Possibilities Playground Newsletter

How to Spot a Personal Storm

You can ask my mom, I’ve always loved a good storm. Being from New Orleans and living on the Carolina coast from time to time, I’ve had my fair share of real thunderstorms as well as a few doozies we call hurricanes. More often than not, I end up on a bed near a window cracked open just enough, so I can hear the wind and smell the rain.

I suppose I connect with the symbolic and literal cleansing that Mother Nature doles out and I figure, if it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for us. So yes, we’re going to have our share of personal storms. Some will be mild, others will be total chaos, but all will benefit us in some way.

So while we may not be very excited to have them in our life at the time, I propose there are two things that can help us weather these inevitable storms.

1) Be aware of the signs a storm is coming
2) Find something to enjoy during the storm

Funny how we usually struggle to see these things in our own lives, but it’s oh-so-obvious when we talk to someone else that’s going through it. Case in point: a former client reached out for some help this week and I heard all about what’s been happening since we worked together. In short, she started to implement her plan, then got hung up on the seductive fear of losing her comfortable lifestyle and stalled. In the meantime, the storm that had been brewing continued and, in the last 18 months, she’s suffered new health issues, exacerbated old ones, given up all social connections and generally been pretty miserable at work. The signs were there the whole time indicating a change was necessary, but instead of dealing with the storm when it was just an afternoon downpour (e.g. she felt strongly she needed to make a career shift), she let it escalate into a full-blown hurricane (e.g. serious health issues that nearly put her in FMLA). She had things taken away from her (e.g. lost her job) before she accepted it was happening and changed her approach: to work with the storm instead of against it (e.g. she went back to looking inward for what’s right for her).

That’s an extreme example of how storms can impact our lives. What if we noticed what is happening before it got out of control?

I have another friend who lost someone close to her, someone who was still young and vibrant and very dear to her. That loss has my friend evaluating what’s important in life and feeling a bit discontent with her own. Now, she has a choice. She can notice the signs (e.g. how she’s feeling) and go deeper into that place to find answers (i.e. what would ensure her life is full and complete?) Or, she can let the fear of the unknown scare her into submission (i.e. don’t risk what good things she has and maintain her comfortably numb lifestyle as is).

Have you found yourself maintaining comfortably numb instead of dealing with your own personal storm? I certainly have. Fortunately, I’ve also done the opposite and discovered a wonderful world that has fulfilled me beyond anything I had before.

If you aren’t sure whether a storm is headed your way (note: it’s not a bad thing, just uncomfortable) then here are some signs to watch out for:

  • you feel sad, lost, or discontent
  • you experience new or heightened health issues
  • you escape into mind-numbing activities (e.g. TV)
  • you work 55+ hours a week
  • you do not see friends on a regular basis
  • you are just getting by, so your days off are full of chores instead of any fun
  • when you finally do take vacation, it takes days to wind down
  • you are convinced there’s something wrong with you because you “really do have a great life” others would gladly take

These are all warning signs my friends. Your body talks to you the only way it can, through physical states of being (think energetic and healthy or lethargic and sick). Your feelings also point directly to what’s going on in your mind and heart; feelings that you may not be aware of.

Pay attention because whether it’s now or later, these things WILL catch up to you. Do you want a Category 1 or 5? We can’t always escape the storms, but we can influence them.

On the brighter side of things, when personal storms come a calling, they don’t have to knock us down to the ground and pounce up and down on us. We can actually lessen the storm’s intensity and/or duration by working with it.

That could be through simple mindfulness of what’s going on by allowing ourselves to see what’s happening, to contemplate it, and just be with it for awhile. For example, my former client might have taken notice of her storm and in realizing its impact on her body, contemplated what she’d prefer and started to shift her focus and direction earlier.

Another approach that can complement or stand on it’s own is to look for and hold on to aspects we do like about the storm. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out. For example, losing someone dear to you might make you more reflective of all the people you love and inspire you to reach out to them in special ways. Being unhappy with work might help you clarify what you don’t like, which in turn helps you figure out what you do enjoy. I could go on, but hopefully you get the gist of it.

In my most recent storm, I was plunged into a dense fog, left with only my feelings as a guide. Without any obvious catalyst, I couldn’t over-think any one thing and was left to contemplate the state it put me in. Certainly I was a bit more somber than normal, but I felt like a philosopher in some ways and that was intriguing to me. For the first time in my life, I experienced what it’s like to distance myself from my situation and observe what was happening. I meditated more, took up yoga, gave up my agenda for my business and took to serving others. In short, I found a way to care for myself by letting go and loving others despite not necessarily being loved in return. Talk about a summer of growth!

I guess finding something to enjoy is another way of saying “look for the bright side.” In the end, it’s all about your perspective, which is 100% under your control even when the storm is not.

Much like meteorologists, using these ideas can help us better predict the storms in our lives so that we can take precautions, be better prepared and weather the storm more easily. It may not be completely accurate, but it’s better than the alternative of being totally clueless and at the mercy of the unknown.

Look, we know we’ll experience storms in our lives, so why not use them to wash away the old that doesn’t serve us and revel in our ability to not only survive them – but dare I say – thrive because of them?

Oh yeah – here’s to your thriving possibilities in the face of any storm!


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How to Spot a Personal Storm by Sara Russell of Feel the Possibilities
Visit Sara at: www.feelthepossibilities.com
Send email to sara@feelthepossibilities.com