When life’s not fair: getting out from under when you feel crushed
You want to live a long and happy life. But now you feel crushed.
You’d noticed all those small signs: the extra weight, the breathlessness when you walked upstairs. You worry about that niggling pain in your hip or your knee. Or how you always seem to have indigestion these days.
But that’s what you expect when you’re getting on a bit, isn’t it?
Loads of times, you’d even tried to do something about it — well, sort of.
But in the busyness of everyday life, it was just easier to do the same old, same old.
But now, you can barely sleep at all you’re so scared.
It isn’t fair: it was only a routine check-up. But now it seems like you’re at real risk of dying far too soon.
Unless you do something about it.
Here are 10 suggestions that will help propel you over the trauma of unfairness into a longer, healthier life.
1 When life suddenly sucks
We all suffer from traumatic events: not just ill health, but job loss, retiring, moving house, downsizing, financial loss, divorce, death — there’s a long list of life events waiting to whack us one, especially as we age.
I know that I’ve been suddenly paralyzed, stressed out. When I got ill, it was as all too easy to concentrate on how unfair it all was, to brood on the why me and even simply trying to avoid the whole thing.
And so your first step is to acknowledge that life really does suck sometimes: to acknowledge that time is now, that you don’t want to be in this situation, that you want out as quickly as possible. So brood on it for 5 minutes every now and then.
Then tell yourself it’s time to move on and do something about it.
2 Turning your problems inside out
Problems always have two sides to them: the inside and the outside. The inside is what’s going on in your head and the outside is what’s happening out there in the real world.
The inside is how you feel about it all (the shock, the fear, the paralysis)and the outside is the action you can take out there in the real world to tip the balance of life in your favour.
Take a look at each side, inside first, and then the trick is to get the two to work together.
3 Let’s start with the inside: what’s playing in the film in your head?
We all run pictures through our heads, imagining how we’ll do this or that. But are your pictures mostly negative? To begin with they usually are, but you can change that.
Ask your brain (it’s the right side) to come up with a positive vision of how you will live now life’s given you a bad knock.
A good trick is to do this before you go to sleep. Then in the morning, you’ll have a flash of genius and a solution.
Another trick to make it more concrete is to play out the vision, like a film.
Like John Wayne or Lara Croft, you are the hero: doing all the right things, feeling all the grit and determination to get through this valley of despond.See yourself achieving your vision: your grandchildren running around with their slim, fit grandfather. Or you’re the leading light in the local community centre for retirees.
Or you’re helping out Mongolians with their infrastructure problems.
Whatever matches your vision. Close your eyes and have fun, playing the film to yourself.
Do it every night and every morning so that you reinforce your positive vision.
4 Plotting, scheming and planning: getting outside to the nitty gritty
Once you’ve worked out where you’re going, you need a detailed plan, a route of how to get there from where you are now. This is the practical side, the left brain work: the analysis, the reasoning and organising of the details.
Think of how they do it in the films: like George Clooney in Ocean’s 11. They plan the heist as if it’s a military operation.
They check out all the details; where to go, who’s going to do what and when. They break it down into ever smaller parts, all carefully scripted so that the plan works like clockwork.
You can do the same.
You’ll be like George Clooney as you break down your vision into an action plan and you break down the actions into small steps
Then you can perform those steps, one by one, to make your vision the reality you want.
That’s how you’re going to fight back against life’s blows.
5 Taking the steps and walking the walk of persistence
You’ve got the vision, you’ve aligned it with a workable plan. Now you’ve got to go for the action.
Treat it like a job. You have to work at it every day, just as you do when you have a job.
Make today’s small step your top priority and you’re one step further down the road.
Then tomorrow and the next day. That’s how you build the habits and skills you need — by your own persistence.
It may only be a small step each time, but you’re walking the walk towards your vision.
6 Gleefully choose what you’re going to give up
Recognise that some of those steps involve giving up things that you are accustomed to. It’s hard to do.
When you’re tempted to give way, think of why you’re taking action, think of your purpose, your vision and how much you want to live longer to do all the things you’ve planned.
Think of it as choosing between what you want now and what you want most. For me, faced with another donut and a longer life, the longer life wins out every time.
7 Believing in yourself is two thirds of the battle
Ok, nobody likes to be told that they have to work hard. But you can do it.
Didn’t you work hard to get your previous job? Didn’t you work hard to save the money for retirement?
Your career may have come to end, you may have lost your job or had bad news about your health. But you still have your family, somewhere to live, food to eat, friends you can call on for support, your intelligence, your humour.
Remind yourself of everything you’ve accomplished. Believe in yourself. You can do it again and you can do it better.
Look around you for examples of other people who’ve achieved great things. The lady stricken with arthritis who raises loads of money for charity. Ask people you know how they did it and be inspired.
Rest assured that they all worked hard to get where they are. They persisted, they didn’t give up.
8 When it all gets too much, there’s something obvious you can do
It’s an obvious point, but one that people overlook whatever their goals may be: take care of yourself.
And the obvious ways are to eat healthily, to make sure you’re doing enough exercise and getting a solid 8 hours of sleep per night.
You’ll think better, work better and have better control of your emotions. Plus, you’ll remember more and you’re more likely to keep up the new habits and skillsyou’ve been busy learning to make your vision happen.
Don’t forget to give yourself rewards for your own persistence. Eating well all week? Ok, then Friday night is pizza night (or maybe it’s chocolate cake night).
Distract yourself from the stress by getting absorbed in something fun. Go somewhere a bit different. Take up cycling. Visit a museum. Start learning a language or join an evening class in Tai Chi.
A positive, engaged attitude is key in helping you live longer.
9 Figure it out or die younger
If you’re still finding it tough to get going, terrify yourself into taking action.
Imagine that you won’t live to see your grandchildren unless you lose those extra pounds or that you’re lonely, bored, friendless and ill because you didn’t make the effort to find a purpose in life after you had to quit working.
If you don’t take action to counter the punch, your life will definitely be shorter. Stress and depression can be fatal.
Put your new vision on top of that nasty negative one and decide which vision you prefer.
That’ll be the new positive one, so take action, now.
Never give up. It’s amazing what your brain can come up with when it’s a question of survival.
10 Look to your greatest supporters: you are not alone
There’s no getting round it. It’s mainly you that’s going to make the difference to your future.
But, don’t forget you are not alone. Look around and ask your family, your friends and acquaintances for help. Reach out. If you feel embarrassed, find it anonymously by participating in groups on social media.
Wringing the last drops of happiness out of your longer life
You’ve got your vision and worked out your plan. You’re well along the way.
You’re so much more relaxed now. You can look back and laugh at how bad you felt when the world you knew fell in.
You feel in better health all round, just because you’re not so stressed.
You know that life will continue to throw you curve balls. But now, you’ve learned some good methods of coping. You feel in control of what you’re doing.
It may be painful but you’ll manage when that thunderbolt arrives out of the blue.
Where once it seemed that you were doomed, you can see the years stretching in front of you, full of purpose, full of fun.
You’re going to wring the last drop of happiness out of every minute of that longer life.
Rosemary Bointon: working out what we can do now to improve our healthspan and live longer, whilst having more fun and adventures along the way.