Life is full of ups and downs. They are what make it interesting, exciting, and fulfilling. In order to get to the high points—the victories, the triumphs, the loves—we all have to risk, and ultimately experience, the low points. And it’s in those low points that we truly learn what we are made of.
When we go through our lows—whatever their cause and however they manifest—it’s natural to want to get through them as quickly as possible, to snap out of it and pretend they never happened.
Not only does that not work—we can’t ignore unpleasant emotions any more than we can ignore a broken arm—it also denies us the opportunity to gain insights into what makes us tick and get to the heart of who we are.
When we don’t know the answer to this question, we can feel anxious or worried. We like to know what’s around the bend and be prepared for it. Circumstances can be especially difficult when there is a higher chance of something scary or tragic happening—like when we are faced with a serious illness, either in ourselves or in loved ones. But we can prepare ourselves for uncertainty and develop practices that help us cope.
It can be helpful to remind ourselves that nothing is certain. We never truly know the outcome of any circumstances or events, and the best thing we can do is develop a comfort with uncertainty and habits that calm us down and provide perspective.
Such a simple thing to say (or think), but it’s so important.
Having gratitude in our lives results in a range of benefits—both individually and from the perspective of society. The act of acknowledging the good things in our lives, and the fact that we are grateful for them, adds meaning to our lives in many ways. It allows us to keep a healthy perspective when we might have otherwise wallowed in our negative emotions and our interpretations of the unfortunate or unfair aspects of our lives.
A sense of gratitude helps us to interact with others in a healthy way. It helps us avoid a “me first” attitude or a sense of entitlement by acknowledging the source of our good fortune, happy feelings, meaning, and fulfillment.
When it comes down to it, life is an exercise in putting together a multitude of components that are part of, or could be part of, our lives. We are constantly trying to piece together the right elements in the right combination to be happy, to make a living, to raise our families, and to become the people we want to be.
I’ve always thought of these as “blocks of life.” We can think of the fundamental blocks that make up our lives—family, job, friends, activities, and outlook—but when we think about what each of these is made of, we find that there are an enormous number of components and potential components that we might incorporate into our lives and many ways that we can organize them that would give our lives different emphases.
A crisis is a great opportunity to get to know ourselves better.
Some may aspire to great ideals, but when faced with a crisis, they revert to fear-driven behaviors, such as hoarding. It can be helpful to examine how we’re assessing the crisis, in terms of its potential impact both on us and on our communities. It’s also tremendously important to assess our own emotional journeys and thought processes when a crisis arises. We can feel worry, anxiety, and fear during a crisis, and those feelings can be overwhelming. They can drive us to engage in activities that we believe will give us some control over the situation. It takes honest and intense introspection and reflection to understand our feelings, how they drive us to certain behaviors, and how we might redirect those feelings into more constructive behaviors.