This week I had a bit of a disaster.
It involved my cat, a cup of tea and my laptop. I’m fairly sure you can guess how that ended.
You know in films when things happen in slow motion? Life chose that moment to imitate art!
This happened first thing in the morning of a really busy day.
As my brain started assessing the damage, Have I killed it? When was my last back up? How much have I lost? What is only on that hard drive?
Each answer made me feel worse and worse until I just wanted to curl up and cry.
Those who follow me on instagram will have seen this unhappy display unfold on my stories.
But instead of curling up in that ball, I put the hair dryer and towels down, stashed the laptop upside down in the airing cupboard (I did not have sufficient rice to fill a laptop sized bag with it) and took a breath.
I had a whole day of meetings and adulty responsibilities to get through. I could cancel most of them but would that be the best choice? Would it change anything? No.
So I thought about all my personal development reading and decided to use this as an opportunity to be resilient.
First things first, an appointment was made with the apple store to assess the damage.
Second a phone call to the insurance which was more promising than I had expected.
Next was to evaluate my options. 1) they fix it, I get all my work back – champagne for everyone! 2) They don’t fix it but can recover the data – pain in the arse but nothing lost. 3) They don’t fix it and I loose about 3 weeks worth of work – okay, that still makes me feel sick, but it’s not a fact yet so all is not lost.
Go back-up now people – I’ll wait!
Moving on. What have I got to do in the next week and how else can I get it done? This caused more pause for thought and my time was up. It was time to put it all to one side and get on with my day.
I’m not going to lie. Between all this pragmatic action, there was a lot of swearing and glaring at the cat.
However, by the time I returned home that evening, I was reconciled to the worst case scenario, equally knowing I still had no facts. Hope never dies right?
I switched on the laptop in the hope it had come back to life and saw this…
So I took the decision turn it off, leave it to the experts and, in the meantime, not to worry about it. I sat and wrote a list of all the things I could do using the working tools I still had.
It turns out I can keep moving forward quite well for a week with a phone and an iPad.
So here I sit, still none the wiser but swearing a lot less. There’s something really rather liberating in accepting that you have no control whatsoever over certain things and all the worrying and ranting in the world will change nothing.
What it did do was to inspire me to distil this experience into my top tips on how to be resilient when things go sideways.
Here we go.
1. Recognise and manage your emotional response
Don’t let your emotions run away with you, tell you negative stories or catastrophise. Or at least recognise that this is what is happening. Take a breath and watch this hurricane go around in your head, knowing that these are thoughts and not facts. The two are very different things but we confuse them so often!
No matter how hard it seems, it is possible to get a handle on your emotions. Focus on your breathing, slow things down and try any other mindfulness exercises you find useful until the intensity subsides.
2. Assess the situation objectively and problem solve
Once you have a grip of yourself, have a look at the facts. What do you know? What are you assuming? What can you find out? What are the possible (note, POSSIBLE, not definite) scenarios? How would you deal with each of these? What can you do this moment to improve the situation? What should you to wait to act on?
Write lists. Lists make everything better. Especially when you’re emotional (see #1) and tend to forget things. You might write a load of garbage but that doesn’t matter. You’ll know it’s garbage when you calmly read it back and realise what a state you were in!
Action can help us feel more in control, so if there is some helpful, constructive action you can take (not an emotional reaction) then do that.
Throwing a stapler at the wall is not constructive.
3. Find gratitude & perspective
Talk to people, share and find someone to tell you it will all be okay. Because even if it’s not okay, it’s okay. Even if this is the worst moment of your life, one day it will be a story to tell.
I’ve recently started watching “This is Us” on Amazon (it’s wonderful, if you’re having a bad day, or even if you’re having a good day, go and watch it). There’s a great recurring line in there that goes something like:
“There is no lemon so bitter that you can’t make something resembling lemonade”
I like that a lot. There is always a positive and always something to be thankful for. I was babysitting my nephews later that day and the first thing I did was to take their dog for a walk. Playing with a dog is one of the most grounding activities there is. I mean look at that I’ve-been-paddling-in-the-ditch-now-pleeeeeease-throw-the-ball-again face…
4. Keep on keeping on
I had that printed on a speech bubble necklace from Tatty Devine a few years ago (as shown in the grainy header image). Ironically it was one of the bits of jewellery which got stolen when I was burgled almost a year to the day ago. Life goes on. This is one drama in a long line of dramas. There will be good in your life again, there will, most likely also be bad.
Your current situation is temporary. How you choose to feel about it will dictate how happy or sad you are.
I’m not saying repress your emotions. That is definitely a bad idea.
What I’m saying is that it doesn’t do to dwell… the milk is spilt, get a cloth, get back on that horse.
Retain your sense of humour. You might be in the “too soon” stage but bitterness doesn’t do anyone any favours. There’s probably someone else out there a lot worse off than you, so once your done processing, buck up and remember, as Oscar Wilde wrote
“Life is far too important a thing to be talked about seriously”
I know this is a rather tongue in cheek look at resilience and if you’re in the throes of some major life upheaval and in that “too soon” zone I apologise, but I’ve hit number 5 (as I write this blog on my iPad) and I promise at sometime soon that you will too.