Staying the Course…Remaining Positive in Challenging Times

I recently had the honor of participating as a panelist on “Thriving in Today’s Economy” at the Michigan Business and Professional Association’s Women and Leadership in the Workplace Conference. However, as the agenda unfolded, I found many notes I never had a chance to discuss. I wanted to share some experiences and how I get through challenging times.

Our path in life occasionally takes us to places we wouldn’t choose to be. To keep things in perspective, realize that this, too, shall pass. Earthly life is a journey -” we are merely on the path and never at our destination.

Tip # 1: Get back to basics
Get enough rest, emotional support and be gentle with yourself. Change, especially loss, takes time to work through. The grief process involves five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean we like the situation. It means coming to a realization that it is what it is. Only then we can decide what to do about it and move forward.

Leslie Loftus was a panelist on “Thriving in Today’s Economy” at the MBPA’s Women and Leadership in the Workplace Conference.

I am not unique, nor are my losses. Like many others, I’ve experienced the death of loved ones and job losses. The sudden death of my dad and two miscarriages left much deeper wounds than losses of employment. At those dark times, it was easy to feel alone. I got support through grief classes, talked about my feelings and sought help.

When in the midst of crisis, it can be difficult to believe that there are brighter days ahead. But actually, things happen for a reason. Having lost a couple jobs in my career, in retrospect, I can see they were stepping stones to something better.

It was discouraging to send resumes for positions I felt suited me well and then never hear a word. I leaned on support from positive sources and reevaluated my friendships. I could tell who was there for me. Toxic relationships drain our energy.

Celebrate your successes. Keep a daily journal of the positives. When you feel low, reflect back on your victories.

Tip # 2: Reflect on the experience
Determine what you would or wouldn’t do again.
Life presents lessons and I always get repeat opportunities to practice the lesson until I learn it. The regrets I have in life are not for what I have done, but what I failed to do.

Nature always helps me get back in touch with my true self. Take a walk. Listen to the birds. Getting some fresh air can lift your mood and clear your thoughts. Maybe you have a closet you’ve wanted to clear out that has forever been on your List of Things to Do. Simple accomplishments lift spirits.

Turn off the news! Media thrives on sensationalism and negative energy. Read something inspiring. Listen to a motivational tape. Sometimes a single thought or phrase can help me to look at my situation from a different perspective and inspire me -“ enough to get me in forward motion.

Tip #3: Keep learning!
Always work to improve your skills.
Do the footwork. Read to keep abreast of changes and opportunities. There are emerging sectors in our region with bright futures such as health care and information technology. Several universities are offering programs to displaced workers.

Education is something no one can take away from you. But it can distinguish you from the rest.

Network -“ keep eyes open for new opportunities. Maybe it’s time to start blogging with potential employers on Linked In or Motor City Connect. In-person networking may involve going out of your comfort zone. Maybe a friend could attend with you. Sign up for e-mail bulletins about positive happenings.

Tip # 4: Get Outside Yourself
Doing random acts of kindness, anonymously, will make you feel better.
For many Christmases, my husband and I decided not to give gifts to each other but do something for someone else. One year, I worked with a young man who was a single dad of a three-year-old son. Each day he would come to the office with a smile on his face and cheery outlook. I admired his consistently positive attitude as those are rare. He did not hold an esteemed position -“ he was the janitor. We purchased some Kroger gift certificates for him. I put them in a card from Secret Santa and left them in his “office” (merely a closet). Shortly thereafter, I saw him beaming with a bigger-than-usual smile. I felt wonderful. It has been over 15 years since that random act of kindness, but it still warms my heart.

There are many ways to help others in need. Use the time you didn’t have before to do something you’ve been wanting to do. Perhaps you could volunteer at church, school, or just listen.

Tip # 5: Happiness is an Inside Job
Practice gratitude.
Sometimes I don’t feel too grateful and my list has to start with little things. As I make a list each night, gradually my attitude changes to one of gratitude. And as they say, attitude determines altitude.

Have faith. Fear and faith can’t co-exist. Worry diminishes our ability to cope. All fear is about losing something we have or not getting something we want. When I write down my fear, it usually diminishes. Just putting it on paper can make me realize how silly it looks.

Re-evaluate your priorities. Maybe it’s time for a budget. Are Starbucks, manicures and cable television a luxury or a necessity? Truly happy people are those who are content with what they have. Simplifying your life and living within your means can relieve stress.

Challenge yourself to be positive and raise your consciousness. Put an index card in your pocket or on your monitor that says “Just for Today, I will not complain, control or criticize.” I was amazed how much energy it takes to resist doing some of these automatically negative reactions.

Keep positive. Do you see the glass as half full or half empty? No one ever damaged their eyesight by looking at the bright side. What you focus on grows.

It doesn’t matter how many times we fall down, what matters is if we still get back up.

Stay in the moment. All is well for now. Keep doing the footwork and above all, don’t quit before the miracle.

Leslie Loftus is Chief Operating Officer of Veritas Benefits Group in Troy, Mich. She can be reached at [email protected].