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When Things Fall Apart: How to Have a Positive Mindset

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Tips for a positive mindset when things get hard.

I can’t believe how crazy things are right now. How’re you doing with all of it?

I think it’s safe to say a lot of us are dealing with some level of anxiety or stress over the coronavirus pandemic.

But then again, based on the Facebook posts about the number of cars in the Lowe’s parking lot yesterday where I live, there are a lot of people that aren’t.

Me? I think I’ve been through a good number of emotions in the past two weeks. It’s been extremely hard emotionally, to be honest.

I’m practicing social distancing. I’ve been mostly shut-in. Even though I’m an introvert (Hey – I’ve trained for this,) sometimes I still feel isolated and alienated. And if I’m not careful, my mental health dips seriously low every now and then.

So, I’m working hard to maintain a positive mindset during all of this. It’s not easy, but when I’m mindful of my mindset, I start to feel better.

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We Need More Positivity

I really believe that right now, in the middle of this crazy hard situation, we need positivity more than ever.

But maintaining positivity in hard times can be tough. There’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty out in the world right now.

It’s freaking hard. I get it. Things are changing on a daily basis and no one knows how this is going to all play out.

And sure, if I let myself “go there,” I can get down, succumb to fear, and start looking at the negative a lot more than I look at the positive.

I try to commit daily to work on maintaining a positive mindset. And every day, I have to start over. I reset my mind each morning.

I do it because I know that positivity can help us feel better, help improved productivity, and reduce stress.

I do it because if I don’t, my emotions will tank and I will find myself depressed.

So what am I doing, specifically, to try to maintain a positive mindset? That’s what I’m about to share.

These are simply things I’m trying to do each day, and they may not all work for you. But give them a try and see what happens.

1 – Stay Emotionally Present

I have the type of personality that by nature, wants to “numb out” when things get hard. Maybe you can relate.

I have a slightly addictive personality: Curling up on the sofa. Binge-watching Netflix. (Ozark, anyone?) Motoring through queso and wine.

So yes, that behavior is tempting. It sure seems like an easy path to taking the edge off and alleviating stress when times are tough. And temporarily, it does.

But believe me, (because I’ve been there,) this behavior is not going to make you feel better in the long run. More than likely, it’s going to make you feel worse.

Drowning your sorrows might feel good in the short-term, but ultimately, it will zap you.

Try your best to stay present. Things are uncomfortable right now. Sit in the discomfort. Learn to be present whether you’re feeling anger, fear, anxiety or whatever.

We can’t hide from what’s going on. Stuffing your feelings won’t resolve anything.

And I’ve learned the hard way that when I stuff my feelings, they end up exploding in ugly ways at inconvenient times. Trust me on that.

2 – Maintain a Healthy Perspective

Try to remember: This too shall pass.

When we are in the midst of a crisis, it seems nearly impossible to keep things in perspective. So, try to remember that circumstances are temporary. They always are.

Things might seem horrible at the moment but try your best to remember that you’re going to get through it.

When I find myself in tough situations, I always tell myself that things can always, always get better. And it’s true.

Think back to a time in your life when things were awful. Maybe you went through a bad break-up or divorce. You found yourself buried under a mountain of debt or you were incredibly stressed out at work.

Did that situation eventually get better? Most likely, yes.

Think back to the bombing of the Murrah Building in OKC. Or 9/11. Those were some of the darkest, most depressing days I can recall.

In time, things got better.

Sometimes there are really sucky seasons in life, but that doesn’t mean your entire life sucks.

There are going to be hard times, but try to maintain perspective and remember that hard times come and go. Hang on to that thought. It helps.

3 – Make a Plan

One of the best things we can do to maintain a positive mindset during trying times is to make a plan on how we can deal with the situation.

By setting your attention on the solutions rather than problems, you will naturally feel more positive.

It would be easy to sit around in my pajamas all day, watching the news and the press conferences, and grazing on my quarantine snacks.

But what’s better is if I write down what I want to accomplish and make a loose schedule. For example, shower and get dressed, projects with my daughter, walk the dog, work out.

I am NOT the mom with the color-coded homeschool and activity schedule. But I do keep a list of what I want to get done and then I do it.

And if I don’t get to everything, well, that’s okay too. As long as I’m not just sitting around idly. Just doing things can help your mental health tremendously.

Go for a walk. Read a book. Learn a new hobby. Call someone and have a conversation. Write. Find things to do that will make your life better or teach you something. Do them.

4 – Focus on Gratitude

Even during our worst times, we can still find things to be grateful for.

No matter how tough or how scary life feels, it is critical to remember that there is good in the world, and more importantly, in your life.

When you are struggling, take some time to list at least three things each day that you are grateful for. Try for more if possible.

You might find that once you get going, it’s hard to stop. I find myself writing about things I usually take for granted, like the warm sunshine or fresh air.

I write about how my cat feels warm and snuggly when she settles into my lap. The phone calls I get throughout the day from my husband just to check in and say hi. Listening to my daughter’s sweet voice as she tells me what’s going on with her tween friends.

Lately, I’m finding a lot of gratitude for this slower pace and extra time to reflect.

What are you grateful for, big and small?

5 – Connect with Others

Don’t isolate yourself in troubled times. Reach out to friends and family via phone or online.

Don’t weather this storm alone.

Yes, I feel the weight of this situation on my heart, and it’s heavy. But I’ve had a lot of laughs with friends whether it’s been over the phone, Facetime, over texts or even in my social media feeds.

Likewise, show support to others by reaching out and seeing how you can help them.  A kind word, a joke, a phone call. Those things can make someone’s day a lot brighter.

If it makes sense, offer to run grab a necessity for a neighbor or a friend that needs it. (Note – spring flowers aren’t a necessity. Food and medicines are._

Just smile and say hello when you see others on your walks or bike rides (while practicing social distancing,) Everyone could use a smile right now.

Donate to local organizations that are hurting. If you can, keep paying for memberships or dues to local businesses or organizations.

When things are bad, it gives everyone hope when they can pull together and help each other out.

6 – Take a Break When You Need To

Sometimes things get so bad that our circumstance or problem is all we can think about. Right now, we’ve got non-stop news coverage or bad news blowing up your social media feed.

Positive cases are increasing and the deaths are rising.

I’ve been struggling with information overload since the coronavirus pandemic blew up in the United States.

Sometimes, you just need to take a break from the noise. Stop listening to negative people. Getting the necessary information and updates are one thing. Being hit with it non-stop is another.  

Walk away from your news sources from time to time so you can focus on positive things and give your mind a rest.

And for the love, unfollow the people that trigger you on your social media accounts.

7 – Write Out Your Thoughts and Feelings

Journaling is a powerful way to work out your problems by simply giving you a place to express your fears and concerns.

Try doing a brain dump of all of your worries or frustrations. Write for five minutes or for 50. Write every day or when the mood strikes.

If you don’t want to write about fear and frustration, you can journal about your gratitude and things that bring you joy. Writing about things you love can help shift you into a positive mindset.

Either way, whatever you write, getting everything out in writing is therapeutic.

8 – Focus on Things You Can Control

When your world seems like it is spinning out of control, (kind of like now,) you may feel helpless.

It’s normal.

One way to overcome feelings of helplessness and stay more positive is to focus on the things you can control.

In my town, a lot of people seem to be ignoring the Mayor’s “Shelter at Home” order. Some people aren’t taking the direction to “flatten the curve” in a serious manner.

When I start thinking about it, I start getting really angry. I want to blast everyone. But that’s not going to help anything.

What I can do, though, is make sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing to protect myself, my family and others.

I’m sharing helpful and informative information with family and friends. I’m taking care of myself physically and mentally. I’m making plans for the future. I’m focusing on what I can control.

Instead of fretting about things out of your control, focus on making sure you do your best job on the things you can control.

9 – Give Yourself Grace

No matter who you are, you aren’t going to be the most positive person one hundred percent of the time.

Remember that we’re human and our emotions, even anger and sadness, are normal. Remember the movie “Inside Out?” All of those emotions were normal emotions that we all have. They just needed to be managed properly.

When you think about it, we’re just like little Riley in the movie. Sometimes, our emotions take over.

When things get hard or stressful or scary, we’re going to feel a lot of emotions.

Feel them. Process them. Give yourself the grace to work through them.

That’s a healthy part of having a positive mindset, too.

Those are the things I’m doing to maintain a positive mindset as much as possible. Like I said, if you’re struggling, consider trying just a few and see how that helps.

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Write down your feelings. Think about everything you are dealing with and how it’s affecting you and write it down. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling; just focus on getting your feelings out of your head and onto paper.
Reach out. Whether you are reaching out to offer support or request it, reaching out will help you feel like part of a community. When we all work together, we can overcome anything.
Make a plan. Think about what your biggest struggle is right now and devise a plan to tackle it. Set some goals and deadlines. You will feel more positive by just having the plan, and even more positive if you act on it.

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