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When I first met Michelle Hammer, she made exactly zero impression. I remember the conference we were both attending, but I don’t remember her. I have some vague recollection of a loud, inappropriate woman talking about meeting men on Tinder, but to this day, she claims it wasn’t her.

My first memory of “meeting” Michelle is was when she emailed about being a guest on The Psych Central Show. The email was pretty short and, frankly, not very inspiring:

“I’ve been following your facebook and social media and it looks like you’re doing some awesome stuff. I was wondering if you would like to collab in any way? One way I was thinking was being a guest on your Podcast. Of course it’s your decision.”

I had no idea who she was and, awkwardly, I had no idea what a collab was. I ignored the email, as I saw it as a pitch to get on the show. In any given week, I turn at least five people away who write me better pitches, so the decision to ignore her was an easy one.

Then she sent me a video that WebMD made about her life with schizophrenia. I did take a little more interest because they had recently hired me, but her pitch, again, was lacking:

“Hey! Watch my video that WebMD made about me!”

I didn’t watch the video and I didn’t reply to her until — through a series of odd events — I was on a panel to help choose a speaker. Michelle’s name was on the top of the short list and, frankly, the only one I recognized at all. So, I Googled her, looked at her website, and sent her an email.

A Late Night Conversation with a Schizophrenic

We began chatting, sharing our experiences, and, after a few weeks, fate intervened again and I was working on a project near her home. Michelle agreed to take a train, a bus, and walk two miles to meet me in New Jersey. We met in the lobby of my hotel where, after an obligatory hug, she started loudly proclaiming that she was wearing a cock ring. It was a weird piece of jewelry in the shape of a penis she wore on her finger for, well, I still don’t know.

My first impression was that she was loud, short, and energetic — and, despite my best efforts at ignoring her, she drew me in. I wanted her to talk softer and louder all at once. I wanted to explain to her how inappropriate she was and do whatever it took to make sure she didn’t stop. She was something I couldn’t put my finger on, but I was certain the world needed more of whatever it was she was doing.

I’m long past the point where I think that every person who lives with mental illness is a hero. Maybe I’m jaded; maybe the fact I’m bipolar makes me evaluate others in similar situations differently. More than anything, I’m tired of people thinking we are all heroes just because we’re not drooling all over ourselves.

Michelle, however, is different. She battles a terrifying illness with a quiet dignity that manifests itself in loud outbursts. She can command a room by sitting slumped over in a corner, exhausted. She doesn’t filter her words, maybe because she’s a schizophrenic or maybe because she’s a New Yorker.

To make life better for people living with mental illness, she designed a clothing line to educate and start conversations about mental illness. While the rest of us sit in the relative safety of our homes and write blogs or make social media memes, she stands on the streets of one of the most aggressive cities in America and explains to anyone who will listen that one in five New Yorkers will have a mental health crisis this year. She looks them in the eyes and doesn’t flinch.

She is one of the bravest advocates I know — and I know many amazing advocates. She pretends to be confident in a way I can’t help but admire. She’s scared of her Mama, but not of yelling “suck my d***” in a crowded room. She comes off as detached from and disinterested in the world and people around her, but has told me the story of a homeless man she saw “who probably has schizophrenia, too” no less than ten times. She’s outwardly confident and inwardly paranoid, a combination that I find uniquely exhilarating.

Collaborating with a Schizophrenic

Eventually, I figure out what a “collab” was and we decided to start a podcast titled “A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast.” It’s a cool show where we talk about the past, present, and future through the lenses of people who live with mental illness. Michelle is reserved when the microphone flips on and censors herself in a way that is endearing, but extremely regrettable. I enjoy working with her because she makes me better at what I do. She is a good person to commiserate with, when she’s not singing Britney Spear’s songs at the top of her lungs.

If Michelle has taught me nothing else — and believe me, she’s taught me a lot — it’s that I need to pay closer attention to the awful pitches I get to be on The Psych Central Show. There might be another Michelle in there. . .

. . . Which is altogether exciting and terrifying.

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We all have different strengths, skills and tools to support us during difficult life events. What do you pull from when things get hard?

New challenges forces us to develop new ways of building hope, support and resilience.

Support groups online and in person, for example, can help us feel less alone.

Therapy can give us individualized treatment and teach us ways to also feel supported.

Books and blog posts can provide an alternative view.

What tools can support you during these challenging moments? What skills can you develop to add to your list?

This week’s top posts on dealing with a major life event, sleeping better and preventing overwhelm and anxiety will give you creative ideas for your own emotional toolbox.

How To Calm Your Tantruming Child In A Way That Prevents Future Tantrums
(Childhood Emotional Neglect) – It’s possible to view your child’s tantrums as an opportunity instead of an inconvenience. Here’s how.

Snowballing Thoughts: How to Stop Creating Anxiety
(Reaching Life Goals) – Stop the trickle before the waterfall to manage your anxiety better.

Lull Yourself to Sleep with This Simple Tip
(Weightless) – Instead of tossing and turning tonight, try this.

The Cure for Feeling Overwhelmed
(Happily Imperfect) – It’s how to feel safe, relaxed and protect yourself from feeling out of control.

How to Successfully Transition Major Life Events
(The Exhausted Woman) – It’s the thing you need if you’re undergoing a significant change and don’t know how to respond.

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(Please note: This free live webinar will be recorded and a copy made available to all who registered.)

Words have immense power. Whether they are the inscription on the Statue of Liberty or a love letter to your sweetest and dearest, words matter, and stories move people. If you are ready (or… nearly ready) to tell your mental health recovery story, this informative and entertaining webinar by OC87 Recovery Diaries Editor in Chief Gabriel Nathan is for you.

FOUR TAKE-A-WAYS FROM THIS WEBINAR:

  1. Helpful tips about the art of storytelling (yes, it is an art)
  2. Some important, general do’s and don’ts
  3. Thoughts about pitching ideas to publications
  4. Tips for incorporating humor into your recovery story

Gabriel Nathan is an author, editor, actor, playwright, director and a lover of commas. For five years, he worked at Montgomery County Emergency Service, Inc. (MCES), a non-profit crisis psychiatric hospital in the capacity of Allied Therapist and later as Development Specialist. At MCES, he created innovative programs such as a psychiatric visiting nurse program, a suicide prevention collaboration with SEPTA, and an Inpatient Concert Series that brought professional performing artists to entertain the patients and enrich their inpatient experience. While at MCES, Gabe also produced and directed a full-scale production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town with the staff of the hospital, as an exercise in teamwork, empathy-building, and creative expression. Gabe serves on the Board of Directors of the Thornton Wilder Society and is Editor of its newsletter. He lives in a suburb of Philadelphia with his wife, twins, a Herbie the Love Bug replica, and a basset hound named Tennessee.

Live on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Eastern

This webinar is a live, 45-minute seminar with a PowerPoint presentation followed by a Q&A moderated by Gabe Howard, host of The Psych Central Show podcast. There is no charge for the webinar, but registration is required. All registrants will receive a link to the recording.

Space is limited,
so signup today!


Space is limited so please register early. Thank you.

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Mental health rarely gets the credibility it deserves. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, 43.8 million adults in America experience mental health issues in a given year. These millions of people are experiencing an invisible, or hidden, disability. Hidden disabilities may not be visible to the naked eye, but they still significantly impact the people who have them. Individuals with hidden disabilities often report that people question the legitimacy of the barriers they face because they aren’t obvious. Whereas individuals with visible disabilities commonly face assumptions that they are unable to do certain things, individuals with hidden disabilities often face implications that their accommodations are unnecessary.

Though invisible disabilities and mental health issues don’t have to stand in the way of a full and happy life, success often hinges on the availability and accessibility of resources and treatment options. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that only 41 percent of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received services in the past year. This lack of treatment can result in major consequences. For example, the same report found that serious mental illness costs the U.S. just over $193 billion in lost earnings per year. Additionally, mood disorders, including major depression and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youths and adults aged 18-44.

Mental health can have a direct impact on other life areas, like educational attainment, sustainable employment, independent living, friendships, physical health and many other areas. In our Tangram Life Coaching services, we often see how unaddressed mental health issues can act as barriers to success in these areas, which is further compounded by the stigma attached to mental health in our culture.

Adopting good mental health management practices is a critical first step in building the foundation for overall wellness. In honor of Mental Health Month, here are five tips for achieving and maintaining positive mental health.

  1. Surround yourself with good people. People with supportive family members and friends are generally healthier than those who lack a support system. If you are struggling to find this, seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as volunteer opportunities, a new hobby or a support group.  
  2. Value your own self-worth. Treat yourself with kindness, respect and grace, avoiding self-critique. Take time to do the things you enjoy and arm yourself with the knowledge that you are doing the best you can.
  3. Set realistic goals. Decide what matters most to you in life, whether that’s academically, professionally or socially. Write those goals down and include the steps you need to take in order to achieve them. Focus on attainable goals and enjoy the sense of accomplishment you feel after completing them.
  4. Know your resources. Plenty of mental health resources exist online and in your community. Furthermore, most employers offer an Employee Assistance Program, which may offer free or reduced cost counseling or therapy, and a plethora of other resources. Colleges and universities also have mental health resources.
  5. Know your rights. Being informed is the best way to empower yourself in the event that you encounter any discrimination.

Maintaining positive mental health is vital in improving your overall wellbeing. Building a trustworthy network of family and friends, taking the time to value yourself and setting attainable goals is critical in the process of achieving a balanced and fulfilling life. It is also important that we work together as a culture to erase the stigma associated with mental health and create a supportive, inclusive community.

More information on mental health supports can be found on the following websites:

National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/

MentalHealth.gov: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/

National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml

Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/resources

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Listener favorite Two Truths and One Lie returns, but with a twist. Gabe and Michelle each share three stories about specific symptoms they have of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (respectively). All six of these examples are believed to be factual by many people, but only four of them are accurate. After sharing the examples, Gabe and Michelle challenge each other to guess which two of their symptoms are real and which one is a lie.

Subscribe to Our Show:
And Please Share & Review!

“Just because you’re acting normal doesn’t mean you’re not sick.” ~ Gabe Howard

Highlights From ‘Schizophrenia and Bipolar Symptoms’ Episode

[1:26] Michelle shares how she hears her name being called as a symptom of schizophrenia.

[2:10] Gabe shares a story about chronic masturbation as symptom of bipolar disorder.

“Say My Name” vs. “Bipolar Bop”

[3:05] Michelle shares a story about a simple delusion snowballing into something much bigger.

[5:12] Gabe talks about living with the extremes of bipolar mania and depression with no middle ground.

“Exaggerated Memory” vs. “Heads or Tails”

[7:00] Michelle speaks publicly for the first time about  her other personality, “Hammer.”

[8:50] Gabe talks about bipolar irritability and the little things that make him angry.

“Sybil” vs. “Gabe Gets Annoyed at the Most Basic Things”

[13:00] Michelle guesses which symptom of bipolar disorder Gabe is making up.

[14:50] Gabe guesses which symptom of schizophrenia Michelle is lying about.


Meet The Hosts of #BSPodcast

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.

MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May, 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit schizophrenic.NYC.

..

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I’ve tried again and again to overcome feelings of isolation, self-loathing and disconnection from the world around me. I try to form friendships, and be a part of, with limited success and sometimes disastrous results.

It took several years of clean time in a 12-step program for me to fully appreciate how much resentment I had accumulated and why I continued my relationship with resentment. I remember the first time I heard the phrase “resentments are like drinking a cup of poison and expecting the other person to die.”

I was stunned by the truth of the statement. I started to realize that justified or not, the people, institutions and things that I resented the most never lost a moment of sleep over it. I talked to my support group and examined my behaviors and understood that all my resentments came from expectations. I decided to get to the source of the problem, and let go of my expectations whenever I could. This worked well, and I found that living without expectations, as much as possible, I was able to see many things that happened as gifts, such as a friend who calls after a long absence, finding that lost $10 bill, or a picturesque scene at the local market.

Life was good for a time, and I grew rich in experiences. I was able to process and let go of any number of expectations, moving to gratitude quickly. Resentments came and went like the tide, but I never understood what they left behind until everything came crashing to a halt. In 2016, my world abruptly ended; work and friendships shattered and the very things I cherished the most seemed to be in shambles. I withdrew and sought comfort in the rooms of a healthy 12-step fellowship, working with newcomers and rebuilding my life with good supports, selfless service and a healthy smattering of counseling. An old friend wondered about my resentments from the experience, but I was focused on the principles behind it, and we parted ways for the last time.

I have struggled with anxiety and I am often overcome with emotions. I alternate between humility and horror at the magnitude of the internal issues before me. I’ve tried again and again to overcome feelings of isolation, self-loathing and disconnection from the world around me. I try to form friendships, and be a part of, with limited success and sometimes disastrous results.

I recently learned that my thoughts can be divided into four categories: truths, ideas, beliefs and emotions. Every thought falls into one of those categories. My counselor taught me that truths are unquestionable, Ideas are unlimited, beliefs are unprovable, and emotions are unmanageable. Truths have no emotion connected to them, and are simply facts. A truth is that I am 6 feet tall, and I don’t have any emotions tied to the fact. Ideas are wild with little or no basis in the moment, whirling around like dust devils, only to collapse and disappear. Beliefs are my understanding of how the world works, and emotions come from having my beliefs challenged or supported…

Find out more about this resentment in the rest of the original article Where, Oh Where Did My Resentment Go? at The Fix.

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Some universities provide a “what if calculator” to help students project possible grades. It provides the percentage they need on each test to get their desired grade at the end of the course. Based on what they would like their final grade to be, they can decide how much work and effort to put into studying for their final exam.

If we all had a what if calculator to forecast our future, life would be so much easier!

We could say we all are in a possession of a what if calculator. For many of us, that amazing thought-making machine works overtime. The problem is that though our mind means well, its calculations are not entirely accurate most of the time. Quite often, the predictions are worst-case scenarios that lead us to anxiety, avoidance, and behaviors that get in the way of living a more meaningful life.

We cannot be too harsh towards our mind’s efforts — because its job is to protect us. When it perceives something is wrong, it counsels us to stay away from places, events, and situations that could harm us. In the beginning of time, our ancestors’ what if calculators were constantly anticipating catastrophic events. The need to deliberate about past or future events was crucial to their survival. If they had not adhered to the judgments their minds provided, they would not have survived, and we would not be here.

Though we no longer encounter life-or-death occurrences like our progenitors did, our what if calculator continues to estimate our routes everywhere we go.

Do you need to believe all of your calculator’s forecasts? Some of you may say, “Yes, of course!” However, a better answer could be, “Only when it gets me closer to living the type of life I want.”

Your mind is not a crystal ball that knows the future, even though it sometimes may feel that way. Next time your what if calculator begins to predict, take a moment to answer these three questions before following its input.  

  • Am I reinforcing anxiety by following my minds’ guidance?
  • Are my mind’s projections correct when I choose to disregard its admonitions?
  • How exact are its predictions?

Keep a what if calculator journal. When you notice your mind is forecasting your future and you become anxious, write down what it’s saying. Use a scale of 1 to 10, (10 being the highest) to rate how anxious you are in that moment, and how anxious your mind says you will be unless you follow its warnings.

When the mind’s advice is favorable and moves you closer to your values, act on it. If you cannot do anything about it in that moment and/or it’s not helpful, treat the mind as an external event or separate person. Acknowledge what it says by responding with phrases like: “I hear you.” “You may be right.” “We’ll see.” “I got it in my notebook, thanks mind.” “We’ll see what happens.” “Thanks, you are doing a good job at worrying me.” Then gently get back to what you were doing in that moment. You don’t need to rush the thoughts out or hold onto them tightly. Thoughts come and go naturally. Allow them to do so by observing them and then focusing on what matters most.

Notice the evaluations throughout the day and continue acknowledging them as indicated above. Later, go back to your journal and read your notes. Record what happened when you disregarded its recommendations. Was your mind’s projection 100% accurate or less than accurate? Write it down. Include your insights and how you feel about not listening to your mind’s direction, especially when you realize it’s not useful.

The purpose of this exercise is to increase your awareness as to how your language machine operates. You will discover that you don’t have to comply every time. You can develop a sense of expectancy and curiosity. “What will my mind say today, and will it be helpful?”

Even though your what if calculator is amazing, it doesn’t contain all the information to make exact predictions each day of your life. Its rules and opinions may get you entangled and confused. The good news is that you have a choice. You can decide what to do with its calculations!  

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Comic books and movies are full of superheroes with magical powers. But we too have superpowers that can be activated anytime and help us live a conscious and intentional life.

Here are some of them…

The Superpower of Self-Awareness

This power enables you to have insight into your own inner processes: how you tick, your conscious and subconscious beliefs and values, your strengths, skills and weaknesses.

When you know and appreciate what makes you uniquely You — even if you are not like others, don’t conform to common norms or are often less than perfect — you will be able to walk your own path with self-acceptance, authenticity and confidence.

The Superpower of Free Will

This is about choice. You have free will over how you respond to life’s challenges and the kind of inner life you allow yourself to have. Many situations are beyond your control and proceed in their own way, especially if other people are involved. But your free will allows you to make a crucial choice: living on auto-pilot according to habitual inner programs or taking responsibility for how you deal with a given situation.

The Superpower of Self-Regulation

Rather than being passive and letting pre-determined currents determine your thinking, feeling and acting, you have the power to tame the “gang of 3”. Begin by deciding not to accept the automatic processes within you but take charge of your inner life instead.

This might involve modifying your expectations, focussing on solutions rather than problems, riding out emotional storms, calming your nervous system and challenging automatic negative thoughts. Be realistic and honest with yourself about what is going on, inside and outside, and take control of yourself.

The Superpower of Discernment

There are different aspects to this power:

  • Understanding that not all is what it seems.
  • Awareness that information or other people’s behaviour may contain hidden agendas and motivations.  
  • Critical thinking and questioning whether you are presented with the facts of an event or whether the narrative is one-sided, obfuscating the truth, or simply lies.
  • Recognizing what undermines and sabotages your power and restricts your choices. This does not only come through laws and regulations but also when you are manipulated into such fear and uncertainty that you limit yourself.
The Superpower of Your Inner Compass

The ‘sixth sense’, is a real powerhouse. It transcends thinking and analysis. In most people this power has been discouraged in their early years so that it takes a while to activate and use it again in later years. Many societies place greater value on logic and the commonly accepted five senses than on sensitivity and inner knowing.

To consciously work with your intuition requires trust in yourself and a solid sense of self. When you have to make a decision or even just want to make sense of a circumstance, tune into yourself in a quiet moment and ask any of the following questions: How did this scenario come about? What is my part in it? What is my gut feeling about it? What action could I take? What feels ‘right’ – often without knowing why? Then be still and listen to the small whispers of knowingness and heart wisdom that might emerge from within.

The Superpower of Manifestation.

Frequently this power is understood in a rather simplistic way: You can have anything you want. Affirmations will get you there. If you envision the future with enough conviction, it will (magically) appear. It is true that the mind is so powerful that what you focus on will eventually manifest. A person who expects problems and focuses on things that are ‘wrong’ will inevitably find them arriving in their life. Someone else who sees things from a less negative perspective, will have considerably more positive experiences.

Manifestation is a creative power. To be really effective it requires action as well as visualisation or imagination. Athletes use the methods of manifestation by internally ‘seeing’ themselves perform at their best, but they also train and develop their skills through targeted action. If you wish to manifest something in your life, you also need to take practical steps in the desired direction and boost your chances by creating it in your mind as if it has already happened.

The Greatest Superpower of All: Love.

Love is the power of the human heart that gives rise to compassion, empathy, kindness, forgiveness and acceptance. Whether it is for another person, mankind or yourself, love transcends hate and blame, indifference and callousness. Love relieves suffering, nurtures your soul and allows you to live with light in your being.

Love and wisdom go hand in hand. With it, you know what to do and how to be. It can be a romantic feeling or a powerful stance of benevolence towards yourself and other living creatures. It is a truly spiritual attribute that arises from the understanding that all lifeforms are connected and you are but one part of a mysterious whole greater than yourself.

What other superpowers can you think of? How are you using — or not — your superpowers? Which ones do you need to develop further?

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How many times have you heard the phrase “You are what you eat”? The idea behind this now-infamous diet mantra is that in order to be fit and healthy, you have to eat nutritious food. The take-home message? Your actions have direct ramifications for your body and your mind.

Now, consider this spin: “You are what you say.” Fair or not, what you communicate to others can lead others to make assumptions about your character — a concept called spontaneous trait inference.

This psychological phenomenon holds that people are perceived as possessing traits they describe in others. Several experiments have shown that people can associate traits with others mindlessly without logical rationale.

Think of it this way: the more you talk about a certain trait — even if you’re describing another person and not yourself — the more salient and memorable that trait becomes in the other person’s mind. Through an associative process in the brain, they start to think of you coupled with that trait (kind of like when you hear “zebra,” you may think “stripes”).

Spontaneous trait inference is crucial to keep in mind at the office for the sake of both your current job and your career prospects. Here’s how to use this concept to boost your reputation, influence and become exceptionally more likable in the process:

No Gossip — No Exceptions

As if you needed another reason to keep the chitchat in check, spontaneous trait inference means that every time you share something negative about someone, the person you’re blathering to might start thinking of you as the one characterized by that trait.

Translation: when you call a colleague a gossip to another co-worker, you’re the one that will be perceived as a gossip. People will begin to question your motives and conclude you’re untrustworthy.

In a professional setting, there’s really no excuse for bad-mouthing anyway — be it your client, colleague or CEO. It creates tension, characterizes you as petty and is just plain mean.

Find healthier ways to deal with the stress of having a moody manager or an impossible client. Better yet, devote some time to developing proactive strategies for managing difficult people, whether with the help of a professional or by educating yourself.

Choose Your Words Wisely

Armed with the knowledge that your words can become your reality, you should pay extra close attention to how you communicate in a career-related setting. For instance, over-apologizing or using minimizing language can not only affect your confidence levels but also how others perceive you.

On the flip side, being generous with compliments and praise (when warranted, not to brown-nose) is a great habit to show compassionate leadership. During the next one-on-one you have with your boss, consider sharing positive feedback about other members on your team.

Act As You Want to Feel

Do unto others as… you know the rest. How do you want to feel when you’re at a networking event, solo? What about on your first day at a new job, or out to happy hour for the first time with new colleagues? How do you want to be treated by your new hire? What about by your boss after a big win?

Since you now know that spontaneous trait inference can unconsciously transfer traits to you that you communicate about others, put your best professional foot forward by behaving exactly how you’d like to be dealt with by those around you. Jealous of a colleague’s promotion? Think about how you’d wish to be treated in her shoes, and act accordingly with a warm congratulations

The phenomenon of spontaneous trait inference can affect your interactions up and down the career ladder. Keep it in mind when you’re communicating with anyone involved in your work, which includes listening clear-headedly to others so that you’re not the one guilty of trait inference.

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I am convinced that one of our missions in life is to learn what we need to become better versions of ourselves. That is why we find ourselves in situations we don’t have the tools to handle. When we don’t know what to do with the circumstances and the associated emotions, we are presented with a learning opportunity.

Many times, I’ve found myself in situations where I feel lost, not knowing what to do or where to start. They are mostly life changing situations, events that demand us to make life defining decisions, even though we don’t even understand what is really going on.

For some people is the loss of a loved one, for others is losing a job, or being in a car accident, victim of an assault, a break up, a divorce, immigration, or any other situation we perceive as traumatic.

In a situation like that, we tend to overthink and focus only on that specific situation. We start feeling anxious about how are we going to get through it, and maybe, at the same time, sad or guilty (or both) about what’s happening. We question our decisions, “Why did I do that?” Or, “Why didn’t I do this?” We think on the “should haves”, “could haves” and “would haves”, and then we blame ourselves and give the situation or people involved, the power to impact our self-confidence and self-esteem.

We start making decisions for the wrong reasons, thinking about what others would say, what should I’d be doing, or what others have done in this situation. So we make decisions, applying for jobs that we are not trained for or that we don’t like at all, after losing our job or moving to another country, only because “I should be working”, or studying a specific career just because what we really like to do wouldn’t be approved by our parents, our spouse, our friends, etc. We also compare ourselves to others, generalizing and taking the situation out of context.

Yes, it is easier said than done. Generally, those situations come full of negative emotions. Fear of the future, fear of failure, or success, sadness for the past, for our losses, sometimes regrets or guilt, and anxiety. At this point, you are probably thinking how are you supposed to deal with all the emotions and understand what do you need to learn from the situation all at the same time? How do you do that?

Here are some strategies that can help you to manage a difficult time in life and go through it in a more productive and less painful way.

    1. Know yourself. You are not your situation. Pause and reflect on who are you aside from the situation, what do you like, what don’t you like, what do you want and what don’t you want, what could you accept and what couldn’t you accept.
    2. Respect yourself. Once you know who you are and what your boundaries are, act accordingly. Always think, how what you are about to do will impact your life, will it take you closer to where you want to be or to the person you want to become?
    3. Be compassionate with yourself. Understand what your contribution to the situation is by being objective, and then, instead of beating yourself up, chose forgiveness, and decide what you can do different next time. Instead of being your worst judge, learn from your mistakes and try again in a different way.
    4. Check reality. When you feel like you are not enough, like you are a failure, or like you are just too afraid to try, ask yourself what is the evidence of that and who says that? If the answer is that there is no evidence or that you are the only person saying that, you will be able to look at yourself and the situation from a different perspective.
    5. Be in the present. Despair and depression usually come from looking at the past, and anxiety comes from focusing on the future and what is going to happen. When we focus on the past we relive the painful situation over and over and beat ourselves up about it. When we focus on the future, we worry about something that we don’t even know is going to happen, feeling all the emotions we would feel in a situation like that. While we are focusing on the past or on the future we are missing what is going on in the present, with its good and not so good things, we are not really living our lives.
    6. Be grateful. We are not programmed to feel two opposite emotions (happiness and sadness, or anxiety and calm) at the same time. When you are grateful you are focusing on the positive aspects of your life, making impossible for anxiousness or sadness to appear. Practice gratefulness as many times a day you can, especially when you start feeling the negative emotions.
    7. Think before acting. Is very difficult to be objective in an intense emotional state. We become impulsive, mostly to stop suffering and find a quick solution to our problems. There is a saying that goes: “Never quit on a bad day”. Avoid making important decisions on emotionally charged times, think before acting.
    8. Do what you have to do. If you want to see results you need to do the work. Be clear on your goals. Then commit yourself to do what you have to do every day, focus only on what you need to do at the present moment, knowing that the next day, week or month you will also do what you need to do until you accomplish your goal, until you are on the other side of the difficult situation. The best way to move forward is to make sure you take each step.

I would like to leave you with a popular story about a little bird learning to fly. One day, it was time to open his wings and fly, but he was really scared. He asked Mom, “What if I fall?”

His Mom answered, “But, what if you fly?”

So, I ask you: What if you fly?

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