When things don’t go our way, it’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction based on emotions that may feel like the right thing to do at the time, but after the dust settles, it becomes clear that things could have been handled better. And if they had, you’d be somewhere entirely different in the aftermath of the situation.
No one wants to fail or appear incompetent, so when things don’t go exactly as planned, anger might lead to losing your temper or tears, exhaustion could lead to skipping workouts, missing deadlines and making mistakes and a lack of confidence may lead to underperforming or not performing at all—and there’s nothing worse than inaction.
The good news is, there are some strategies for shifting your perspective from, “Forget this!” to “I got this!”. Here are 4 ways to get out of your own way and turn things around in the face of seeming failure—and go forth with a calm mind and a courageous heart.
1: Contemplate How You Process
How you deal with the onset of bad news or a setback is the first step to turning a bad situation around. You may be tempted to lash out on someone nearby or involved, throw in the towel or even scream, but creating a little space between the problem and your reaction can be truly life- changing.
First, step away. Removing yourself, if you can, from the location you’re in during the upset is a proven tactic for instantly reframing your perspective.
Next, try some deep breathing. Pranayama breathing, for example, is one type of breathwork that means “life force” and “gain control”—fitting right? Studies show that breathwork techniques diffuse panic and stress and increase feelings of comfort and relaxation, all while cutting through anger, confusion and anxiety.
Resist the urge to vent to anyone who will listen. Researchers have found that vent sessions to others rarely work and only leave you feeling more anxious afterward. Do the internal work first.
Finally, if this is a matter that doesn’t have to be resolved immediately, take the time to journal about it and reflect on it, creating space between the occurrence and your future action. Experts have found that those who do so experience a “significant decrease in psychological symptoms” leaving more clarity to solve the problem in the best way possible.
2: Try to See The Problem Objectively
Once you’ve decompressed a little, it’s time to ask yourself some questions to assess the real implications of the problem at hand. How serious is this really? Is it truly a “Burn everything to the ground!” situation like you thought when the problem first arose— or were you reacting in the heat of the moment? The beauty of taking the time to look at things objectively is that you can create an entirely different outcome that doesn’t have to be as painful for you, and those involved. You have that power!
Ask yourself some honest questions like, “What does this mean for me right now and how much will it matter to me in a few days, months or even a year or two from now?” Another critical question to ask is, “What is the worst-case outcome of this problem?”.
While some issues do warrant waving the big red SOS flag, typically in day-to-day life, we tend to default to fight-or-flight mode—called the stress response—even when it’s not always necessary, as a means of survival and protection. It’s important to learn to distinguish between when it is warranted and not—despite what alarm bells our mind and body sends us—and act accordingly.
3. Do Something About It
Once you’ve stepped away, taken a few deep breaths and contemplated how serious your problem is, if you’re still reeling with tension and anxiety, it’s time to do something about it. If you can, take a break in your day and practice some self-care by moving your body. Exercise is one of the best scientifically proven ways to work through intense stress because it deepens breathing, releases tension in your muscles and also diffuses the body’s stress hormones—adrenaline and cortisol. At the same time, it boosts feel-good endorphins that have a similar effect to painkillers and mood-enhancers. Sounds pretty good right?
Another powerful tool to help you see things differently is taking a moment to write down everything that is going right at the moment—even when it may seem like everything is hitting the proverbial fan.
A gratitude practice is a proven perspective-shifting tool even during trying moments. We realize it’s not easy to sit down and count your blessings when you’re feeling utterly defeated or seeing red, but the term “silver lining” is ubiquitous for a reason, because it helps tremendously to see the upside—even in the worst situations.
We’re not suggesting you push all your unpleasant or painful feelings aside and only dream up rainbows and butterflies, but instead let both exist at once and for a brief moment, perhaps it’s five minutes or just five things you’re grateful for jotted down in a journal, focus on a few things that are going your way, or that you’re thankful for, and then observe how doing so shifts the overall picture afterwards.
Bottom line: Life happens and it doesn’t always go our way, but the difference between a problem and a catastrophe often boils down to how you handle the situation. There is so much power in your reaction alone. Try these tactics for getting out of your own way and handling life’s ups and downs with grace. It may take some practice but in no time, you’ll be moving through life like a peaceful warrior.
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