This past year proved to be one of the most challenging and heartbreaking years of my life.
Within a matter of just a few months, my marriage fell apart, I was unexpectedly pregnant and catapulted into being a single mom of four, and I had to cancel everything I had planned, including those activities and events that would bring in the income we needed to survive.
The dynamics in our home quickly shifted: my daughters have always gladly helped out with chores, but now they were in charge of everything: cooking, cleaning, laundry, and helping out with their 6-year-old little sister, who was mourning the loss of her living father, whom she hasn’t heard from in over a year now.
We felt so alone here in Fort Worth where we had received no sincere emotional support and so much judgment, and even though my sister now lives in Texas, she is a long drive away.
I constantly thanked God for modern technology because we could be connected to true friends and family this way.
I reassured my daughters and myself that being in bed, living off savings, and not feeling like the productive mom I’ve always been was temporary, but the childbirth complications and injuries I suffered proved me wrong, and the hardship, the pain, and the depression persisted.
Now that I’m feeling a bit more like myself, there is a worldwide crisis that mimics the family crisis we’ve been going through. It’s affecting work, school, church, and creating much fear, uncertainty, and anxiety.
Keeping positive is hard work, because regret, disappointment, nostalgia for better times, hope for the future, anxiety over the future, self-esteem, depression, panic, and self-doubt come uninvited.
Don’t beat yourself up; it’s natural to slump into pessimism when tragedies strike. Even when you try to tell yourself “this too shall pass” and “there will be a happy ending” the journey itself is less than easy and hardly satisfying.
7 Steps To Stay Positive During A Crisis
We all want to be positive and stay positive, however, we first need to take a few steps to get out of crisis mode – yes, even when the crisis is still going on. Let’s do this.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked “Why me?” “When will it end?” “Can’t I just have a normal life like everyone else!?”
In those moments, it’s extremely easy to find someone or something to blame and to assume the role of a victim, however, that will only prolong the suffering, adding resentment, conflict, and bitterness into the mix.
Byron Katie says there are three types of businesses in the world and we must mind our own:
Anything that has to do with natural disasters, natural death, and natural disabilities is God’s business, and as mere mortals, there is nothing we can do about it.
Anything that has to do with another person is their business. What they say or don’t say, what they do or don’t do, what they feel or don’t feel – it has nothing to do with me or whether I deserve it or not.
Trust me when I say I know what others do, say, and feel does affect us. The key is that even though what has happened is not “my fault,” it is my responsibility to make the best out of it.
I was obsessed with fairness at one point in my life. Oddly enough, it was when I thought pretty much everything in my life was unfair.
I’ve come to make friends with the concept that life is, in fact, not fair, and that horrible things happen. Many of these horrible things are caused by other people, and it’s not my job to judge them or to condemn them, although it may be wise to stay away from them.
What I do, what I say, how I respond to life’s events, and the feelings I hold on to are MY business, and I have power over these. These are great news, but at the same time, dangerous.
I’ve learned the hard way that I don’t have all the power, even over myself. And even when we do have the power to choose, sometimes we are given quite the lousy options. Did I mention life isn’t fair? But being a martyr doesn’t help make it better – I know, I’ve tried it.
Maybe you’re saying: “Well, letting go of the victim label won’t help either,” but I beg to differ. I like what Viktor Frankl said in Man’s Search for Meaning: “It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.”
I know the issue doesn’t go away when you have a sunny disposition, but you gain access to more when you do.
I always say to my daughters “Trust people with their own lives.” I admit that the message is for me as much as it is for them.
Sometimes as a parent you feel like the biggest hypocrite, and my cure for that is reminding myself that you don’t suddenly become perfected by giving birth or signing adoption papers: no superpowers have been granted.
Instead, you’re a more anxious and exhausted version of your flawed self, pretty much making it up as you go along. Nothing and no one can ever prepare you for raising that child (singular – because what worked with one will rarely work with another).
Ah! Did I just go off on a tangent? I may have, but crisis is motherhood’s middle name. I guess what I’m trying to say is that quite often, we blame ourselves because we realize we are not prepared or poorly prepared for the tragedy, challenge, or trial.
Resolve not to judge yourself for not doing what you didn’t know to do. The truth is, crises come when you feel the least prepared for it, because no one is truly prepared for a crisis.
Ask for help.
I believe you possess all you need within you to create a new life, and I believe this of myself, as well, but when we are in crisis mode, our survival instincts kick in and, they may not be very helpful, especially if you’ve experienced trauma before.
Whatever the burden, don’t bear it by yourself. Doing everything alone is one of my delusional tendencies and it has been really hard to break out of that unhealthy pattern.
Resolving to “be brave” when times were hard was what I needed to survive my past, but it doesn’t apply to every situation.
The bravest thing I did during those times of stress last year was to accept help and gifts, and even more difficult and scary to actually ask for support when it wasn’t offered. Rather than being tough, it was necessary that I be tough-minded, you know what I mean?
I also sought sound, rational, objective advice, since I knew I was too hurt, too confused, and too scared and that could very well result in making an emotional decision that I could later regret.
I turned to prayer, to therapy, and to my family and my dearest and most trusted friends. As it turns out, it wasn’t the end of the world and it felt magical. I felt loved, supported, valued – the exact thing I was looking for in the wrong places.
I’m grateful for the listening ears that allowed me to vent out my frustrations, release my anxiety, and center myself.
If your ego is lying to you saying you are alone, think hard and you’ll find that you already have at least one trusted friend or mentor and maybe even a strong support system to help you ride out the crisis.
The Bible says that in the multitude of counsel lies wisdom, because you can and will discover a new perspectives, approaches, and solutions through others.
Delay your reaction.
There’s a mantra I try to live by. And by that I mean TRY – in all caps: “Pause, Ponder, Proceed.”
Is it fact or fear?
Is the fear real or imaginary?
What can I do about it?
When our life or our livelihood is threatened, we go into these worst-case scenarios and terrorize ourselves. I’ve got countless stories in which I went down a nasty spiral of darkness and ended up at the corner of panic and despair.
I usually forget that the best course of actions are to slow down, take a breath, meditate, pray, contemplate on what the next right thing is, and assess the situation with an eternal perspective, you know, “big picture thinking.”
Cope with change.
Ironically, the human being is the one species that was designed with the ability to adapt, and yet, most of us – if not all of us – are resistant to change.
I kinda hate to admit it: Change is positive, even when it hurts. And so many changes come with a crisis! Of course, not everything has to change!
When we are coping with a sudden change, it helps to keep as many things as normal as you can, while you can process what your new normal will be.
I make myself follow the rituals and routines that are possible, even when it’s hard, because it helps us feel more grounded, secure, and empowered.
Here’s the biggest lesson I learned: you can’t expect peak performance during a crisis. Give yourself permission to rest, take breaks, and procrastinate. Actually, the most productive thing I did last year was focus on our healing.
My daughters and I had enough pressure already, so we played games, went to events, watched movies, and didn’t feel guilty about it.
I’m learning that my personal health is one of my most valuable assets and that includes my physical health, my mental health, my emotional health, and my spiritual health.
I’m a caretaker to a fault, so I had been taking care of certain people to the point of entitlement and enabling, and that had to stop. I also wasn’t sleeping and resting enough and that had to start.
I have to be grateful that I eat a healthy vegan diet (yes, there’s such thing as an unhealthy vegan diet!), I don’t consume coffee, soda, energy drinks, black tea, or alcoholic drinks, or anything that may give me a false boost of energy to end up in a crash or that may become an unhealthy coping mechanism.
Now that my broken bone and my injuries are healing, I want to start moving regularly, perhaps going for a mindful walk and indulging in sun rays and fresh air. I still struggle with my goal to improve my water intake and stay hydrated – it’s a journey!
In times of turmoil, it’s necessary to be clear-headed, energetic, and strong.
I feel that these crises come to force us do what we know we should be doing but won’t do anyway. For some, it might be limiting negative news, for others limiting interaction with a person or two. What is it for you?
I always say that gratitude is the birthplace of joy. My gratitude practice helps me remind myself that life is a gift, even with the straight-up heart-wrenching horrible things that can happen in our lives.
Focusing on what we already have rather than what we’ve lost, focusing on our blessings – as small as they may seem – rather than on our stressors, can impact our lives for the better and will be more productive than useless self-pity.
When real tragedy, disasters, and chaos strike, it’s easier to let go of the “small stuff.” The mindset shift occurs when we are willing to look for the brighter side – there is no shadow if there’s no light!
So think of what’s burdening you today, even if it feels like an unbearable weight to carry (I’m familiar with those), and try to find at least 5 things that are positive, that you could give thanks for, that could grow you, and make your life better.
When you are grateful, you are able to serve others with what you have, as well. I decided to mentor some students and I got to stay connected to my mission and my purpose. I worked so hard everyday for 4 months amidst scary news, struggle, and pain.
Even though I made less than a half of one of my mortgage payments, I felt joy in doing that because it made me see I still had something to give… “the best part” that won’t be taken from me.
Think about what gives you joy and commit to doing it – imperfectly.
One of the things I have been learning during this past couple years is that, although I’m a fan of the plan, my plan may not exactly be what I needed. We can all relate to having every single plan thrown out the window to end up navigating uncertainty.
As I surrender, little by little (because it’s just THE HARDEST!), I am becoming more open to go with the flow, to consider the pain a blessing, to actually be happy that I don’t have to feel like I need to control it… to just trust – even when trusting is what led us to suffering or even when not trusting was what many of us did to survive.
My faith has been pivotal for me, because I have chosen to believe that everything works for my highest good. There are many things I don’t understand and that will later be revealed to me.
It’s been such an eye-opening year and now I have so much awareness of the imminent danger my daughters and I were in and didn’t even suspect it. What seemed like doom last year now feels like the beginning of true freedom, hope, and happiness.
The meaning we attach to life and life events have everything to do with how soon we bounce back from them. We can re-evaluate our thinking without invalidating our feelings!
Ask yourself: What am I learning through this crisis? What can I model for my kids? How can I use this, moving forward?
I always make my mess my message, with the intention and hope that it will touch, heal, or inspire one person- that makes it all worth it!
I know it’s almost impossible to see it right now, but the excruciating pain you’re going through will end. This situation is temporary. In my faith we learn that even death is, but I do accept you may not be on board with that one.
I wish I could tell you that positive thinking will make it go away, but it’s not. I wish I could promise that conscious effort, willpower, and strength will be enough, but they won’t. You are not in charge, but it will all work out.
I would be lying if I told you that things will get better overnight – or at all. If it’s God’s business or another person’s business, then it’s absolutely out of mine and your control. What I do know for sure is that you can live above unexpected conditions, situations, and circumstances.
Keep the faith, darling. KINDNESS, SOLIDARITY, and SERVICE flourish when there is a crisis.
Every trial holds within it an equal or greater gift. I believe that if we do what we must, hold fast, and keep a positive attitude, we will soon enough, we will be enjoying our much simpler lives, complete with those things we are missing and that we once took for granted: hugging, kissing, holding hands, gathering, dancing bachata and merengue (okay, that one is for me!).
Whether the struggle is personal to you or occurring worldwide, it helps to remember that there are miracles happening everyday and there are angels making them happen.
You know how the saying goes: “In the end, we’ll be okay – and if we’re not okay, it’s not the end.”
What are your ways to stay positive during tough times? We all need to know right now! Stay safe, my loves xoxo
© Elayna Fernández ~ The Positive MOM
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