How I Deal With Ups and Downs in My Life
Sometimes I wish there was a recipe to skip past the low points and all the negative situations in life. I have looked for something that can help from the moment I feel that things are stagnating or going wrong; or that things are just not in the flow as they used to be. But then I remember that life is a constant flow where these ups and downs are part of the whole that help me to grow and become a better version of myself.
First and farmost, I want to start with my most important lesson: Life is like a wave. There will be ups and downs, it’s not static, rather fluid and will never maintain one specific condition.
A very good friend ofmine once told me
If there would be only ups in life, how would we know it, if we would experience any downer?
Guess there is only a full stop needed here…
What would life be without the roller coaster ride? Wouldn’t we receive less value from the great moments in our life, if these bad times did not exist? I assume we all have the same opinion here: No, we wouldn’t. The bad times are something that we simply cannot prevent. So why not take the best out of every situation, as bad as it might be, and enjoy the ride?
Well, it’s not that easy, is it? Actually, it might be easier than you think! All you need is to develop the right attitudes and the right tools to learn how to deal with them. It’s always a question of how you look at certain situations. This is actually one of the most crucial components to deal with bad situations.
I learned to use my brain properly
I consider the brain to be a great a tool. Or, more importantly, the brain has a wide range of tools available for you to use. These tools are designed to deliver you exactly what you want to see or experience. To be precise, these tools deliver thoughts based on what you choose to focus on.
It’s your thoughts and emotions that define where your brain will place the most focus. These thoughts and experiences can be focused on either the positive or the negative in your life. It helps you to automate most decisions. For example, this causes us to buy the ice cream we can’t resist because we love the taste.
There are numerous studies that prove that the brain tries to save energy as much as possible. Therefore, the brain will focus on activities with less resistance based on what you order and train it to do on a regular basis. This is how we form behaviors. In the Interview “why motivation is garbage” Mel Robins explains it very well, why we are sometimes lazy or procrastinate.
That’s why it is so hard to give up smoking, for example. And before you judge me; I am aware that there’s way more behind an addiction, but I believe that addiction is still mostly driven by thoughts and belief. In this case, the belief is that smoking makes you more relaxed.
The more often a specific behavior is repeated, the more it will form an automated behavior. And, the more time that passes, the often a behavior is trained the harder it gets to change it later. This is of course sometimes great, but very bad for self-destructive behavior such as smoking.
Remember how you learned to ride a bicycle, skateboard, drive a car, or started to play soccer and became better over time? It was your will that ordered your brain to adjust itself and to form a new neuronal network.
Let’s take a challenging task that you were eager to accomplish. Your desire was big enough to trigger the brain to get you to complete it rather than doing something else. After that, it’s all about trial and error.
You go from failing to learning to repeat and optimizing the approach. It’s an optimization loop. It’s like in a programming language; a simple “if this-then that” request, that is connected to a sort of “AI learning” mechanism. Over time and long training sessions, this process can turn you into a professional at any discipline.
Over time I figured out, that I can actually apply this to the bad situations in my life as well. Whenever I experience a slump, a low point of my life, or when I have some down times, there are a lot of self limiting beliefs and negative thoughts involved.
To overcome these negative thoughts, I rethink and reform the situation in my mind with continuous positive self talk. Sometimes this can include simply repeating a certain phrase over and over again. Otherwise I trivialise the situation by telling myself that as long as I am alive, everything is ok.
I go through these bad times with the least resistance possible and allow anything to be. First I feel it, then acknowledge it, let go of it, and finally look for solutions to change the situation.
It’s an easy formula: Feel it (may take a couple of minutes), accept it and let go of it. If you have control over it, change it; if not, accept it and look for things you can change instead.
For a long period of time, I tried to control every situation. If you are like I was, you probably know that devastating feeling when something goes wrong and you have no control over it.
Allow it to be and fueling my brain with different, positive thoughts helps me to stay on track and keep focus on the things I can use to leverage my way back up.
I stopped making a big deal out of it
See, the moment things go wrong, people, including me, tend to dramatize situations to their peak. I tend to question myself often. Still, we all have the ability to reflect and to change our thoughts and subsequently our behavior. The moment I stress myself out, I am aware of the fact that the brain receives an order to behave accordingly. It’s the same with an emotion such as anger or sadness. It’s an order to the brain on which it will deliver you the thoughts and feelings.
By taking a moment to reflect, breathe deeply talk yourself out of it and stay calm; the moment you realize that this bad time will pass; is the moment that you learn to acquire strength during those bad times.
Don’t try to change it; it’s natural. We are not super humans and are, as day and night, subject to the laws of nature.
I learned to read the signals and get prepared
Good times and bad times cycle just like the flow and ebb of a wave. By knowing that the good times will come to an end one day, I can properly prepare for the change. The same can be applied when I am having bad times. The more knowledge and life experience I gain, the easier it becomes to me to determine whether I am on the tipping point of a high, on my way down, or on the way back up again.
This is when I take immediate action. I make sure to get enough rest, eat the right food (because delicious, healthy food helps) and make sure to surround myself with the right people that can help me through the difficult times. I know for example, that I am a very social person and that I need a lot of hugs in that difficult times.
I do more of what feels good in bad times
Whenever I have difficult times, this is what I advise you to do. Don’t isolate yourself. Instead go out for drinks and meet your best friends. Invite a friend to your home and do something fun. Go running, or get on the bike and take a long ride, or go for a walk.
What works best for me is to get myself involved in activities that actually require my whole body to be active. For example, playing beach volleyball or a heavy workout in the park are excellent ways to recover from stress.
I use the good times to be as productive as possible
Whenever I feel in a productive mode, I take advantage of it. I don’t wait; I take immediate action. The more you wait with something that you are supposed to do, the heavier it actually gets. So when I am on a high I try to be as productive as can be. I take a few extra hours and do the work that I wouldn’t be doing when I feel bad.
I enlarge my task list and make sure I get all the relevant stuff done. Also, I try to make sure that important meetings happen during these times. For example, this is when I would schedule an investor meeting since I have to be very strong and need to negotiate terms for our startup.
The moment I feel my productivity going down, I won’t resist. It’s often combined with a break in efficiency. These are the times that I decrease my amount of work and hours and make sure to give myself the time I need in order to recover.
It’s important to learn to listen to the signs. For me these are: I feel lethargic, I feel sad, I get moody, I have the feeling to draw myself out of any social interaction.
When I get on a high and I feel very positive vibes, people say that I “shine”. I feel very active and become very socially available and I organize a lot of events to meetup with people and connect my friends together.
I learned, that the movie in my head is just a movie, until I allow it to dominate my thoughts and let it become reality
Whatever thoughts you have, however self limiting they might be, if it’s a thought; you can change it. Nowadays, I make reality checks and make sure whether the assumptions in my head are either true or false.
In my NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) courses I learned that the message of the sender will be clear when the receiver gives it back to you. It’s crucial to consider that 90% of our thoughts are not real and that person XYZ is probably not thinking in a certain way about you. I guess you all agree with me, when I say these are just YOUR thoughts.
So basically you’re thinking this by yourself. It’s a great way to reflect and discover where you can change your thoughts. In case you’re not sure, ask the person. Most people will tell you their opinion. Sometimes very nice and sometimes not.
Also, we must consider that most thoughts we have are patterns that we once adopted from our parents, from our teachers in school from friends, relatives and even TV. As soon as you like someone, chances are high you will adopt part of their belief system.
Before you judge whether someone likes you; try to find it out. If you’re not behaving very arrogant or being a true asshole, then chances are high that this is just a ghost thought in your mind.
I expect a positive outcome out of whatever happens
This allows me to extract great lessons from every situation, no matter how hard, and to stay optimistic about life. This frames my brain to consider the negative in a situation but not to fixate on it. I always ask myself the question: What’s the lesson that I can take out of this situation?
Besides the effect on the brain it helps me not to lose faith in myself and also it frames other people around me to act positive. The indigenous tribes, like the Yequana for example, expect a certain behavior without ever speaking it out loud. Their kids, for example, are raised in a way that is the opposite as in “modern” society.
They have the expectation that kids take care of themselves and that the rest is taken care of by the subconscious mind. If you feel like you cannot be positive, I encourage you to try it. It may not have immediate effects on you, but I guarantee you will over time.
The more I am doing what I love and stay true to myself, the less downs I have
At least this is how it feels … Since I learned to be and live the best version of myself, doing what I love, in complete self determination, life has drastically changed for me.
Basically, my whole life has became easier. This helps me to overcome anxiety and look to a positive outcome in whatever difficult situation I encounter. I don’t stress myself anymore about a lot in my life. Sometimes stress is inevitable, but wherever possible, I slow down and look at life with a relaxed state of mind.
Besides putting me in a great mood, this helps me to make good decisions as I am able to weigh all possibilities and listen to what my heart. My feeling tells me whether I should go for something or not.
What is it you do to tackle downers in your life and what do you do to buffer the downers until you come up again?