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A Mindset to Help You Navigate Your "New Normal"

happiness stress Jan 15, 2021

They had just saved my life for the third time.

A calm, soothing voice was whispering into my ear.

But as I came to minutes later, no one else was in my hospital room except me.

Maybe it was all in my head—a dream, perhaps.

Or maybe it was just the effects of the anesthesia wearing off.

…Or perhaps it was something greater. It certainly felt that way...

But I distinctly remember that voice saying, “This isn’t happening to you. It’s just happening… Your job is to just get through it.”

In January 2019, after what was supposed to be a routine GI surgery, my body experienced rapid complications. I was dying on the table. My doctors had to act fast to save my life…

What was initially supposed to be one surgery, quickly became five emergency operations…

Thinking back now, I guess I’ll never really know for sure who—or what—that voice was. No matter, this mantra of sorts was on my mind for days.

And man, did I need it…

I had tubes up my nose and electrodes stuck all over my body.

I couldn’t move due to the excruciating pain of nine abdominal incisions.

And on top of all of that, I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in over a week...

I was weak. I was antsy. Worst of all, I felt utterly helpless.

Yet something was calling me to shift away from this victim mindset…

Instead, I started focusing on the one thing I could control: How I reacted to it all.

Though our present situation is very different, I’m finding uncanny similarities to it from the dire times in my own life not long ago.

So today, I want to share how a specific shift in thinking got me through one of the toughest times in my life. Perhaps you can use my coping strategy to help you do the same.

Conserve your valuable energy with acceptance

During my weeks-long stay the hospital’s ICU, overexerting myself physically or emotionally could've been the end of me.

There was no sense in wasting my very limited energy directing anger at whoever was responsible for the error that put me in the ICU.

It was crucial that, for the time being, I put all of those feelings aside—and instead, accept the situation for what it was and focus on just getting through it. I owed it to my wife and children.

Accepting that I did nothing to deserve what had happened and that none of this was my fault helped my mindset significantly. That medical error was just that—an “error,” a mistake—and something that unfortunately happened. I had zero control over any of those factors.

But it was from that point on that I was able to move forward and start my journey toward recovery.

And this mindset of accepting things for what they are and moving forward continues to be the foundation of my ongoing healing.

Here’s why…

When I stop worrying about the things I can’t control, it helps me to:

  • Feel a sense of peace, even when chaos surrounds me
  • Free up mental and emotional energy for more helpful thoughts and activities
  • Plan my day with a practical and rational mind

As a result, I’m more pleasant to be around, more productive, and all-around more at peace with myself and my life—even during times of uncertainty and crises.

Your new “groove”

Below are some actionable ways I purge uncontrollable variables out of my life, and focus on the things in my power:

  • Attempt to look at your issues objectively—as if a stranger is experiencing these challenges. This perspective shift can help you gain clarity over which things cannot be changed. Then it’s up to you to accept these things for what they are.
  • Aim to get seven undisturbed hours of sleep. And if you’re able to, take a nap here and there. Quality rest is good for your body and your brain. Plus, it allows your full healing abilities to do their thing. (Having trouble sleeping? Check out my TedX Talk… you might find it to be helpful.)
  • Eat a nutritious diet. Rid your pantry of processed foods (typically anything in a package, packet, or can). Instead, aim for fresh, organic whole foods—packed with the nutrients you need to keep your body functioning properly.
  • Walk as much as you can. I try to walk for at least 20 minutes, four days a week. This helps burn off cortisol, the stress hormone—one of the major attributing factors to aging, illness, and disease.
  • Accept help from others. If others are offering to lighten your load, let them. This is another way you can lower your stress and anxiety levels. Plus, the social aspect (even if it’s not in person) is shown to help increase mood and lifespan.
  • Stimulate your vagus nerve with sound. This is nerve stretches throughout most of your body, touching every major organ along the way. Stimulation of this nerve can help strengthen your immune system, ease anxiety, boost mood, deepen sleep, and sharpen focus, amongst many other benefits. The best part? All of this can be done using your voice.

Though there are many uncertainties right now (and generally in life), you DO have a say in how you experience the challenges thrown your way.

So whether it’s for the next week, the next day, or the next hour—I encourage you to let go of all of all of the uncontrollable variables in your life. Instead, I’d like you to focus all of your energy on what you can control—especially your mindset.

Remember, “This isn’t happening to you. It’s just happening. Your job is to just get through it.”

Lastly, I want you to know that you’re not in this alone. Feel free to drop me a line on Facebook or Instagram if you have something specific you’d like to see me tackle in an upcoming issue of the Digest. I’ll help in any way I can as we continue to navigate the coming weeks together.

I’m committed to walking through it with you.

Be well, Jim

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