October 20, 2020

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Alyssa Petersel

How To Find Balance Within The Highs And Lows Of Worrying About The Future

How can we find more balance when so little is within our control right now? The truth, like so many things, is that the answer is going to be entirely unique to you and you are going to need to do a little bit of work to discover it. What I can do is help you along your discovery with some suggestions and some prompts, and I can assure you -- finding your way, and what rings true for you, is so worth it.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Day after day, my life is on repeat, like it’s Groundhog Day, and yet, my moods are dipping and spiking like they’re on some kind of drug.

One day, I will find myself sitting, facing my computer screen. It’s 3pm and I have a knot in my chest, thoughts whirring in my head. I’m not confident that the world, regardless of what happens on November 3, will properly recover from all of the trauma of 2020 (as I type, I am not even sure what “properly” really means).

The very next day, I find myself sitting, facing my computer screen. It’s 3pm. The setting is eerily familiar, and yet, today, I am wide-and-starry-eyed, adrenaline pumping, with a cheek-to-cheek grin on my face. Shoulders relaxed. I am not entirely sure -- or sure at all -- what the future holds, but I am grateful for what I do have. I am hopeful. Optimistic.

It’s true, these ebbs and flows are often tied to how closely I’m following the news or updates on social media. But it feels deeper than that. More curious, and more confusing. I wonder to myself:

“What is the deal with all of the highs and lows recently, and how can we find more balance?”

In my opinion, in every single aspect of life, balance is key.

In relationships: a dear friend and one of my role models once told me that the most successful relationships are ones in which both partners understand that they will need to compromise on 50% of what they believe they want and 0% of what they believe they need. We need to show up, to give, to love, and we need to step back, receive, and be loved.

In work: as a leader, I find myself straddling the line between compassionate leadership -- wanting my entire team, and really, anyone who I work with, to feel belonging, empowerment, and support -- and strength -- ensuring that my needs, and the needs and value of my business, are recognized, met, and compensated appropriately. Compassion and strength are not mutually exclusive. One without the other is not enough. The key is balance.

So how can we find more balance when so little is within our control right now?

You may hate this, but the truth, like so many things, is that ultimately, I cannot tell you the bulletproof answer here. The answer is going to be entirely unique to you and you are going to need to do a little bit of work to discover it.

What I can do is help you along your discovery with some suggestions and some prompts, and I can assure you -- finding your way, and what rings true for you, is so worth it.

1. Set aside time to rest.

We are just a few weeks away (in America) from one of the most monumental elections in our history. Our world is facing more trauma than ever. You are being asked to hold and process not only your trauma, but the trauma of anywhere from one to millions of other human beings; trauma that you are exposed to in your personal relationships, work relationships, and the media. That is really, really hard, and you need a break every now and then to refuel.

Sometimes, counterintuitively, when we pause, or really slow down, our mind revs up. If this rings true for you, I have a brief IGTV video on this talking through how to continue to rest, and really find rest, over time.

I like to think that if we soothe our bodies enough, our minds will catch up. If we wave to our busy minds, listen to them, but ultimately, keep setting those boundaries and prioritizing rest when we can, our minds will slowly, slowly, soften.

Mindfulness and meditation can be helpful tools here, as well. If you’re interested in giving meditation a try, check out this recent guided meditation from Ric Mathews and MyWellbeing, or take this quiz to figure out which form of meditation might be right for you. If you find it hard to set aside time for a regular practice, try weaving meditation into the tasks you already do every day, like meditating in the shower.

2. Take control over the things you DO have control over.

There are endless things in our world right now that we do not have control over. Naturally, this can lead us to grasp, to grieve, to feel powerless or hopeless. However, there are also quite a few things in our lives that we DO have control over. Through those, we can reclaim our power and completely change our present and future.

Try starting a new project. Pick something small, something that feels fun or joyful. Set some goals around it. Begin with a little bit of time set aside just to learn more about it, and gradually, work your way up to really seeing something come together. Maybe this is a blog of your own. Maybe it’s a puzzle. Maybe it’s a photography practice. Choose something that is low stakes. Something that you can do just for you, something that you can see and hold and feel progress through.The more time you put in, the more ambitious you are with the goals you set, the more you will see this project come together and expand.

Do this not to have something to “show” anyone else, do it for you. So that YOU have an outlet through which you can own and honor control. An avenue through which you are the boss. You decide what happens next.

Take note: how does it feel? What are you learning along the way? Interesting, right?

3. Celebrate your wins when they happen.

Despite your most negative self-talk (I hear you), I KNOW your wins are happening, too. You are a gift to the people around you (whether they are in the same physical room as you or not). Never forget it.

Remember how far you’ve come. Remind yourself weekly of the time when you merely dreamed about where you are now.

Put these reminders around you, physically. Whip out pieces of paper, or post-its, or magnets for your fridge. You are a f*cking rockstar. Like all rockstars, on some days, we need reminders.

4. Practice patience and curiosity with your lows when they happen.

Just like the highs, the lows are inevitable. When we are in the midst of a low period, even if just for an hour, it can feel like we are *always* in the midst of a low period and we will never change or ever get out of it. Challenge this: this is not true.

Keep a log of when you are feeling high and when you are feeling low. When you are feeling low, take a look at your log. You may be surprised by what you find.

It’s possible that there is something to learn in how you are feeling. Reflect, journal, talk with a close friend or a therapist. How are you feeling, really? Why might that be? Where might that be coming from?

It’s possible there is no “reason” at all. It may be the best possible thing for you to really sit with your feelings, really feel that discomfort. We are so quick in our society today to brush it away, rush it away, walk it off, distract and escape. Try to tune in. To really feel. To increase your capacity to hold and withstand discomfort. You are strong and you can do hard things. You will continue to inspire yourself. Keep going.

5. Send a loving message to someone you care about.

Sometimes, it feels so good to help someone else feel just a little bit better. To see a smile on someone’s face over that video screen. To get a heart emoji in return for a one-line check-in, or a GIF, or a special surprise lunch delivery.

Be the person you hope others will be for you. Day dream about the mid-day surprise you’d most love to receive and give it to someone else.

The world is an odd place -- you just may find that by giving, you will, before you know it, be receiving. The act of giving in itself is often a gift to the giver.

For all of you natural caregivers out there -- remember what we said about balance? Keep giving, but don’t forget to receive.

6. Vote. Advocate. Self-educate.

Show up for the people and causes you care about.

In case you need a resource today, I recently read More than Enough by Elaine Welteroth and am extremely grateful for even an inch more of an understanding of what it was like for Elaine to grow up with a Black mother and White father in America, and how her gender and race have impacted her highs and lows in her career.

My team and I at MyWellbeing recently listened to and processed this 10% Happier podcast episode with Resmaa Menakem: Why We're All Suffering from Racial Trauma (Even White People) -- and How to Handle It. I highly recommend giving it a listen and carving out some time and space to process. Bonus points if you encourage at least 1 other person to listen as well and process together.

In case it bears repeating: VOTE. Use your voice. You are a powerhouse and the world needs to hear you.

7. Go to therapy. We all need it.

I am so grateful for my therapist AND my coach. I know how privileged I am to be able to say that.

I could not urge you more strongly: if you have the means to invest in yourself, please do. Regular exercise is amazing for your mental health; it is not therapy. Meeting and talking over coffee with your friends is amazing for your health; it is not therapy. Your hobbies are amazing for your health; they are not therapy.

Therapy is a unique, rare, sacred space where you can be fully, wholly, rawly you. Your therapist is your partner. Your highly trained, objective third party to hear you, witness all you are going through, support you, and help you grow.

You may not feel or understand the impact this has on you and your healing and growth in a cognitive way every single week. Just like with your physical health, how you would not lose 30 pounds overnight, change takes time.

In a few weeks, months, even years if you choose to stay in therapy long-term, you will viscerally feel the difference and you will be blown away. You will face a challenging circumstance that once threw you off your tracks, and you will be able to not only handle it, you will thrive. You will kick that challenge’s ass. You will surprise yourself.

You will inspire others around you. All because you choose, every week, to show up for you, for at least 45 minutes.

If you would like support finding the right therapist or coach for you, we at MyWellbeing would be happy to help. Share your preferences for a therapist or coach in our brief form, and we will send you the best 3 matches for you for free!

Times are really hard right now.

We at MyWellbeing have been receiving moving, thoughtful messages from many of you sharing the things that are weighing on you, and the things that are lifting you up.

I know that times are really hard right now. We are humans. Part of our special sauce and special fuel is connecting with each other, and we are in a unique circumstance right now that hinders us from doing that.

Know that no matter what you are going through, it is not your fault. There is so much going on beneath the surface. So much to you and your story, so much to your genetic makeup, your relationships, your past, the systems and institutions around you.

Know that you are worth learning more about. All of those details. The nuance, the color, the life.

There is more on the other side of this. Keep going.

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About the author

Alyssa Petersel, Co-Founder and CEO of My Wellbeing and author of Somehow I Am Different, graduated from Northwestern University in 2013 with dual BA degrees in psychology and international studies, graduated summa cum laude from New York University in May 2017 with her Master's in Social Work, and graduated from The Writer's Institute non-fiction program at CUNY Graduate Center in May 2017. A native New Yorker, Alyssa now lives in Brooklyn and enjoys running, coffee, community, and social justice.

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