A few years back, I was writing a book. Not your casual “Oh, I’m thinking about writing a book.” No, I was ALL IN. I’d taken a class. Immersed myself in the writing process. Hired a writing coach. The whole nine yards.
Then one day, my computer got hacked. And they were malicious. I even got a ransom request. It doesn’t matter, I thought. I backed everything up.
But I was wrong. My book was gone.
I was hysterical.
I knew I was on another level when my husband arrived home mid-workday with the closest thing he could get to an FBI agent computer expert.
He said we would pay whatever we needed to recover my book as we sat with them at the dining room table. But despite our best efforts, I never saw my book again.
Now I know what happens to you happens for you. I also know that in the hour you realize that months of your life’s work has gone up in smoke, grief is an entirely NORMAL response.
I recall uncontrollably dumping the news on my mother that day. In an attempt to help me get my bearings, my mother said, “First thing you need to do is cancel all of your clients today.”
I remember my response clearly, “Oh, I am NOT canceling my clients! The only thing that is going to prevent me from a complete downward spiral is not being absorbed in this — in me.”
I remember something I had heard years earlier. That is, the therapy that comes from helping someone else is one of the most advanced ways to help yourself.
In other words, the fastest way out of a dark time is to help another.
So I decided to walk my talk. I pulled myself off the floor. Joined my mastermind group. Then went on to work with my clients the rest of the day.
I share this story because I am acutely aware that the pandemic has tripled the rate of depression in US adults in all demographic groups. From teens to the elderly. Men and women. Black, Asian and White, many are suffering.
You likely feel like you’ve lost something (a normal way of life) and aren’t sure if you’ll ever have it back again.
There is no way to avoid dark moments or completely relieve anxiety and depression. But research shows that by turning our attention to helping and making a positive difference in someone else’s life, we make everyone feel better– ourselves included.
I don’t need to tell you how you can give compassion and kindness every day, but here are a few of my favorite ways to shift anxiety, depression, or a dark moment when it hits.
- Have compassion for others’ mistakes. When a friend or loved one makes a mistake, seek to understand why they might have behaved as they did instead of playing judge and juror. I find the best question to ask myself in these moments is, “Has there ever been a time I’ve made a similar mistake?” My compassion surges once I answer.
- Make a positive difference in someone’s life. Make a surprise drop-off of Dunkin Donut Holes or coffee, pick up some tulips from the florist —one for you and one for someone else — and leave on someone’s front steps, let somebody merge in front of you in traffic, or hold a door for a stranger. It may not seem like a huge gesture, but the LITTLE things make the most significant difference.
- Use your words. Words have power, and your comments matter. Be the kind of person who builds others up. Share a compliment. Catch someone doing something right. Thank them. Remind someone you love them. All of these can be done in person or by sending a hand-written note. I think we too often fall into the trap of thinking people know how much they mean to us, but they can’t read your mind. Speak up, let those around you know what they mean to you.
- Practice the art of listening. Listening shows a person you care that they are seen and that they matter. Call someone and be curious. Ask better questions. Sometimes I get specific. “Tell me something good.” It moves their attention and my own.
The day I lost my book reminded me that the surest way to move my attention away from focusing on my mistakes, disliking myself, and interpreting myself in the worst possible light is focusing on and helping someone else.
Be like a light, and turn yourself and others on!
And remember, everything will be ok! Even when I thought it wouldn’t, it always has been. And always will be.