Finding the balance
I was chatting to a friend recently about coping with stress in life. I mentioned how it is important to care about the world around us but sometimes when we care, we end up feeling grief and sadness at the awful state the world is in – animal cruelty, cruelty to children and the elderly, people taking advantage of others, lies, treachery, heartbreak….how long have you got?
Inevitably, we all build emotional barriers in order to cope with the negative occurrences in the world. We become hardened and desensitised to others and our empathy diminishes. I see many people who tune out and/or find ways to escape (alcohol, drugs, gambling, spending, excessive addictive behaviour) in order to deal with the hardships of life. This isn’t the solution either.
It got me thinking about how we are bombarded by so many experiences in life. We deal with positive and negative things but it seems that positive experiences don’t always seem to undo the negative experiences, especially later in life. Negative experiences seem to have a greater impact upon us and make us retreat.
I decided to come up with a few suggestions for staying neutral, trying to see the world with fresh eyes, like a child full of wonder but with the wisdom of experience…
1) Don’t generalise
Yes, there are some mean people out there but don’t allow them to ruin your faith in the human race. When we begin to believe that people are cruel and selfish, we unwittingly look for examples around us to confirm this belief. When we keep an open mind and try to see the good too, we will be more inclined to notice the good will and kindness that does exist in the world.
2) Do your bit
If you feel strongly about something (my particular passion is animal welfare and of course – mental health), do something about it. Donate to a charity and if there isn’t one, find out about doing some fundraising, or raise awareness of the issue via social media. Doing your little bit, no matter how small helps us to all feel we are making a difference. Stick to your values even when you feel your opinion will not be welcomed. We need more strong people in this world willing to speak up against injustice and unfairness. Don’t be a sheep.
3) Don’t make assumptions
When we’ve been hurt in life, it teaches us a lesson. We can use that constructively and learn from it or we can build those walls a little higher in an effort to protect ourselves in the future. This isn’t always the best strategy and it can end up leaving us isolated and empty. Instead, continue to engage with people, believe the best about them (unless they show you otherwise) and invite love into your life. Give others a chance, be brave and you might just be surprised at how many wrong assumptions you were holding.
4) Fill up your ‘reservoirs’
When we are happy and fulfilled, we tend to be more peaceful and content. When we are at peace and content, we tend to be more tolerant and open to others instead of bitter and cynical. Make sure you do things regularly that give you positive energy. This is a way to keep your reservoirs full – take up a hobby, get a pet, laugh with friends, exercise, take a walk in the sunshine, spend time with inspiring people, listen to music…whatever it is that makes you feel life is good. When we feel content inside, the negative times hold less sway over us.
5) Watch your thinking
Your thoughts create your reality. If your inner dialogue is negative, mistrustful and angry, your life will mirror this. The first step is catching the automatic negative thoughts that you have. Once you have started to identify some of these thoughts, do a reality check – where is the evidence?? Challenge your thinking and come up with alternative, more balanced ways to see yourself and the world. You get to choose your attitude and how you want to see the world much more than you realise.
Ask yourself what thoughts you need to have in order for something/someone to bother you less, mean less or upset you less. There is always another way to look at something and usually that balanced thinking will lead to more balanced emotions and behaviour.
Take your time, don’t react impulsively.
Finding the balance can seem like a work in progress, (I’m still working on it). Being too closed off and detached will leave you emotionally safer but I can guarantee you that you won’t be truly living. Being too tuned in will most likely lead us to insanity…finding the balance is possible though…we’ll get there in the end.
Photo by James Jordan