4 Ways to Stay Hopeful & Focused in the Middle of Stress

Life getting the better of you these days? It’s time to take the reins from stress with gentleness..

Wow, has life changed a lot for everyone the last few weeks! I’m writing this post in the midst of the COVID-19 global crisis, which has precipitated a massive #stayhome movement around the globe.

Most of us find our original plans for this month completely shattered. Various feelings of anger, grief or frustration might be present. Along with a sense of helplessness about what to do next—or a temptation to hopelessness about the state of the world.

But all is not lost, my friend. You can maintain a powerful sense of hope and focus in the midst of the chaos. And the more of us who do, the better the situation will be.

The world is made up of individuals. As we each take responsibility for caring for ourselves with grace and gentleness, we will have enough emotional, mental and spiritual bandwidth (not to mention physical ability) to actually solve this crisis.

Feel like you’re scattered all over the place today? Here are my best tips for staying hopeful and focused in the midst of the present difficulty. (Or any further difficult that crops up!)

1) Cultivate a friendship with the present.

Let’s be honest: the real problem with stress isn’t the situation causing stress. It’s the nature and substance of our relationship with the present moment.

I said “cultivate a friendship with the present moment” for a reason. So many of us are perpetually at war with the present. The present is not good enough, because of something that happened in the past. The present is not good enough, because it’s not the future. Or it’s not the reality we imagined living… and we’ve made an idol of our imagination. 

As Eckhart Tolle often says… it is literal insanity to wish the present were different. Likewise, the very beginning of mental health is to embrace the present. This does not mean we don’t strive for change… just that accepting what is is the only sane foundation for making those changes.

Friends, I cannot say this enough. When I decided to deeply love and embrace the present moment—and get curious about what adventure I could have right now where I am at—life got so much simpler. My business got easier. Those New Testament passages where Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light?” (Matthew 11:30) And “Take no thought for the morrow?” (Matthew 6:34) They made a whole lot more sense. 

The present is not the enemy to your hopes and dreams. It is the only canvas upon which God can paint them. But not if you’re constantly trying to pull the canvas off of His easel!

2) Decide to be “more than a conqueror”

I didn’t realize for years that I had a lot more authority and control over my daily reality than I thought. (More on that in this Facebook video I recently shot.) You can decide to be a victim of your life circumstances, or you can decide to overcome them. Choice is a huge part of our happiness or our misery. 

When I was going through my extended traveling season, there were a lot of days I did not feel like a conqueror. I felt forced into that transient period because of losses and setbacks in my personal life. Though others thought it was glamorous…. it wasn’t what I wanted.

Yet after wrestling with this unwanted reality for months, I finally determined that in the end, it could become the triumphant pivot of my life, if I chose to make it so. Looking back now, I realize I was right. My season of near-homelessness and isolation was the crux of my life up to that point, because I had the chance to be a conqueror or give up. And I chose to triumph.

While you are deeply accepting the present moment, also determine to rise above the aspects of it that really aren’t comfortable. You’ll be surprised what happens next.

3) Simplify whatever you can in your life

Let’s be honest: a lot of our stress and overwhelm has to do with our own lack of organization or over-complication in our lives. We have trouble saying no (poor personal boundaries). We have too much clutter (lack-based hoarding behaviors). We leap at every opportunity that comes along (fear of missing out, anyone?).

You can cut about 50% of your stress simply by simplifying your life. Roll up your calendar and don’t give everyone access. Give away as many of your belongings as you can. Decide that the universe God has created reflects His nature: abundantly full of opportunities. Say “no” to the ones that don’t exactly fit what you know God has called you to in this season.

For my part, I live in a 200 square-foot apartment, have minimal possessions, don’t own a car, do my own dishes, clean my apartment up daily, keep a minimal wardrobe, and deliberately maintain a low profile. Why?

Not because I have a poverty mindset or fears of social interaction. But because the work God has called me to, and the mission I am on in my business, deserve more of my time and attention than the “stuff” I could have instead. 

4) Reframe overwhelm to opportunity.

I once heard Vishen Lakhiani of MindValley talk about his conversations with top performers across every industry in the world. Many of them, he said, reference the fact that the more successful they became, the more they had to reframe the resulting potential for overwhelm as abundance. “I have a myriad of choices of interesting and beautiful things to put my focus on each day,” one CEO told Lakhiani (paraphrased here). “That is a form of wealth.”

Are you overwhelmed not because of poor life management habits (see #3), but because God has deposited amazing opportunities at your doorstep? Then rejoice! You are in an enviable position that puts in you in the top few percentage points of all people on the planet. Doesn’t that sound a lot better than being overwhelmed? 

As I said in #2, you have a choice about whether to be an overcome or a victim of your schedule.  Do the work to simplify your life, by all means. But when you get to the place where I am at in life—where I have a myriad of equally delightfully options for how to spend my time—then it’s time to do what I choose to do: rejoice, not suffer.

And isn’t that really what this all about, anyway?

Feeling suffering or feeling pleasure is based on your response.

All emotional states, in fact, are a response to life. 

The great thing is: you get to choose!

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