April 2020: What words describe your life? Over the past few years, starting with this article, I’ve written a few more on using language to our benefit, trying to help us all remember that we hold many of the keys to our own mental and emotional health in terms of how we think, how we see, and how we talk about things.
On a Zoom call this morning with my friend, the LinkedIn Guru Jeff Young, I was reminded of this topic toward the end of our fun-filled talk, when he said something about being stuck in the house more than he wanted to be.
Now, the world is going through a terrible time, and you don’t have to read this to know it. Everyone has been impacted; there’s no escape from some effects on each of us, even if of varying degrees. Our world has been turned upside down in many respects. Families have lost loved ones. Friends, too. Colleagues. And it’s not ending quickly enough for anyone.
While we’re in the middle of it all, though, it’s possible to make ourselves more miserable than we need to be, merely by how we frame the situation.
Jeff’s an extrovert, so for him, this “stay in place” stuff is tougher than it is for me, as I’m much more of an introvert.
But as I listened to him, I heard him say something close to “I’m stuck at home more than I want to be. It’s really hard for me.”
His face reflected those words; it looked sad for a couple of seconds. And this from a man who is the epitome of kindness, caring, giving!
We talked about it for a bit, and we realized that how we frame our lives right now can help or hurt; it’s one of things we actually have some control over. To use a negative word like “stuck” doesn’t help. It’s limiting and can make us feel even more like a victim than we need to be.
We decided that if we were to reframe that vision and use different words, it might help.
How about “I’m so glad I’m able to be at home!”
“I’m glad I can work from home.”
“I’m grateful I still have a job, and …”
“Thank goodness my kids are able to keep learning remotely.”
It’s the focus that can help us see rays of light in what truly is a dark time. It can help us all feel less invaded, less out of control. It can help keep us on a more even keel.
The best analogy of all this is what flight attendants are taught to NEVER say when a plane hits turbulence or there’s a sudden noise or something …
Right. Our brain hears “panic” and does exactly that. The word plays to our greatest fears, all while we’re trying desperately to pretend everything’s fine. It shuts our rational mind down. We go into survival mode, the fight-or-flight one. It ain’t pretty, folks!
Of course, the flight attendants always focus on what we can do – put on our seat belt, stay in our seat, remain calm. It’s a deliberate shift to help us do our best in what may be a tough situation.
So, while we can’t control much that’s happening in the wider world, we can control some of what is happening in our own small space.
How will you / do you frame your current situation? How would you describe your life right now? How can you help yourself and others do a little better job managing this life we’re all living right now? Please share your thoughts here.