Yesterday was the first day of autumn. Awash with brilliant colors, autumn is also a season of big transition when the strong sunshine of summer begins to make way for the cold winds of winter which (especially here in Minnesota) will all too quickly be upon us. As the weather shifts, so, too, our lives are ever-changing.
So many people I know have been experiencing and dealing with big life transitions lately. The list ranges from the exuberance of a wedding celebration or the joy of a new baby being born to worries of newly diagnosed illness and tragically unexpected deaths. In between these experiences there are, of course, a myriad of other challenges and life's milestones that can give us pause. If we take the time to reevaluate and contemplate strategic next steps we can find our balance and move forward again, ready to soak up and enjoy all the good that life offers.
Whatever life passages you may be experiencing, I offer these few suggestions to help make whatever you are dealing with a little bit easier. If you are lucky enough to be in the midst of exciting times, you may be surprised to learn how sharing your joy with compassion and sensitivity with others may help those who are struggling, more than you can ever imagine. If you find yourself facing hard times, I hope that you will find some encouragement and helpful tips here.
Life happens. We are all dealing with something. We may not wear it on our sleeve or share it, but be assured, everyone is dealing with something. Sometimes the most important thing may be to simply realize you are not alone.
Perspective is everything. When you are in the throes of grieving a lost job, a changed relationship or even a death, it is most likely not the time to compare your challenge with anyone else's. While a healthy perspective can sometimes bolster your spirits, acknowledging your own struggle can do a lot to help you identify what you need.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. So many people want to help you. Sometimes family and friends who mean well, say just the wrong thing. Give them the benefit of the doubt. No one means to say the wrong thing or something hurtful. It can be an awkward time. As much as possible, allow others to help you. Surround yourself with the resources and support you need. Being honest with yourself is the first step. Letting those who ask, know what they can do to help you, is not only helpful to you, but can be a gift to them as well.
Be kind to yourself. Remember that the mind and body are connected. You may not be in a great head-space to take care of yourself, but your body, if you treat it properly, can help you more than you may realize. Don't forget to eat and drink. Try to get enough sleep. Getting outside can boost your spirits and give you time away to think things through, and spending time in nature has many known healing properties.
Smile and laugh - it helps, even if you aren't quite feeling it. Perhaps one of the best things you can do for yourself is simply allowing yourself to form a smile. Physiologically, the simple act of smiling sends endorphins to your brain which makes you feel happier. Even if your mind isn't there yet, if you allow yourself to share a smile and some laughter, your body will get all the health benefits anyway, even if it's an intentional smile or laugh. Benefits range from feeling less stress, anxiety or depression, to becoming more creative, more focused and more productive. If you follow the laughter with some deep breathing and relaxation, you will oxygenate your cells which can boost your immune system. The very times in life you least feel like smiling and laughing are the times you need it the most. So go ahead, give it a try. Allow your lips to curl upwards into a smile. Hold it for a few seconds and stretch your cheek muscles. Do it again. Even better if you look in a mirror or share the smiles with a friend. Allowing yourself to feel silly or ridiculous is all part of helping to trick your body into its natural response when you allow yourself to laugh.
Positivity is contagious. One of life's realities is that people respond to positivity. Faking it for awhile can help you get to a place where others see you as approachable and then genuine feelings of positivity follow as you interact with others. Don't misunderstand me. Take as long as you need to grieve, mourn, or deal with whatever you are going through. Hopefully you will not feel judgment from anyone about how long it takes for you to get back on your feet. Each of us is on our own schedule. It can take a really long time - which is completely okay. As you travel your journey of finding balance and joy with your present moment, I hope you will carry smiles in your pocket and leave a trail of laughter in your wake as you go, knowing you can help yourself tremendously with something as simple as allowing yourself to smile. The joy will follow when you are ready.