Repairing “storm damage” in your life

The recent banking payments problem here in Ireland reminds me of storm damage after a hurricane – while they work on a solution to repair the harbour wall, the bigger problem is managing the ongoing surges of waves that keep coming in on a daily basis.
Our lives can be a bit like this too – I’ve worked with many clients recently, each dealing not just with one major issue, but a collection of problems, which together seem insurmountable. Challenges like… being unemployed or facing redundancy, being unhappy in your work, dealing with a struggling business, financial worries, problems in relationships or with colleagues in work. So can we find the reserves within us to address these issues, when we feel like we are being washed away and our confidence is being eroded? Here are some strategies that could help you to repair the storm damage in your life and create some calm space for yourself to come up with a creative solution to what’s facing you.

  • Recognise what you’re not doing, and why One man I worked with recently, Mark*, was feeling overwhelmed with problems in his business – cashflow was down to more of a trickle, and he was struggling with restructuring the business and the impact that would have on his loyal employees if he had to cut their jobs. In our coaching session he recognised that he carried a lot of responsibility, and felt he had a particular role and social standing expected of him, and was holding back from certain things because he didn’t want to damage relationships with other people. What’s the one thing you could do right now, that you are not?
  • Focus on what’s most important right now The other major thing Mark was grappling with was his own ability to prioritise his time; he recognised that with all of the things he needed to focus on, he was just going to have to say no to some things he would have previously been involved in (such as committee memberships and extended family occasions) in order to devote time to the things that were most important right now. What commitments or expectations do you have of yourself or do you believe others have? What things need to take priority even just for the next few weeks?
  • Get things out of your head and onto paper – when we feel overwhelmed, this is often because all our thoughts are interlinked like a tangled fishing net. Thoughts keep whirling round  and round and you feel like you’re being sucked into a vortex.  If you can write down all the things that are on your mind, and clarify exactly which are the real thorny issues and root causes, it can help you achieve a better perspective on what you need to do. Do this in whatever way makes sense; maybe draw pictures, create a vision board or collage, make a list on paper – whatever works – you might resist doing this as it makes the problem even more obvious, but its worth a try. See if you can talk it through with someone who can listen impartially and help you see a different perspective and maybe some new solutions or ways you can move forward.
  • You are human, not a machine – many people separate their work life from personal life as much as possible. This is fine up to a point, but at the end of the day, you are a human being and sometimes things will be going well and sometimes not. One client, Anne*, recently was experiencing difficulty in her role as her daughter was suffering from an eating disorder. While Anne was doing her utmost to continue as normal in her role, she recognised one day after she found herself losing her temper with a staff member, that the home situation was having a bigger impact than she thought. The fact that she was aware of this and why she was behaving this way is half the battle. Do you find that you are responding angrily to others around you? This in turn has all sorts of knock on effects. Maybe it’s not them, maybe it is you that needs to look at what’s causing your response… because you can’t change them, but you can change yourself and how you think and respond.

Most people don’t really think about how they think – if you can notice your thoughts and see what causes you to respond in a particular way, the next step is to see how you can choose a different thought, that produces a different result.
If you have found strategies that work for you, please feel free to comment – I’d love to hear from you

Liz Barron, Realize Coaching –
*client names changed to protect confidentiality