This year has been a doozy! Can I get an amen?!

Here in Nashville, we started with a massive tornado that tore through our city on March 3rd. It was terrifying, but thankfully, our home didn’t have any damage (it went 200 yards south of my neighborhood). We lost power for three days and had to throw out the contents of our refrigerator and freezer, just as Covid-19 panic started escalating. From there, with no childcare and two working parents, it’s felt like survival mode. With the recent death of George Floyd, our nation is reeling and grieving as we go through the birth pains of change. Individually and collectively, we’re all dealing with A LOT.

I feel emotionally and physically drained, but I know that life must continue moving forward. My ability to have a positive influence in the world and my family is linked to my work; therefore, even though I feel down, I must press on.

Pressing on is much easier said than done. Somedays, I wish I weren’t so familiar with overcoming hard times, but if you know even part of my story, you know this isn’t my first rodeo with significant obstacles. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stuck, unsure how to take the next step amid a struggle, grief, depression, or other major life events, I hope these few tips will help you get unstuck and flex your resilience muscles through these hard times.

REMEMBER YOUR WHY

No matter how deep of a pit you are in, there is always a reason to continue forward. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find it. I like to call it finding my “why.” Throughout my career, I’ve received some extremely harsh criticism. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve thought about quitting, but each time, I pull out pictures of people I’ve impacted. Some of them have shared stories of how I inspired them to break the chains of poverty or to make a different decision when contemplating suicide. I call them my “why”; the reason and motivation I have to press forward, even when my own life feels dark.

Maybe your “why” is because you want to provide your children, or future children, with a better life than you’ve had. Or perhaps your “why” is that your current work can transform other people’s lives. Or heck, maybe your “why” is because you know that smashing your goals will prove your haters wrong (that was a massive motivation for me growing up).

Find a compelling reason to move forward, and then focus and remind yourself of it every day. Put sticky notes on your mirror and in your car, set reminders on your phone, or heck, even write it on your hand if you tend to forget and need that extra oomph throughout the day.

GUARD YOUR MIND

Boundaries are powerful, both with yourself and with other people. Between social media, the news, and easy text communication, we are constantly bombarded with other people’s opinions and stress. If you’re barely holding on yourself, protect your mind from carrying any extra weight that you don’t need to shoulder. That may mean that you occasionally cut out social media, even for a few hours, or stop hanging out with someone who always leaves you feeling drained.

exhausted GIF

We can get addicted to social media, the news, and other outlets that sometimes cause us more fear or anxiety rather than help us feel better. Filter and guard who and what you allow into your mind. I highly recommend the book Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud. It helps break down the guilt that so often allows us to keep indulging in toxic relationships and communications, and helps set up proper boundaries that protect you.

WATCH YOUR VICES

I’ve heard so many friends joke about their massive increase in alcohol consumption this year. Or how they’re binging on junk food to curb the anxiety they are experiencing. It feels good to indulge when life feels out of whack, at least temporarily. The problem is, you’ll likely move a little slower and feel more emotionally stable the next day. And over time, with the pain numbed a bit, it’s easy to subtly drift further and further away from your goals without even realizing that you’re drifting.

I’m say this, and hopefully, you will feel my complete non-judgment in this. I’ve struggled with this plenty throughout my life. After going through one of the hardest seasons of my life in 2016, I learned the power of cutting vices when you crave them the most.

Instead of vices that are scientifically proven to hurt you over time, try to find things that give you a healthy boost of endorphins without adverse effects. Pick up a hobby that makes you feel good, like cooking healthy recipes or gardening, take a warm, candlelit bubble bath, or create space for you to sweat out your frustrations with a good work out.

TIME BLOCK

I’m currently working from home with a super high-energy toddler. He typically goes to preschool, but between a tornado and COVID, his school is still closed. I am *trying* to work from home while watching him full-time. The struggle. IS. REAL.

happy kid GIF by AT&T

I initially hoped to work my usual number of hours, but quickly found it impossible without forgoing sleep. I then swung to the opposite side and spent a few weeks with very little productivity. I finally found balance in learning how to time-block. 

Right now, my golden window is nap-time. I typically have about 90 minutes- 2 hours to knock out as much as I can. I plan out what I’d like to accomplish and then hustle like crazy during that time. Even if I don’t feel like doing it beforehand, I remind myself, “I can muscle through for 90 minutes!” Sometimes I find myself accomplishing more in 90 minutes than I have in days where I’ve tried to achieve 8 hours of work with distractions.

Even if you can only find 15 minutes of quality work time in a day, that matters! Set a goal for the period and then put in your absolute most focused grind. 

If you’re in an office job and feel like you’re just barely surviving the day, doing only what’s necessary to get by, practice upping your game for 15 minutes of each hour. For 15 minutes, crank as hard as possible, and then if you’re less focused for the rest of that hour, you will still have achieved more than you were accomplishing before.

I’m sure you’ve heard the quote that “80% of your productivity is accomplished in 20% of your time”. While I’ve lowered my expectations in the amount of time I can be productive in this season, I’ve raised my expectations for myself when I do get to work. I have been astounded by what I can accomplish my shifting my focus and expectations this way.

And instead of focusing on what you didn’t accomplish, celebrate what you did. Be grateful for the 90 minutes of quality work you got done versus mourning that you didn’t get the 9 hours you hoped. It’s hard, I know. I am a person who loves routine and diving in deep, and I’m learning how to be content with small victories. Here’s the thing, if you celebrate and acknowledge the little things you accomplished, you are going to wake up the next day inspired to achieve more and carve out that time to keep improving.

Hard times will pass, and they often pass quicker if you strive to keep taking the next right step, however small it is. It’s hard, and my heart goes out to you in whatever struggle you are facing. Stay strong, my friend.