by Wes Morton
In a rapidly changing world, adaptability in the face of adverse events is crucial. Mindfulness offers a proven approach to overcome life’s many unexpected challenges.
- Understanding what you can control
- Using mindfulness to assess realities
- Moving forward with “Now What?”
If you had told me last year what 2020 would bring, I wouldn’t have believed you. A global pandemic, a stock market crash then boom, tragic death on an incomprehensible scale, and a fundamental shift of everyday social rituals, some of which will never return. When so much changes so fast, our mental well-being comes under an immense amount of strain.
In the face of major outside stressors, your mindset has a major effect on your ability to adapt to rapid change. A poor mental state will leave you feeling hopeless and anxiety-ridden. Mindfulness, a mental state of active, open attention to the present, can help you navigate and adapt to situations that would cripple others. A 2018 Harvard research study found that practicing mindfulness helped patients tackle depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mindfulness puts us in the present moment, allows us to understand what we can control, and gives us permission to act. With a little practice, you too can build mental resilience to weather any personal or professional life change.
Minding What You Can and Can’t Control
Anxiety is born when we try to control something we cannot. This includes things that have happened in the past or future possibilities with unpredictable outcomes. You lose money on an investment. Your relationship falls apart. You get laid off. On vacation in Mexico, I was robbed at knifepoint at an ATM outside the Coco Bongo Club in Cancun. Bad things happen… to everyone. When they inevitably do, you have two choices. You can let the event destroy you by wasting your time and energy on self-pity or you can accept the reality of a situation.
When I was robbed in Mexico, my first instinct was to blame myself. I was angry, upset, humiliated. When you are a victim of circumstance, feelings like these are instinctual. Take a moment to breathe. Sit quietly. Bring yourself back to the present. Everyone needs their space to grieve and process. After my mugging, I laid on a beach chair, breathed in the ocean air, and listened to Bob Marley for a couple of hours. Practicing mindfulness allowed me to collect my thoughts, process what happened to me, and examine the feelings that were overwhelming me.
The exercise will allow you to clearly demarcate what you can and cannot control. Fretting over uncontrollable events of the past and future, especially painful ones, cause immense anxiety. A sharp view of your reality allows you to manage emotions, release anxiety, and move forward. I realized that I was fine and that my watch, cards, and cash could be replaced, and that the only thing hurt was my ego.
With your thoughts firmly collected in the present, ask yourself what I like to call a “Now What?”. The two-word phrase acts as a clear line between the uncontrollable and the controllable elements of your life. You’ve assessed your present reality, understood the things out of your control, now what are you going to do about it?
Now What restores your sense of control, permitting you action. In Mexico, my Now What involved calling two banks, reporting credit card fraud, overnighting a new credit card to my hostel in Mexico City, and telling myself I was going to still enjoy my last week of vacation. I couldn’t change the past, but I could take concrete steps to improve the situation and affect my attitude for the rest of my trip.
The global pandemic is an unfortunate reality that has isolated us from loved ones, broken routines, led to massive layoffs, and caused widespread tragedy. In life, the pace of change can be unrelenting and unavoidable. When outside forces become too much to bear: breathe, process, assess, and ask yourself, “Now what?”
Wes Morton is a freelance writer, producer, and marketer living in Los Angeles with 8 years of experience in the entertainment industry. Formerly the Senior Marketing Manager at Branded Entertainment Network, he is currently working as an independent television producer.