One trait that a resilient person has is the ability to stay involved and reach out to others during the low times. When you are struggling in life or going through a crisis, it’s quite easy to go inside yourself and spend time thinking. Actually, it’s easy to spend way too much time thinking and overthinking, mulling things over. You can become consumed with your thoughts and begin to descend into a negative spiral.
On the other hand, when you’re in this position you can make a point to fight this ingrained habit and change your behavior.
A couple weeks ago, I was coming back from Florida on a very early Monday morning. The whirlwind of a weekend had included my son’s college graduation in Ann Arbor, where I stayed for less than 48 hours and then flew out to attend my nieces wedding in Marco Island. As you can imagine, by Monday morning at 6:00 AM, things were beginning to catch up with me. As can be expected from modern transportation, the trip back home would take all day.
If that wasn’t enough, I had an important keynote presentation to give the very next morning. Feeling exhausted and stressed while thinking about my impending commitment, I pulled out my notes to study. To be honest, my head wasn’t in a good place as I focused on my work responsibility. I looked up from my notes and realized that the hurried professional woman I had noticed at check-in would be sitting next to me.
I tried to focus on my presentation notes like I had promised myself, but then quickly changed my mind. Out of the blue, I reached out to the woman next to me. I asked her where she was going and if she lived in Florida. We began to talk and I quickly became engaged in the conversation. She shared that she had served in Congress, had raised a family and continued to travel to Washington to work as an attorney. We told stories about our careers, our children and life. Before we knew it, we were in Atlanta and we were both searching for our next connections.
Ann had no idea how bad I needed to sit next to her that morning. She did me a favor by engaging me in conversation and letting me take my mind off my own work to focus on her. I say she did me a favor because I know that she had work of her own that she probably hoped to accomplish that morning. And it doesn’t end there. When I got home later, I told my husband about meeting her and he inquired whether I had asked her to speak to my women’s group, 85 Broads — I totally forgot. I emailed her and told her that if she ever got up this way, we would love to have her speak. I truly didn’t expect an email back.
I was wrong. I got a long email back about how she would love to speak and how she had so enjoyed the conversation on our trip.
Let me recap what’s important about this story: I was feeling stressed and anxious and focusing on myself was not aiding me in the preparation for my event the next day. My ability to recognize this as an issue was key. I was able to change direction, reach out to someone else and be involved. In the process, I made a fabulous new friend and expanded my world.
The next time that you’re in a similar position at work or in your personal life, resist the urge to go inside your head and get lost in your own pain. Issues often become much bigger and more muddled in your head. Make an attempt to reach out to the people around you— it will help you move forward in life.