourself a favor and stop thinking you have to do it all and be all.
Stop beating yourself up. You are enough just the way you are.
Let me repeat that. You are enough.
3. Pause and reflect
Use a transition to reflect on where your life has been, and where it’s going. In the case of a career transition, it’s a perfect opportunity to think about your skills, your strengths and what you really want to do in your next chapter (and what you don’t want to do).
Appreciate the benefits of change. In life-span developmental science, getting stuck in life’s ruts has been shown to be detrimental to your cognitive growth. Changes in routine can be stimulating! (I know. It doesn’t always feel that way. Believe me, I get it.)
One way to get yourself to pause and reflect is to go for a walk, meditate or spend time in nature. Then, write down your thoughts. Journaling your thoughts is very powerful. It helps you find those messages and get clarity on next steps.
4. Find support
Researchers in the stress and coping field know that social support is one of the most significant keys to successfully managing change. Support comes in many ways.
During my transition, I found support in the power of the written word. I read countless personal development books — most of them still on my library shelves. I learned how to manage stress, how to create and stay in the right mindset, how to restore my confidence and how to once again believe in and trust myself.
And, finally, find support in family and friends — those you see in person and those you connect with in other ways. Your family and friends are truly your support group. You love them and they love you. Believe that.
I hope these 4 tips will show you that your mess is your message. If you’re looking for more mindset ideas, grab your copy of my FREE template that reveals the #1 secret to living each day by design without feeling overwhelmed. Just fill out the form below! Enjoy your journey!
Christine, your words leaped off the pages at me. It is funny how we can teach things and forget to use them in our own lives. I have a daughter who went missing last Dec. I really thought I was managing the grief and anxiety. Exercise, prayer, staying connected with family and friends. All of that is important and essential to survival of losing a child. My family planned a trip to Switzerland for us all. It was 18 days of pure majestic magical beauty and adventure. We realized we tried to see so much we were running a good share of our trip. When we got home, everyone got sick. Mine took a path I never saw coming. I learned even good stress needs to be managed. It was like the whole year of dealing with my feelings and life came tumbling down on me. I was admitted into the hospital and they tested me for EVERYTHING. Legionnaires disease because I had been out of the country, pnemounia, and on and on. I was deathly ill. Finally the Dr. sent me home because I wasn’t getting any better and I wasn’t sure if he was sending me home to die. As it turned out, I did have pneumonia and my heart was in heart failure. I was a mess. I was sick way before I went on that trip with my family. I just was so immersed in “positive thinking”, but not feeling, I ignored all the signs. I realize now I had masked my feelings and had been saying all the “right” things to comfort everyone else, but I was ignoring how I really felt. I had plastered a smile on my face, and told everyone I was taking one day at a time to survive and thrive. My body told me I was dying from the inside out. My heart was hurting and literally sick. I couldn’t find Heather, so I was going to slowly join her. I can’t find a trace of her anywhere. I found a bone on our beach and I took it home thinking maybe it was hers. It was an animal’s vertibrae. Crazy or desperate? I am desperate for answers. So getting back to your words. Gratitude… I do have so many things each day to be grateful for. It does bring me joy and peace to list those and think of them. I need time to continually process in my head and heart that I am separated from Heather at this time. I am keeping the good habits I have gathered to keep me going. What I have learned is I can’t avoid the process and be well. Even the distraction of beautiful Switzerland couldn’t stop the process. I still was not sleeping through a night and running all day. After more than 4 months of being ill and now healing, I am seeing the light again. I can walk farther than I was even last week. My cardiologist said he expects me to fully recover. Now it is up to me to make that happen. My life has changed forever and I need to find my way to move into a “new chapter” and make memories I can look back on and find joy. I truly believe Heather would want that for me. Sometimes I am given a gift of sweet whispers of her voice telling me she loves me and she knows I did the best I could to keep her safe and love her. That is something I am very grateful for. So now my “new chapter”. I have gathered a few things…..
Oh my goodness Deborah! That brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing what my words meant to you. You just never know the impact your words and actions will have on others. I am so, so sorry for your loss and for what you and your family have gone through. I cannot even imagine. If my words helped in any way, I will thank God for guiding my hands as I wrote.