*This is an article from the Winter 2020/2021 issue of Contentment Magazine.
2020 has certainly dealt us a full smorgasbord of stressors, uncertainties, and even full-blown traumas to deal with. Our nervous systems are not designed to constantly be under that much stress. The result: many of us are exhausted! And when we are exhausted our brains have an even harder time making sense of our world, managing our feelings, and coming up with creative ways to maintain health and well-being in the midst of such radical change. Now is a great time to take a deep breath (or 10!), and first recognize, with compassion and without judgment, all that you have been feeling, what has changed for you, and what you need right now. In other words, it is time for a self-hug and some recharging!
After you take that pause and meet some of your energy needs, it’s an opportune time to get curious. Curiosity is a great stress-antidote, bringing your frontal lobe back on board to explore how you want to process all this change. What would you like to learn from this chaotic year? What matters most to you? Who matters most to you? Where do you need some clarity and how would you like to transform yourself to emerge stronger, wiser, and more resilient?
These are big, reflective questions that do not need to be rushed or answered in ink. But this shift from reactivity to the more intentional exploration of what works for you and your life will put you back in control of your journey to contentment. Of course, if you, like many, feel overwhelmed, this may seem daunting. We’re glad you are here. Contentment magazine is where our experts and the actual science of stress can offer you the motivation, clarity, and strategies to start your shift.
Charlie Grantham, Ph.D., MSH, FAIS, APF continues his inspiring look at how we move beyond managing the crises, traumas, and radical changes of the past year to transform our leadership. He offers well-laid out strategies for the systemic change that will help leaders steer the course, using a system of measured engagement, where you can recognize and resolve the natural resistance, and adopt new belief systems to emerge transformed and stronger. This article is a follow up to his discussion of engagement in the last issue of Contentment and will be followed by part 2 in the spring edition. Taking time to reflect on your story and how you want to learn and grow from these chaotic times can change the trajectory of your life—well worth the read!
In the same spirit of deciding how to transform your resilience, Dennis Morris, MSW, CEO of The Institute of Respect, shares an inspiring list of attributes of survivors and the character strengths associated with resilience. Likely you already rely on some of these, perhaps too heavily at times. Or when you are overwhelmed, you may have forgotten what has worked for you in the past. This is a great time to reflect on what strengths you have, how to make them work for you, and what others you would like to develop as you move forward. Life holds more challenges ahead; it can feel really powerful to learn, grow, and meet them with more strength.
Cynthia Howard, RN, CNC, PhD tackles an issue that has plagued so many this year—loneliness. It’s not just a sad feeling; it is a physical and mental health risk, already at epidemic levels before the pandemic forced us to further distance from each other. This topic has been swept under the carpet for too long, and Cynthia’s exploration will not only help you “name it to tame it” but also offers suggestions for setting yourself up for the intentional cultivation of connections that will feed your well-being.
It’s no secret that this past year has been hard on forming and maintaining relationships, but imagine trying to forge a new one when you were just told you have an imminently terminal disease? Maureen McCarthy once again shares more of the wisdom she has so creatively extracted from her incredible challenges. Maureen’s decision to focus on clarity instead of certainty helped her create The Blueprint of We, a clear strategy for creating a meaningful, values-oriented relationship with less stress and more joy. We can all benefit from her brilliance and spirit.
As the northern hemisphere moves into the shortest days, Jen Butler, MEd, BCC, DAIS offers an in-depth look at the winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Those of us who are already prone to winter blues, as well as others whose mood coping skills are just worn out from this rough year, are worried about keeping up our moods through the dark of winter. Jen explains the science behind this common phenomenon, differentiates the blues from SAD, and gives some great suggestions for “finding the light” you need to build your resilience—another opportunity to apply strategies to emerge stronger.
And finally, you will notice that so many of our experts mention meditation because of its proven benefit in helping your brain handle challenges. Sadly, because meditation is often misunderstood, many folks have been hesitant to experiment with its power. It is truly not just for Tibetan monk wannabes. James Porter, CEO of StressStop, succinctly explains 10 essential things you should know about meditation, demystifying the process and providing simple steps for you to give it a try. Why not make meditation the gift you give yourself for 2021 and beyond? There is simply no better return on the investment of your time.
I hope this issue inspires you to spend a little time in reflection to capture the wisdom and lessons of a difficult year, so you can move into 2021 feeling clear, strong, and armed with tools to create well-being and contentment no matter what life throws at you.
Cynthia Ackrill, MD, PCC, FAIS