Thriving in a tough world
On ways to offer care to yourself & others as you go about living your life
Recently, I came across this animation from ‘Stanford School of Medicine' and I couldn't help but see myself and a lot of other men & women I know, in this animated character.
As we go about our lives trying to manage our careers, health, relationships, personal goals and what not, we may find the gravity of everything on our shoulders way too much to handle.
Some of us go about doing our best without stopping to acknowledge our need for a break & additional support. We allow ourselves, albeit unconsciously, to break bit by bit, not wanting to open up to our inner overwhelm.
If you find yourself nodding your head to this, then know that you are not alone. And also know that this need not be the norm of living.
In this post, I will share with you some beliefs, and practices that you can use to better care for yourself and others, as you navigate through an uncertain world full of contradictions.
Ways to care for yourself:
1. Acknowledge your needs and find ways to fulfil them:
If you have the tendency to put your needs in the back burner while trying to fulfill everyone else's, then pause to re-examine whether this attitude is contributing positively to your long term happiness.
Putting others needs before our own, with the belief that they will reciprocate the same level of care that we show towards them, can be an illusionary idea that we are at fault for creating, and can breed resentment in the long run, if our tacit expectations are not met.
While I am not asking you to be selfish, articulating & taking care of your needs is healthy and sets a good example to others of the importance of self care. This can contribute to your long term happiness and give you the capacity to be more available for others, which contributes to their happiness as well.
Journal prompts to unearth your needs:
What do I need to feel better in my body & mind?
Is there something I need that I have been ignoring?
2. Ask for help:
Sometimes the fear of being refused help can make us reluctant to ask for it. Know that even if you are denied help, the fact that you asked for it, is a sign that you are aware of what you need and are taking action. Pat yourself on your back for that courageous step.
From my personal experience, I have seen that, while some people I approach for help may not be available for me, there are many others who are.
So its really just a matter of being open about our needs.
“Be humble enough to offer support and courageous enough to ask for help.”
3. Build yourself:
Focus on evolution and growth in different spheres of your life. Working on yourself and finding ways to support yourself can help you show up more confidently in the world.
Journal prompts for building yourself:
How is my physical health? How can I improve it?
How is my mental health? How can I improve it?
Do I feel confident in social interactions? If not, what can I do to feel good?
What’s going to make me feel better about myself & my life?
4. Keep a growth focus:
You are allowed to fail, to make mistakes, follow a wrong path only to course correct much later. Instead of beating yourself up for wrong decisions, open your mind to the hidden lessons in your life experiences.
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you have never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.
So that’s my wish for you, and for all of us, and my wish for myself. Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is that you’re scared of doing. Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” - Neil Gaiman
5. Embrace Uncertainty
Elissa Epel, PhD Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, in her paper on “Stress Resilience and hope in the Anthropocene- Three tips for Mental Preparedness” talks about how we can welcome uncertainty by softening our grip on the future, hugging the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty, breathing into it, befriending it & finding delight in the unknown.
She also suggests bringing our awareness to the certainty of the present moment, breathing with greater ease into our bodies & noticing the small miracles around us. This is something I have come across in Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings as well.
Resource: Playlist of ‘Thich Nhat Hanh’s’ teachings for your listening:
“Its not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share.” - Pema Chodron
6. Don't attach your worth to your accomplishments:
The world may have you believe that you are only as worthy as your accomplishments. That is not true. Believe it in your heart, that you are enough just as you are, worthy for simply existing.
This will free you from the unnecessary pressure to perform and prove yourself to others.
“And I think, what is probably the most important, is to believe that we are enough. Because when we work from a place that says, ‘I am enough’, then we stop screaming and we start listening. We are kinder and gentler to the people around us and we are kinder and gentler to ourselves.” - Brene Brown
Caring for others
1. Offer others the gift of forgiveness:
Looking back at my life, I know that I haven’t always been there for people who expected me to be there for them in the time of their need. Maybe I wasn’t there because I did not have the capacity or the know how to. Perhaps I was swamped with my own set of problems at the time. I don’t know the reason. But what I do know, is that even though I wasn’t always there for them, I am still a good person at heart.
And so is everyone else. Believing in the inherent goodness of others & knowing that their behavior is largely a function of their life circumstance, can help us to not take everything personally. And allow some room for compassion & understanding.
Forgiving others is good for us. It keeps our heart light and free creating more space for love 💞
“Together we are all on a journey called life. We are a little broken and a little shattered inside. Each one of us is aspiring to make it to the end. None is deprived of pain here and we have all suffered in our own ways. I think our journey is all about healing ourselves and healing each other in our own special ways. Let’s just help each other put all those pieces back together and make it to the end more beautifully. Let us help each other survive.” - Ram Dass
2. Practice the pause in your communication:
Being mindful of our speech & actions that impact others can be a great way of offering care. We can choose to use our actions and words to lift others instead of pulling them down.
And remain silent when we have nothing positive to say.
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.” - Mother Theresa
3. Question societal norms of self preservation:
We live in a culture were we are continually told to protect our time, our resources etc. so much so that we have lost our spirit of interconnectedness. In helping others & sharing our time, resources & skills, we actually help ourselves.
While I agree we should not be saying yes to everything, we should also not be holding back when we do have the capacity to offer help. The greatest form of service, is to serve the one who has nothing to offer us in return.
I will conclude this post with a lovely story for your Sunday reflection. I am not sure if it’s a real life story or fiction, but it touched a chord with me & perhaps it will, with you.
“One evening I was parked in front of the mall wiping off my car. I had just come from the car wash and was waiting for my wife to get out of work. Coming my way from across the parking lot was, what society would consider, a bum. From the looks of him, he had no car, no home, no clean clothes, and no money. There are times when you feel generous but there are other times that you just don't want to be bothered. This was one of the "don't want to be bothered" times.
"I hope he doesn't ask me for money," I thought. He didn't. He came and sat on the curb in front of the bus stop and he didn't look like he could have enough money to even ride the bus. After a few minutes he spoke. "That's a very nice car," he said. He was ragged but had an air of dignity around him.
I said, "Thanks," and continued wiping off my car.
He sat there quietly as I worked. The expected plea for money never came. As the silence between us widened something inside me said, "Ask him if he needs any help." I was sure that he would say yes, but I held true to the inner voice.
"Do you need any help?" I asked. He answered in three simple but profound words that I shall never forget. We often look for wisdom in great men and women. We expect it from those of higher learning and accomplishments. I expected nothing but an outstretched grimy hand. He spoke three words that shook me.
"Don't we all?" he said.
I needed help. Maybe not for bus fare or a place to sleep, but I needed help. I reached in my wallet and gave him not only enough for bus fare but enough to get a warm meal and shelter for the day. Those three little words still ring true. No matter how much you have, no matter how much you have accomplished, you need help too. No matter how little you have, no matter how loaded you are with problems, even without money or a place to sleep, you can give help. Even if it's just a compliment, you can give that.
You never know when you may see someone that appears to have it all. They are waiting on you to give them what they don't have. A different perspective on life, a glimpse at something beautiful, a respite from daily chaos, that only you through a torn world can see.”