As I was rescued from the chaos of a car accident last week, a poignant question touched my heart at its core — “So, what are you going to do with now?”
What am I going to do after I escaped what could have easily been a situation with much worse physical consequences? What am I going to do with the reminder that I can’t control another car running a red light? How does this change what I will do tomorrow?
It’s striking to me how chaos impacts us differently with age.
As a child who experienced trauma, I knew my life was precious. I have struggled to be patient with relationships and new opportunities ever since because I have seen life change dramatically in a split second.
While childhood trauma gave me this action orientation, it didn’t bring me the clarity that trauma did last week as an adult.
I, like many of you, have been struggling to make sense of our current world. I have been yearning for clarity — the clarity needed to calm burnout, anxiety, anger, fear, and frustration. And yearning to prescribe the solutions we need to positively impact the disasters we are experiencing globally.
We are living in what a client told me feels like a “Game of Thrones” world. The Starks and the Lannisters are at war. Winter is coming and no one has the answers.
We are all feeling this — I know I am. I haven’t slept through the night for almost a month. I’ve been wide awake at 2:00 am thinking about the people I most love, my purpose, and how I’m witnessing perhaps the biggest societal, political, and economic transformations I’ll see in my lifetime.
And while my life is nothing compared in magnitude to what we are seeing globally, I’ve been living this “Game of Thrones” type world internally for some time now. My body entered a state of utter confusion as a child. I didn’t realize it at the time but post having a brain injury, my life became all about survival. Neural pathways were confused; I was tired all the time. And I had to learn how to preserve energy and navigate life as someone who is physically different. No one had answers because doctors had never seen anyone like me.
As I moved through my life, I have built up a toolbox of resources — different mechanisms that will help me regulate myself through chaos.
As more chaos compiled in my life with last week’s car accident, falling back on some of these resources helped me rebound faster.
We are all facing our own chaos right now — whether that is a natural disaster, health scare, under-resourced workplace, or other challenges. Being able to shift mental frameworks quickly is essential to navigating whatever you are facing. I share these three tools with the hope that they can also help you get back on the positive frequency during challenge.
- Coaching & Meditation — I have two leadership coaches I regularly use in times of chaos and growth. Joanna Andreae is the Founder of The Victory Practice. She has taught me an incredible amount over the past two years through individual coaching. I also attend her weekly meditation class over Zoom. Check her out on Instagram. Mary Margaret Skelley is also a phenomenal teacher and adviser, who I highly recommend and use regularly one on one. You can book with her here.
- A Positive Trigger — Most of us think of “trigger” as a negative word. “Triggered” is often used to describe the experience when we are reminded of previous trauma or hurt. Turning that definition on its head is a recent tool I picked up from one of my most favorite humans. When I become aware that I’m slipping into mental chaos and heaviness, I have a few phrases I will verbally say to trigger my nervous system back into focus. For instance, when my head started to spin around all of the hypotheticals that could have been different in my recent car accident, I said out loud to myself “How ‘bout them Nats?” That phrase is a positive trigger for me because of its personal context; it always makes me laugh and smile. And more importantly, gets me on that positive current.
- Gratitude — There is a lot of research on the relationship of gratitude to increased happiness and health. After I processed and allowed myself to feel the sadness, anger, and fear related to this car accident, the very next thing I did was to remember all the people I have supporting me. Looking back on that day, I have never felt so lucky in my life. From a stranger stopping his car to help me out of mine to someone willing to drop everything to pick me up on the side of the road, to a friend who was visiting LA volunteering to drive me to the tow yard, I could not be more grateful for all I do have.
In my life, I’ve learned that we can rarely solve or stop the chaos, but we can intentionally equip ourselves as we move through. I hope you’ll join me in figuring out what success looks like in that journey.