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Breathing Through

When life gives you lemons, you make lemon-aid.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Sometimes when things are falling apart, they are actually falling together.

Yeah, yeah…but sometimes, it just sucks.

So, let’s back-up. I live in Chicago. Everyone knows the reputation that Chicago has for cold weather and we were just faced with a particularly bad hit from a polar vortex. Brutal. During that storm, 3 pipes in my condo building froze, cracked, and when they thawed again, my condo became one of the lucky ones to become flooded. And not just a little bit of water, but total destruction of my dining room, kitchen and office. Luckily there was not a lot of personal property damage, but my home is now a construction zone for the foreseeable future.

It sucks.

As much as I try to reframe my thinking, be positive about the fact that it’s just stuff and at least I am healthy and safe, or the fact that I’ll have all new flooring and walls and a new kitchen, etc., I just can’t shake my funk around this.

So rather than this week’s post being around leadership or career advancement, this week we are going to talk about lessons learned and ways to navigate a tough situation. Regardless of whether our tough situations are home-related or in the job or with a relationship, we are all going to have them. The only thing that we can control in this life is our reaction to it, so let’s talk about how to do that in an “it sucks” moment.

Be Present

During this time, it is hard to not get sucked into the negativity and pain and emotion. Whether you are angry, grieving, or completely shut down, there are going to be emotions around the situation. Likely, the bulk of them are going to be catabolic – or heavy and destructive – and that is OK. The important part is just paying attention to what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, where you feel the emotions in your body, etc. Just be present and aware before you decide to do anything about it. Don’t rush to fix it mode or beat yourself up for feeling low.

Honor that this is part of the process and just identify what is really going on for you under the surface.


According to scientific research, there is a direct correlation with our breathing and our emotions as well as the state of our nervous systems (aka breathing can trigger stress – fight or flight mode). Faster breathing triggers your brain to turn on the stress hormones, makes your heart beat faster, tenses your muscles and anxiety. Slower breathing taps into our parasympathetic responses which has the exact opposite effect relaxing us more and giving us mental clarity. (Lots more on that here.)

By focusing on slow, deep breaths, especially when we are feeling high levels of catabolic energy, we can trigger our bodies to protect us from stress giving us greater opportunity to deal with the tough situation.

Find Distractions

When our minds are just not cooperating with us and the funk continues to take hold, sometimes we just need to distract ourselves. By listening to our bodies and asking ourselves what it really needs at that time, we can find some peace in distraction. For some, this is a social outlet and time with loved ones. For others, it’s a physical release with yoga, running or maybe even boxing (which I am trying later today). And for others, it’s self-care time like a massage, facial, hot bath, or even a vacation or weekend getaway. These distractions, while not necessarily solutions, can help us to get through the tough situation and find peace.

Find the Growth Opportunity

In life, I personally choose to believe that there is a lesson in everything we are faced with. There is always an opportunity to grow and become even more amazing than we already are. While I am not necessarily advocating that we go through tough times to teach us something, I am advocating that we can always take advantage of the tough times to advance us – both personally and professionally. So, during these challenges, take time to really reflect on how you can stretch yourself and how you can grow beyond where you are today. What is the opportunity for you? How can you learn from this? What new skills or strategies can support you in the future? Sometimes, this observation is enough to calm or anxiety or at least provide us with some perspective on how to manage through it.

Reframe to the Positive

Reframing is a powerful way to shift our mental energy and allow that to take the lead in how we are feeling and navigating the difficult situation. Whether it’s about looking at the situation from another person’s perspective or through the lens of how you’ll be on the other side of it, you can shift your mental energy away from the catabolic, destructive energy and into anabolic, building and lifting energy. That simple shift can lift your spirits, give you more physical and mental energy, and give you a fresh outlook on your day.

But remember…

Regardless of where you are in this difficult time, which strategy makes the most sense for you, or how best you personally navigate stress – you are exactly where you need to be and are perfectly you in this moment. Take heart, this too shall pass.

And if you need anyone as a sounding board during this time, because believe me I know what that feels like, I am here for you. Schedule some time for support today.

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