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Years ago, I came across a recipe book by Peg Bracken, called “The I Hate to Cook Book”. The chapter that made me laugh most was the one entitled: “Company’s Coming, or, Your Back is Against the Wall”.

What do YOU do when your back is against the wall? Grin and bear? Lash out? Make yourself small? Walk tall?

As a life coach, I have met my share of clients with their backs against the wall, and find myself there every now and again too. The good news is, there is hope just when things look hopeless. As Helen Keller said: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. “

Here’s what I tell my clients and myself:

1. Let your body release tension. Crying and shaking of the body are natural ways for us to heal. Crying releases stress hormones, which explains why we feel calmer and why our heart rates usually slow down after a good cry. Studies have found that humans can benefit from shaking after trauma just as animals do.

2. Ground yourself. Do something simple. Take a walk, watch a bird, go outside at sunrise or at twilight, plant something, hold a baby, cook a wholesome meal, gently stretch your muscles, sit down and focus on what your body feels, one part at a time: soles of the feet, backs of the legs, right up to the breeze against your cheek. This will calm your body and make breathing easier.

3. Stop listening to your own scary thoughts and question them for the truth. Can you absolutely know that you will lose your job? Or that your teenager is irrevocably beyond reach? Or that you will fail the test? Find ways that these scenarios might not turn out to be true. Work out the odds that your worst case scenario might take place.

4. Stop listening to people who “awful-ize”– you know, those people who are so good at taking a simple possibility and then colouring it in so black you can hardly breathe. Avoid contact with such people as far as possible.

5. Face the worst case scenario. Really get it all out in all its horror. It’s an old Dale Carnegie trick from days gone hence. He used to say you must go into the deepest darkness your mind can take you, and then prepare to accept what you find there. Then, he pointed out, you are covered. You have looked the worst in the face, and have not died. You will accept it when it comes, and have some idea of how you will handle it. Now, you can forget it, and be relieved, because this moment you are in, is so much better than the worst case scenario.

6. Take constructive action. Do what you can under the circumstances, even if it’s just opening the scary envelope or looking at your bank balance or getting up in the morning. Asking for help is also taking constructive action. If you don’t ask, you rob others of the opportunity to live their purpose, to show compassion and to be of use in the world and you leave yourself ill-equipped to deal with the crisis. No-one can be expected to know or do everything themselves during a crisis. Others WANT to help you when you are overwhelmed.

7. Find people who give you courage and hope and who make you feel better about yourself. Now stalk them. Or at the very least, watch them closely. How would they interpret what is happening? What would they say in such circumstances? We all need a model to help us connect to our wisest self and see things from their perspective if ours is not making us happy. Surrounding yourself with people who make you feel more positive, or can even make you laugh, is healthy.

8. Get back to your purpose. Being in crisis frequently paralyses us as far as doing what we do best in the world is concerned. We have trouble concentrating, we lose our passion. But whatever the crisis, prepare to get on with your purpose as soon is possible. The crisis may change your purpose, or the way you fulfill that purpose
in the end, but for now, don’t confuse the issue by throwing in doubt about your purpose in life. The world needs you.

9. Feed your senses and expose yourself to unconditional love. Listen to music that makes your body feel good. Pick some flowers. Tear out magazine pictures that make you happy and stick them where you can see them all the time. Finger soft fabric. Eat tasty, nutritious food, such as berries. Smell the fragrance of mown grass or roses. Spend time with a pet. Or a horse. Or small children. Notice how they all have the ability to show you how to live.

10. Most importantly, remember that you are in charge of you. If you are waiting for someone else to make things better, to change, to come and rescue you, you may have to wait a long time. Far better to realize that you are in the driver’s seat, not anyone else. You are the one deciding how you will take things. This realization brings great freedom and great strength. And a solid responsibility. For so long as you blame your suffering on others or on circumstances, so long will your suffering last, so long do you give away your power.

“Now be silent. Let the One who creates the words speak. He made the door. He made the lock. He also made the key.”

Susan Viljoen, Martha Beck Certified Life Coach

Born to Shine Magazine