Gratitude: The Antidote for Fear and Stress
We have the best of intentions. We have planned our day. We know exactly what we need to do, how we need to do it, and we have everything we need to do to it. Somewhere, out of nowhere, it happens. That event that is out of our control that conspires to sabotage our day. The only thing that matters is how quickly we can recover and get our lives back on track.
I made a successful career out of managing those events. I was often asked how I did what I did. I answered, “Inhale… Exhale…” Well, a post came across my Facebook page that explains it. I CELEBRATE CALM, which according to Kirk Martin, means:
“I refuse to give you power over my attitude and mood. I refuse to allow you to dictate my response to you. I refuse to give you the power to change my behavior. I refuse to allow you to steal my peace and joy. You can be mean. I will be kind. You can hurt me. I will forgive you (but not trust you)! You can be a jerk. I will have mercy. You can be bitter. I will be grateful that I don’t have to live with that poison in my soul. I cannot tell you what you are going to do. But I can tell you what I am going to do. This is self-control. This is humility. This is dignity.”
I also have this quote by Mother Teresa posted on my wall, and I read it daily, deployed or not.
“People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. LOVE THEM ANYWAY. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. DO GOOD ANYWAY. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. SUCCEED ANYWAY. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY. People really need help, but may attack you if you help them. HELP THEM ANYWAY. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY.”
Beside Mother Teresa’s quote, I had my WHY board. On my WHY board hung all the pictures of family and friends from the previous years’ Christmas cards. It also contained my “why statement,” which read:
“People often asked why I did what I did. In the aftermath of a disaster, you can do nothing for the dead. The living can go three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food, but they cannot live a single day without hope. Connectivity or restoring the cellular communications network restores hope. There is nothing more vital in the hours after a catastrophic event than being able to reach out to loved ones and say, “We may have lost everything. But we are alive and we can rebuild.” And should a family have lost someone, that connectivity is even more vital. I am the luckiest person alive because God gave me a mission, and my clients paid me to do it.”
So, when the nights had been too long and I struggled from exhaustion and mental fatigue… when fear was gripping my heart and I thought I was going to buckle from the stress of having men in the field in disaster areas, I only had to look up to remember my WHY.
On my desk, there would always be a notepad somewhere where I had written the things I was grateful for because I believe that gratitude and the stress caused by fear cannot co-exist. It is simply not possible to feel both gratitude and stress from fear.
I designed a workshop to discuss the best approaches for minimizing the impact on our lives when stressful, fear causing events occur.
On February 14, 2017, I taught my workshop on Gratitude: The Antidote for Fear and Stress, for the first time. I shared my experience, and we simply discussed ways to pause and take a few minutes to reset. Some of the ideas included breathing exercises, taking a walk, reading an inspirational message, writing down all the things one is grateful for, exercising, massage and meditation.
Less than twenty-four hours later, I had the opportunity to walk my talk. My car was broken into. While I sat waiting for CSI to arrive, I wrote,
“Yesterday, I taught a class entitled, ‘Gratitude: The Antidote to Stress and Fear’, and today I get to test the theory. My car was broken into. The passenger side window was smashed with a brick. The computer was taken and deposited at my neighbors.
So, I am grateful that when I called 911 my call was answered and the police were dispatched within minutes. I am grateful my neighbor rescued my computer and called to notify me. I am grateful the police sent another officer to collect my stolen items and returned them to me.
I am grateful two people offered to let me borrow a car. I am grateful one of them was in a position to bring it to me. I am grateful roadside assistance will be here in ninety minutes to take my vehicle to the dealer.
I am grateful I have insurance. Mostly, I am grateful no one was injured and I will be able to deliver my speech in a few hours because I am surrounded by amazing people who do amazing things every day. One act of violence was silenced by so many acts of kindness.”
I sent that message to all the people who assisted me in that moment that conspired to ruin my day. I was then able to focus and make mental notes of all the additional things I needed to add to my schedule to able to still meet my commitments for that day. And, I just did them because “I refuse to give you power over my attitude and mood. I refuse to allow you to dictate my response to you. I refuse to give you the power to change my behavior. I refuse to allow you to steal my peace and joy.” But most importantly, I REFUSE TO ALLOW YOU TO SABOTAGE MY DAY!
How do you plan to recover from the next event that threatens to sabotage your day? Because how you answer that question will determine your success that day.