How to keep your shit together when the world is on fire

Ok, so, goes without saying that 2020 has just been an odd year. I can’t imagine anyone sitting down in December 2019, thinking of the year ahead and expected this much chaos to play out over the next 365 days.

But, that’s life, right? It doesn’t give a crap what we want, it just presents us with options. And, the choices we’ve made in accordance with the challenges we’ve faced on a collective human and individual level are what I want to dive into here.

You see, it would be easy to write off 2020 as a lost year and be rid of it. But, that would be foolish thinking. 2020 if anything has provided opportunities for many of us to grow, look inward and develop all types of resilience in the face of constant threats.

I’ll touch on more of these in my now annual “What I learnt this year” article at the close of the year, but for now I want to share some lessons learnt and observations I’ve made on how to keep your shit together when everything around you is seamlessly falling apart.

Perspective 

Perspective is such a powerful thing. It can turn a frown upside down and a laugh into a cry.

In times of turbulence, bringing some perspective to our thoughts can make all the difference. It’s easy to feel downtrodden and defeatist when the going gets tough, yet this will do little to help you navigate the situation you find yourself in.

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have or cannot do (e.g going to restaurants, shopping malls or that local hip market), look to what you do have and the liberties your life offers.

You might be mad about not being able to walk to your local coffee bar and share stories with friends – I get that. But, (and you’ll hate me for saying this) it could be worse.

Your life is probably quite safe, you have access to the internet, a warm bed, food and all the liberties that our modern society brings. But imagine that you didn’t. Imagine you’re in a rural war torn community, where each day is a fight for survival, where life is not as calm nor guaranteed. Or, perhaps transport yourself back to the 1700’s, 1800’s and 1900’s in times of severe plagues. In a time with no medical innovations or technology to keep connected with others.

Yes, things aren’t perfect but they could be worse. Be thankful for what you do have, can do and the freedom you have access to.

A little perspective can reframe your mind, thoughts and how you view your world.

Purpose 

In times of chaos, one can lose their identity amongst the array of fleeting emotions that plague our mental states in strange and challenging times.

No matter if you’re dealing with a worldwide pandemic, zombie apocalypse or personal tragedy.

Your sense of self in the world can quickly become distorted and lead to all sorts of mental wellbeing issues. Without purpose what do we have? What is it that we continue to rise for?

These are questions which have plagued the mind of many fellow humans.

When the world goes cold and you’re not sure what to do, look to your community. Evaluate how you can help others in this time of chaos. Finding something good to do, in which others benefit from, can make all the difference, not just for you but others too.

Contributing to something bigger and more than one’s self can bring purpose to life. To reacquire a purpose is to install a north star or should I say a guiding light which lights your path in what it is you do and why you do it.

So. when it feels like everything is crashing and burning, like the world has turned its back on you. Reflect on life right now, know you’re not alone and that you can find purpose, even in the darkest of times.

Process 

Ok, just because I’m talking a lot about themes of resilience and perseverance, doesn’t mean you need to be a stoic with a binary emotional output.

You gotta feel whatever it is you need to feel.

The world is weird right now, people are mad and scared, and it’s sad at times. Allow yourself to feel that. Don’t repress it, don’t feel like you gotta be tough all the time. Shit is weird so let yourself feel weird about it – I do!

If you feel like shit that’s ok and if you feel awesome, that’s ok too.

Bottling it up doesn’t work for anyone. Regulate your emotions or they will control you.

Uncork the pressure

Look, it’s not a superhero movie. You don’t need to be running around like a lone wolf, thinking you gotta do it all.

It’s funny, how even in the face of a global pandemic, we find the time to question if we are doing enough with the extra time some of us have had on our hands. I’ve seen too many people on social media either glorifying the fact that they’ve done a billion things with their time or others who are upset that they haven’t done more with it.

You just gotta chill, ok. When the world gets crazy, there’s no blueprint for this. No one said you need to go out, write a book, start a business or whatever those charlatan productivity gurus evangelise. Stop with all the pressure! Just like with previous points, evade the unrealistic expectations.

Take each day as it comes. Craft the skill of adaptability, become comfortable in the uncomfortable, so you can navigate the curveballs that life is whacking your way. 

Putting untold amounts of pressure on yourself will bring nothing positive for you. Breathe, chill and focus on the next 5 minutes. You’re going to be fine.

Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t

Control is a funny thing, we all want it in life but it’s the least accessible element we can influence.

Again, it’s easy for all of us to get stuck in reverse and focus on nothing but the negative. Sadly, our minds have this strange operating system where the negative stuff gets the most attention. It’s a program we all have, but like any good program, we can influence it.

There’s very little in this life we can control.

Instead of blowing up at your twitter feed about every little 280 character opinion, focus on what you can control. That’s your attitude, mindset and behaviour to others.

This quote from my favourite philosopher, accurately sums up this point:

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Marcus Aurelius

Let others help you

I’ve observed that the most common failing of some great people, leaders and communities, is their ability to ask for and allow others to help.

In turbulent times, you might think you can handle it all. But, this ain’t no Batman movie my friends. In real life, we could all use a friend and a helping hand. 

Usually in dark confusing times, it can be natural to withdraw and put the world’s problems on your shoulders, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Look to engage with those around you, reach out to your community and take on-board the wisdom of others.

We’re all in this together.

Past experiences

We’re not the first bunch of humans to go through a pandemic. Others have and with less tech and access to innovative healthcare. 

Consuming content that captures the experiences and lessons learnt from prior events in history can provide a philosophy on navigating turbulent times. And, even if the event you face is not one of a pandemic, wisdom from those who’ve walked the path before can be of great help in steering your ship in the right direction, no matter the challenge you face.

BONUS: Books that’ll inform, educate and spark a different perspective.

  • Man’s search for meaning – Viktor Frankl
  • Happy – Derren Brown
  • Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

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