Thriving in Challenging Times


Written by Anna Verschoore, NIH Employee Assistance Program (EAP)  

There is much to be upset about in today's world. So many have lost loved ones to disease, violence or other tragic circumstances. Many families are struggling to survive or have been torn apart and many are isolated or lack knowledge or the resources to improve their situation. We know that people are experiencing a great deal of pain as news reports tell us there's been an increase in stress-related health conditions, increased divorce rate, and an increase in violent crime and anonymous crimes. Medical professionals report an increased rate of obesity, particularly with children and an increased use of psychotropic medications. News reports less pro-social behaviors, an increased use of electronic devices to babysit or distract our minds and lower attendance at places of worship. EAP clients report a lot of suffering and many of us want to know, how can we move forward?

Moving forward, continuing beyond the suffering, particularly following the circumstances of the past 3 years is possible, though difficult. We first have to reflect briefly what helped us through the past 3 years. It is truly important to acknowledge the dynamic, evolving reality of the past few years. We have to give ourselves credit for finding our way. Did you ever ask yourself, “what did I do well over the past 3 years" and “what should I have done differently"? One thing is certain, most of us got up and showed up, despite the unknowns, despite the emotions, despite the difficulties. Most of us called upon all our psychological, spiritual and physical reserves, despite these unknowns, emotions and challenges. Try a little bit of reflection and then turn your focus on the present. Don't ignore the cruelty of this world but instead be willing to find fulfillment and purpose despite this pain. This is not an easy journey but you will find more energy to address the pain by focusing on what you can control in your present life. You can find ways to take a stand against violence, contribute towards natural disaster relief or participate in activities to help others.

Atticus, a Greek writer, says a happy soul is the best shield for a cruel world. We know our soul cannot be happy when we're depleted. We can't drink from an empty cup, a metaphor for feeling exhausted or empty. If we're going to be of service to others, if we're going to take care of others, we first have to be healthy and whole. When you think about refilling your cup or refilling your psychological, spiritual and physical reserves, you first must seek to understand them. You have to ask yourself, “how am I using my energy?" Sometimes the energy is taken away by negative or unpleasant tasks or unpleasant people. Sometimes it's taken up by things we might find pleasant but are still exhausting. The next step is to really think about your end goal. “Begin with the end in mind," to quote Stephen Covey, author of the New York Times bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989). If you consider what you would like to achieve or what the end result will be, it will help you see the steps along the way.  You may notice you need to redefine or adjust your priorities. As you proceed on this path, aim for small victories. Achieve small steps that you can celebrate along the way, giving yourself credit for achieving these small steps. As you're moving along, remember the analogy of the oxygen mask. On an airplane, we're told in the case of an emergency, put the mask on yourself first and then help others. You must be breathing so you can help others.

The next step in moving forward is to consider living with intention. Most of us live very busy lives where we don't take the time or energy to pay attention to what's most important to us. Living with intention is a holistic mindset and really connects you to your body, your energy, your psychological state and your spirit. It involves purposely creating a life where you live according to your own values and what's most important to you.

If you would like help with intentional living or in dealing with some stressors in your life, please call the NIH EAP at 301-496-3164. We're here to support you and look forward to your call.​


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