I know I am not alone in the occasional feeling of everyone moving on but me. It feels like a parade going by as I sit on the curb waving my little flag, happy for my friends while deep down inside feeling despondent, ignored by the universe, left behind and wondering when my time will come. It’s a horrible bunch of feelings to deal with.
Recently, I was struck by this when I got the news that someone I know, who has continued to grow in his career, also got a great new apartment. I, on the other hand, have been living in the same first apartment I rented when I was 24. Yes, there are perks that come with this. I live in a coveted NYC rent-stabilized apartment in a beautiful Brooklyn neighborhood I would otherwise not be able to afford. My rent is below market rate and the smaller overhead has given me some wiggle room to take bigger risks in my life. Despite being well aware of the benefits, I can assure you, this was not the plan.
I never planned to live here for 22 years. My affordable rent-stabilized apartment is old and in desperate need of upgrades. My 24-year-old self would be completely disappointed to know that I don’t own a fancy Brooklyn Brownstone or a fabulous apartment with a great view by now. I’m a broke 46-year-old with not a lot put away for retirement, who owns a business that has now been completely hamstrung by this pandemic. Wanna trade?
During this self-pity party, I did what most people do when they feel crappy, I googled my current mood to see if I could find some sort of self-help-ish article to boost my spirits and change my mindset. Reading one article pertinent to my mood, I read some great advice, “when you feel like everyone is moving on but you, use the time to prepare the perfect patch for your helicopter to land.”
This advice struck me so powerfully because I realized that what I do now matters. Certainly, wallowing in self-pity isn’t productive or doing anything to guarantee that my patch will be perfect for when there is an upswing. It really is true, when we presently live into what we want in our future, it can powerfully help direct what happens next.
Since reading this helpful bit of advice, I have given more thought into how I need to take my own inventory. Who am I being in the present that will help ensure my future is ripe with possibility? Things rarely work out for people who sit around feeling sorry for themselves, wishing for things to be different. When I find myself with a mindset of lack, fear, concern or worry, I have come up with ways to clear that space for my helicopter landing.
Preparing your patch
During these uncertain times we are living through, there have been mass layoffs, businesses closing, an economic crash and preparation for the fact that life before the Coronavirus outbreak is something we might not see again for a long time. It’s depressing, traumatic and destabilizing.
But, how have you used this time? Certainly, we all need to cut ourselves a little break with the understanding that we will all have good days and bad ones while we readjust to a world that is foreign to us. However, one day this all will be a memory and we will be rebuilding and succeeding again. This is our time to prepare the patch for our helicopters to land. Here are some things I am doing that may help you.
The first is gratitude. The act of being grateful is one of life’s best vitamins. It makes a profound difference to focus on what is good instead of what is bad. Studies have shown that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. Gratitude unshackles us from negative emotions and studies have also assessed that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.
Reframing is commonly used in cognitive behavioral therapy as a way to help see things differently. Take my apartment situation where I looked at my situation negatively. Then I took my same situation and explained all the benefits my apartment has offered me. This is classic reframing.
Reframing requires a willingness to see things in a new way; to see setbacks as challenges that enliven us, to view the direst circumstances as opportunities to grow and it offers the opportunity to reshape the inner turmoil into goals.
Making goal lists and plans
What if instead of feeling aimless during this time you used it to plan. Who has ever has this much time to form any type of a game plan? Life typically moves way too fast for anyone to catch their breath and lay things out fully before forging ahead. Unclear goals lead to unclear results. Goals not only blaze a path for the future, but it also gives us a mindset to live in in the present.
Networking and Asking for Help
When the economy crashed in 2008, I struggled. Despite the entire country going through this together, I couldn’t help but feel like a failure. I remember reaching out to some friends who owned businesses where my expertise could be a benefit and asked them to keep me in mind if they ever needed help with a job. Every person I contacted replied back relieved to know they weren’t the only ones struggling. Like me, they were sitting around wondering what they did wrong.
If there is is a benefit to a collective struggle, it’s that we can feel less alone in it. If you are struggling, it’s a guarantee someone else is too. Networking is a natural part of being a small business owner. If you set a lunch or coffee date with another business owner, it’s basically code for, “I’ll show you yours if you show me mine.” Ideas are traded, contacts are shared. It’s quite incredible. Just last week, I had a lovely conversation with a longtime colleague of mine. Not only did we realize we had a lot of the same business goals where we could team up, what she felt like she was lacking in expertise I possessed, and vice versa. You may not be a business owner, but you can still use this time to reach out and connect with others. You never know who might have what you need that will help you prepare your patch for your helicopter to land. In addition, feeling of value by providing someone else with help or expertise can go a long way in lifting your mood.
Of course, you need to be clear about what you need. In addition to having clear goals for yourself, you need to be able to articulate them to yourself and to others. People aren’t mind readers, you can’t expect anyone will know how they can help. When the lockdown began, the first thing I did was articulate clearly to my audience where I needed help, which you can read here. From this, many potential opportunities have come and many have expressed gratitude for letting them know exactly what I needed.
In addition to this, I set up a Ko-Fi account to give readers and clients a way to financially support me by buying me a proverbial cup of coffee. I was hesitant to set something like this up at first, but as the donations came rolling in with these hopeful and supportive messages, I realized that people were thrilled to have a clear way to show their support.
Nourishing Body, Mind, and Spirit
Maintaining good health is always helpful but particularly important when you feel like things aren’t going as you wish they were. Even if nourishing yourself is just an act to keep you from falling off the edge, it can work wonders. I believe nourishing all three, the body, mind, and spirit can have the biggest impact. It’s the perfect trifecta.
For me, this involves daily Vedic, also known as Transcendental meditation, which, to me, is the simplest and most effective form of meditation. If you have been wanting to learn this style, 1 Giant Mind, offers daily guidance and a 30-day challenge to get into the habit of meditating.
To nourish my body and spirit, during this pandemic lockdown, I have used Zoom to take gym classes with my favorite class instructor and I have found spiritual nourishment in attending Zoom church services given by my Unitarian Universalist church here in Brooklyn.
Acting As If
The last thing I have been mindful of is acting as if. To me, this is everything. The truth is, we don’t know what the future holds but when we live what we want in the future now, and truly believe it is happening, things tend to work out better than when we don’t. Some would call this faith or the law of attraction. If you think this is all bunk, there is convincing evidence of something called “mirror neurons” which can explain the phenomenon of attraction. You can read more about this here.
If You’re Having a Hard Time Changing Your Mindset There is a Reason
Changing your mindset and making real change is not an easy task. Once neural pathways are set it’s hard to change course. Think of these neural paths as grass paths where the paths have been pressed down from years of walking on them. It takes time to change.
Another thing to consider is something called attentional bias which is the tendency to pay attention to some things while simultaneously ignoring others. This impacts not only the things that we perceive in the environment but the decisions that we make based upon our perceptions.
To make matters worse, in order to ensure survival, our ancestors were more likely to survive if they paid greater attention to risky things in the environment and ignored things that did not pose a threat. So, if you’ve been struggling to get your head on straight, it’s not just you, you’re working against hundreds of years of human evolution that has wired us with a predisposition to put more attention on negativity.
However, that does not mean you can’t change, it just means you have to consciously work on your mind frame as opposed to acting like a victim. Doing things like limiting news consumption, avoiding too much social media and the best versions of themselves people post, and being an active participant in your own success can help your patch of land be prepared when that helicopter touches down.