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10 Ways To Find Strength If You’re In The Middle Of A Lifetime Struggle

10 Ways To Find Strength If You’re In The Middle Of A Lifetime Struggle

In 2012 a series of personal events occurred to me at the same time, which felt as if everything in my life was crashing down on me. I was suffering of a serious illness and one particular day it came to a head. Leaving work to rush into hospital and without preparation, I received surgery the very next day. This occurred three weeks before I was booked and ready to go on a one-month trip around Europe.

After my release from hospital the very next day my then boyfriend of six months informed me that his mother did not condone our relationship. We had a good relationship as far as I knew. I received this news via phone call. I broke up with him a week later and still went on my trip to Europe.

When returning to my job after my holiday, my boss demoted me to part time without a legitimate reason. I had been with the company for four years never taking any sick days. But my sudden surgery and trip (that he blessed when I booked it) most likely triggered his decision. Imagine being told that you need to go part time and that a full time person will be hired, even though you are fine to work as normal. I gave in my two week notice on the spot.

I was on a major downward spiral and I experiences heavy depression during this time. Still recovering from surgery, a broken heart, and no job, I questioned what the heck I was doing in life. It actually felt like everything I had been pursuing was wiped away and I had to start over again. In the middle of this struggle, I found it in myself to focus on an attitude of reason.

Do you know the saying everything happens for a reason? I told myself this daily and really began focusing on taking advantage of the struggle I was in. I learned a few things during this time and I hope by passing them on they will help someone else.

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1. First and foremost, get off the mouse wheel

When life throws us situations that cause us to struggle, what can make it worse is our attitude towards it. Like mice go round and round on the wheel, in tough times it is important that we don’t spin ourselves out by limited thinking. Struggles come in many ways and for many reasons, which are unique to the individual. We can so easily become overwhelmed by the pressure and difficulties we are currently facing that we don’t stop and review what is going on. Getting off the wheel allows us to slow down and begin to take steps towards not allowing this struggle to consume us.

“Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation – when you’re in the darkest of darkness – that’s when your priorities are reordered.” – Phoebe Snow

2. Don’t lose sight of who you are

It is so easy to get into the victim mentality in those struggling times. Faced with despair and a lack of hope, the why me? thoughts can begin. We may neglect the very things that can possibly keep us grounded. Don’t forget to take care of yourself no matter how pointless or even draining it may feel. Which leads to the next point: health.

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” – Helen Keller

3. Take care of your health: Mind, Body, Soul

Ensuring that we are focused on our wellbeing is the foundation of rising above struggles. Synchronising the mind, body and soul can bring about strength, health and also a sense of calmness. Even though there is hardship, when we feel well grounded physically and mentally, things are not over exaggerated. Stress can be kept at a minimal as well.

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“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha

4. How you respond can make a difference

As I mentioned I began focusing on the thought that everything happens for a reason. Someone told me during this time that what I am experiencing is not the end it is just the beginning. Whilst I couldn’t see how or what that would mean further down the road, I held onto that belief. For such a massive change to occur, there had to be a deeper meaning. Through invested time in prayer and focusing on my self-awareness, I began to realise that for so long I had wished for more out of life yet wasn’t going after it. I wasn’t truly happy in my job and I was very stressed out, yet I never did anything about it. My relationship was wonderful but I ignored the fact that it was immature and I outgrew it. My health was a reflection of neglecting the heavy stress I was under from work.

I took everything into consideration and turned each part into a powerful lesson. I used those circumstances to fuel my decisions and not settle for anything that wasn’t pushing me to thrive. By viewing the situations as a blessing in disguise, it assisted me towards a better life filled with freedom, health and passion. Therefore, I was able to respond strongly.

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” – Lou Holtz

5. Accept and let go, so you can heal and flow

Without acceptance, it is very hard to move on. People hurt us, we make silly mistakes, and change happens dramatically at times. Life is never fully in our control and we do not know what tomorrow brings. Accepting struggles as they are, learning from them and moving on empowers us. If we are constantly bitter at what life throws our way, we miss the opportunity to live in the moment. I believe that it is totally normal and human to cry, mourn and have a period of being sad. I cried every day for months. People told me to move on and pushed my grieving process.

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I knew however that I needed to let it out in order to be free from it. Acceptance isn’t all about sucking it up and getting on with it. One healthy way to accept the struggles we face is by sitting with the uncomfortable reality and feeling it – not avoiding it. If that means sobbing like a big baby (like I did), so be it. It assisted in my ability to remain compassionate, free spirited, and not angry with anyone. Due to experiencing the feelings, bitterness was not enabled. I reached out to both my boss and ex boyfriend some time later thanking them for the wonderful things they bought to my life. I could only do this because I had accepted what happened and I had no room for anger. This helped my process of moving on.

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” – Michael J Fox

6. It is not weak to speak – Talk to someone

Don’t ever be too proud to talk to someone about your struggles and difficult times. You may feel awkward but it is one of the best actions you can do for yourself. Those who muster up the courage to speak up, do themselves and others good. To open up helps with healing, overcoming troubles and also gaining perspective. Sometimes when we keep things bottled up inside, we can overthink and create bigger problems for ourselves. Talking it out invites someone else to be a friend to you and allows you to be yourself – raw and real. Choose someone you fully trust and don’t be embarrassed. If you don’t have anyone, there are many ways you can connect with people. (Your welcome to talk to me if you need too!)

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

7. Turn your struggle into your power

Begin to look for opportunities in the current circumstance you are in. Yes, it is really hard to do this sometimes especially when your confidence has been stripped away. Putting your faith in someone again, a job or anything in a time like this can be so fearful. It is also liberating to realise that at any point in time you can stop what you are doing and start something new if you want to. For a long time I knew I was putting off what I really wanted to pursue and that is my focus on helping other people on a deeper level.

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So, I took advantage of the fact that I was incredibly free to do whatever I wanted to do. I started thinking of a business. I worked another awesome job. I did a course and I went travelling. I wasn’t attached to any of those things because I knew that I could never settle again like I did before. Almost two years later I can now say that I am starting to make sense of what I want to do and where I want to go. I feel purpose within my heart and I can help others through difficult times. I now recognize more than I did before when I need to move out of my comfort zone, before it blows up in my face again. That is a powerful place to be in.

“If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.” – Pat Riley

8. Learn from others

Gaining advice and direction from people we trust is very valuable in a struggle. When people open up about a tough time and how they got through, they are most likely saying it to encourage us. In saying that I ensured that I was guarded as to whom I talked to. Not everyone needs to know our struggles, as not everyone can be sensitive about them. Insensitive responses can leave us feeling misunderstood and embarrassed. There are also people who feed our struggles by pandering to us constantly without setting us straight when it’s needed. We need to surround ourselves with people who are honest and will sincerely let us know that there is hope. You know those friends who say the right thing, even though you don’t really want to hear it? Generally those are the ones who encourage you to rise up again and not allow this struggle to take a hold of you. They are sincere but they refuse to see you wallow in self-pity. Learn from them.

9. Set boundaries

Something I am still learning today is setting boundaries for myself. Instead of being someone who always says yes or does things to keep others happy, I have learnt the word no. Setting boundaries is actually living in honesty and representing your truest self. I was always available to everyone with the belief system that I had to drop what I was doing to help others. In the work environment the stress I was under consumed my whole core but I never said no to it. During a struggle it may be wise to review where boundaries may not be set and work towards putting some in place. Say no to the things that hurt you or destroy your health. Speak to your boss or find a job that does not stress you out. Choose a relationship that is enjoyable, not controlling – or be single. Have your own routines and disciplines in place that are focused on health (mind, body and soul). Say what you mean and settle for no less. Set boundaries and protect yourself.

10. And finally…it all happened for a reason.

Perhaps the biggest reason for my experience was that I could write this and let you know that your struggles are not the end of the road. They may just be the beginning of something new, change and a better life. Perhaps you will learn the best lessons that will push you to grow and give you wisdom in your future choices. Maybe you will find purpose, create something new or finally follow your passions. It could be a wake up call to get your body into shape, health into gear, mind re-focused or spiritual life on track. Whatever the reason may be, if you dig deep and allow yourself to be open, the answer will come in the right time and in the right way.

It is not the end – it may just be the beginning.

Featured photo credit: Victor Hugo via photopin.com

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Anjelica Ilovi

Anjelica writes about how to grind and unwind for increased productivity, focus and joyful living anjelicailovi.com {grind + unwind}

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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