There’s something really sad about Christmas.
You can see it in all these commercials with families gathered around the table, blissfully celebrating the festive days with their loved ones, exchanging perfectly-wrapped presents next to shiny Christmas trees, with everyone smiling and feeling so lucky to have each other.
What??? You can’t see it yet?
To give you a hint:
In this “merry” picture, projected through media and social media...
...where are the people who are grieving the loss of a loved one?
...where are the people who can’t spend time with their friends and family because of work?
This is how I call any challenging situation, any hard time in life, that brings turbulence in my inner -hard-won- balance.
I call it like that not only because it is -objectively- a difficult moment in your life. But mainly because it blows a strong wind inside your mind, it makes you feel you have no shelter to protect yourself, it thunders against all what you have believed and dreamt so far, it pours you into an emotional rollercoaster, and all this you have to fight it by yourself.
It has become something like a habit. To watch the movie "Groundhog Day" every now and then and remind myself of its life-changing message. Besides having a blast just by watching it.
For those who haven't seen it, Phil (Bill Murray) is the weatherman in a local channel and he is assigned to travel to a small town and broadcast the "Groundhog Day", a day when a groundhog "predicts" the weather for the next six weeks, tradition says. Boring, right?
Defeating anxiety, stress, negative thoughts, procrastination and fears has never been easy. And it never will be. Not because there is something wrong with us, or because we are doing it the wrong way, but because it is something that indeed requires from us conscious effort, time, practice and a lot of mental energy. We are actually rewiring our brain: changing the neuron paths existing since childhood which take us a certain way, into a different path, where things happen in a different way and are linked to different thoughts.
In order to build that new path, we need to develop some specific skills. Attention: don't go into "all or nothing" thinking, saying to yourself "I don't have that skill, so I will never beat anxiety". It's not "you either have it or you don’t". We all have these skills, each and every one of us, at a different degree. And we can all work on these skills, a little bit every day, some skills more than others. There is no recipe here. No one is master in all of them - we are all trying our best.
Everyone talks about the downside of depression. But is there a good side at all? Anger and stress, for example, can help us adapt to external threat and protect ourselves. But depression? Is there any actual benefit in it?
Depression helps us build stronger relationships.
At some point in our life we experience the pain and grief associated with the loss of a loved one. We feel depressed, our life seems empty, we are stressed, and what seemed interesting in the past, now appears meaningless. This pain makes us understand how close we were to this person and how important they were to our life. it is during this depressive phase that we acknowledge how significant our relationships are to our well-being.
Once upon a time there was a man called Odysseus, the king of Ithaka who fought for a decade at the war of Troy together with his men. After the war, he started his trip back home but unfortunately he and his 12 ships were driven off course by storms. They travelled all around the Mediterranean sea, chased by angry gods, seduced by vindictive women, life-threatened and shipwrecked by humanlike landscapes. During 10 years of struggling, Odysseus lost all his men but eventually escaped and survived from all these tortures and challenges, because he was the only one believing in his return back home. And he reached there alone.
This is a story, a pattern which comes up very frequently when talking with my (expat) clients, but also with people from my environment.
Let us consider two different people making the same decision. No one knows if it's right or wrong. Both move to a new country for an unspecified period. The first one struggles with life there: doesn't like the place, the weather, the system, the people, the traditions, the mentality. And when comparing the new life with the former one, the latter is always the winner. At the same time, he keeps asking himself: “Did I make the right decision?" In the end, he moves back to his home country with a feeling of relief, but also bitterness regarding the time “wasted” there.
On the other hand, the other person adjusts pretty well to the new place. He anticipated there would be difficulties in the beginning, but is ready to compromise and to try. And above all, never asks himself if he made the right decision.
One of the most thrilling moments of my career was when I was working with an autistic child. Actually, not much of a child, Carl(*) was 21 years old. His mental age however was closer to that of a 4-5 year old.
His mother told me that from now on he would be my teacher and would teach me how to behave towards him. The short life we would share inside his room for a few hours a week would be the mirror of the bigger life that I have "out there", Interesting concept I thought, and at least a rather challenging assignment.
To start with, one of my goals was to make eye contact with him. Taken for granted? No.
Easy? Not at all.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.