Rediscovering Your Strengths in Tough Times
By Pat Jurgens
Who among us has answers to stemming the financial downturn in the economy? Wall Street gurus didn’t predicte it; we can’t expect them to predict the future either. We’re on our own to determine how to preserve a nest egg or find work. Some of us have turned a blind eye to the numbers that mark our assets, others have cashed it all in, still others have lost much of their savings and are struggling with what the future may hold. No one can escape the personal reality of the decline in the markets. We are all affected– those who have huge assets and those who have little. And what is it that inevitably happens when a crisis is at our doorstep? A blizzard brings together neighbors who have not talked to each other for years. Forest fires bring forth amazing acts of heroism from strangers. When a loved one survives a car accident, you suddenly feel fortunate. You rediscover what’s really important. It’s no longer the shiny new SUV, or the furnace that doesn’t work, or even the house you call home.
There are some inner demons that try to trip us up. Fear can be a big impediment and sap our natural strength and good humor. When you feel like victim, it’s helpful to remember the old adage “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” Rather than denying the facts or becoming paralyzed, the only way to get beyond it is to move through fear. This means summoning our inner resources and taking action, mentally and physically.
When we get stopped in mid-stride during hard times, we have to take another look at our lives. What do we value? What’s really important? What gives us strength?
People in our lives
Your family may live near or far away, but in times like these we reach out to those with whom we’re most connected. Many have friends who are like family. Get together for fun and fellowship. Have a potluck supper night. Play games like we used to do in the old days. You probably still have a few decks of cards and maybe that old game of Monopoly. Pop popcorn and invite the neighbors. Money may be in short supply, but laughter can always be found where caring people come together.
Phone the brother who you haven’t talked with lately.
Send an inspirational book to a daughter whose job has been cut.
E-mail an old classmate.
In urban settings where you rarely bump into someone you know, the city can feel like a lonely place. Insulated in private cars, we line the highways without contacting the person next to us. Even on foot we pass those we don’t know with barely a glance. The urban sprawl is conducive to living anonymously.
Some of us prefer the natural surroundings and isolation of rural living. Whatever our living situation, there is still an opportunity to be part of our community.
Listen to your neighbors’ difficulties and take them some cookies.
Give to the local food bank.
Offer to pet-sit for someone who is ill.
Give away a warm jacket you no longer use.
Look for beauty in life. It can create a balm of peacefulness. There’s the natural beauty of the woodlands and the sea. You can observe bird life and animals. Time spent in nature is an opportunity for the mind to calm down, for ideas to arise, for balance. There is beauty within the city, too. Museums, art galleries and musical performances abound. City lights can be inspiring. It all depends on your point of view.
Take a walk in the park or on a wooded trail.
Pack a snack and go to the shore on a nice winter day.
Join a bird watching group for an outing.
Check the free days at local museums.
Find free musical performances at schools and churches.
Play the piano.
When you take care of your body, you feel better mentally and emotionally. Exercise is a matter of habit. “Just do it,” whether you are motivated or not. The result will be more energy and a happier mind and heart. You don’t have to jog a mile a day or run a marathon. Find what you enjoy and do that regularly. About 30 minutes a day is enough to raise those good feelings.
Walk the dog.
Ride your bike in the park.
Learn to snowshoe.
Join a water aerobics or yoga class.
Follow a stretch program on TV.
Build a snowman with your grandchild.
When push comes to shove, our deep inner beliefs are what pull us through the difficulties in life. You may belong to a church, pray or meditate regularly, find solace in the natural world and science or none of the above. Yet at the core of our being there is something that realizes a power greater than ourselves, the mystery that created us. If you have not connected with that part of your life lately, have another look.
Take time to be alone.
Go to a quiet place and reflect.
Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal.
Attend an inspirational reading or musical performance.
Find other people who inspire you.
Despite the financial pressures of the real world, there is an opposing reality – the hope of change. Even in this economic downturn most Americans have much more than the rest of the world. Remember to have gratitude.