There are events in our lives that may take us by surprise and cause a lot of stress and possibly grief at times. Events like losing a job, being in a car accident, or acquiring an illness or debilitating injury, can stop you in your tracks and force you to change your immediate plans to follow a new course. When it happens, you can wallow in it, rail against the system or, you can get into gear under your new circumstances.
Almost a year ago, my mom experienced a freak skiing accident that removed all three of her hamstring muscles from the bone in her right leg. Her doctor told her she’d need a year of recovery and rehabilitation before she could return to skiing or any other vigorous activities. As a personal trainer and wellness coach, this news was incredibly shocking to her and to her family. Together, we embarked on the most physically and mentally-involved 11-month journey we’ve ever experienced.
I asked her recently what she attributes the progress and tenacity she’s experienced in her recovery so far and her answer was that she had no choice –“It happened and I just needed to push through it.” I found this interesting. Is this the key to moving on from events over which we have little or no control? Of course it wasn’t so matter-of-fact as that statement, because I witnessed the roller coaster of emotion and physical change that came with an injury and recovery period like hers. However, the overall concept -- that you must not let yourself fall victim to thoughts like “How could this happen to me (or us)?” and “What did I do to deserve this?” because you cannot move forward until you accept your circumstances and decide that you’re going to persevere. We all have a choice of how we’re going to handle an event that’s life-altering, we can fall victim to it or we can work to make ourselves stronger and possibly even better from it. While it can be extremely hard to push yourself out of the initial grieving period, you have others who are counting on you and looking up to you—and most importantly YOU are counting on you. Try to remember that you have a purpose to continue moving forward and that you are strong enough to pull yourself through.
In helping my mom gain her strength back, I noticed some things that she used to keep progressing. No matter what, you have to tell yourself that everything is going to be alright (even though you may not believe it right away). Some strategies to help maintain your positivity include:
- Allow yourself to process the event – the body and mind need time to understand what has happened and determine a plan of action.
- Accept the support of those around you – my mom had an army of family and friends ready to help her stay positive and goal-oriented whenever she felt her personal strength was lagging.
- Know there will be moments of second-guessing and the desire to give up – after working hard to stay positive and “keep her eyes on the prize” it was natural that there were times when mom didn’t feel like acting strong. The important factor was not dwelling on those feelings for long before regaining her motivation.
- Write your thoughts and feelings down – my mom kept a journal and would write in it whenever she could. There were emotions and discussions in her head that no one else could fully understand. Releasing them onto paper helped to clear her mind and not get too caught up in negative internal conversations.
- Nurture and nourish your mind and body – mom spent 8 weeks bed-ridden and in a body brace after her surgery. She knew the effects this would have on her body and mind if she didn’t work to counteract them, so we helped to ensure she was eating a fantastic diet. To keep her thoughts from becoming overwhelming, she read books and studies on rehabilitating her hamstring as well as business topics for her career. Staying healthy is very important in the midst of any stressful event. Drink the recommended 8 glasses of water each day, eat a balanced and nutrient-rich diet and log at least 7 hours of sleep wherever possible.
In my mom’s case, another important factor was setting little benchmarks for regaining her strength. She is now able to walk/run a total distance of two miles and her endurance level is awesome. She plans to be out on the slopes again by March 31 (even if she only skis a little) and is more motivated with each improvement she makes.
Everyone handles extreme stress differently. What tips do you have for remaining positive and focused through a tough event in your life? Please share them with us in the comments box below!