We’re living in volatile times, externally and internally. I’ve been finding myself swinging between multiple realities. 

The world looks different depending on whose eyes I’m looking through. I feel hopeful and inspired in one moment, despairing and discouraged in the next. 

In one moment, I’m witnessing acts of tremendous violence and harm, and in the next I’m inspired by profound acts of kindness and generosity.  

One day, I’m happily reading books, teaching, writing and re-seasoning cast iron cookware. The next, I’m binge-watching shows I’ve seen multiple times, wondering what the point of anything is. 

This is all to say, if you’ve been questioning the meaning of life lately, you’re not alone. If you’ve been swinging between inspiration and depression, you’re not alone. If you’ve been feeling motivated and hopeful one day but drained and de-energized the next, you’re not alone. 

Many of you have been telling me lately that you’re feeling exhausted by the pandemic and volatile global events. In times like these, I often find myself drawing on these five key practices that help me find my way through what sometimes feels like a dense darkness:  

1. Finding meaning and connecting to values.  

When I ground myself in my highest values, the set of priorities and principles that are most important to me, I find it much easier to access my inspiration and energy.  

Reminding myself of my purpose for living, the “end” that I have in mind, can be fortifying and comforting.  

Part of my internal journey in this step has involved finding all the places where I subordinate myself to other people’s values, where I have lost myself by absorbing others’ values and in finding my way back to those things that truly give my life meaning and purpose, even when they are counter-cultural or “strange” to other people.  

ACTION IDEA: Ask yourself what are your highest values at the moment, and how is your life reflecting those values? Where are you living into other people’s values and needing to reclaim yourself? Where are you projecting your values onto others, and needing to restrain yourself? What adjustments would you like to make to bring yourself closer into alignment with yourself? 

2. Practicing self-connection and compassion; avoiding self-judgment and rumination.  

The NVC-based practice of [translating all judgments into their underlying feelings and needs] has been a transformative practice in my life. When I can detach from the harsh, critical inner voice within and replace it with a deep grounding in the life energy that moves through me, I feel soothed, comforted, and far more resilient. 

ACTION IDEA: Download this Translating Judgments worksheet and set aside 10 minutes a day to dissolve one painful self-judgment a day.  

3. Getting grounded in needs-consciousness.

When I imagine that people are (tragically) attempting to meet their deepest needs in all that they do, I feel a deeper sense of peace, hope, and trust. I start looking for the underlying needs in all situations, and imagine how I could better meet the needs arising in myself and others. I move into more of a growth mindset, and I see more ways of contributing to my and others’ well-being.  

ACTION IDEA: Download the Needs List and make it a daily practice to focus on how any one need is being well met all day long. Feel into the goodness of each instance that this need is being met. Let that goodness resource you. 

4. Staying in touch with choicefulness.  

By keeping my focus on my circle of control (thank you, Stephen Covey) I accomplish two things: 1) I stay grounded in the part of me who is actively and consciously co-creating each moment, and 2) I’m increasing my sense of efficacy and agency in the world.  

I don’t fall into the helplessness and outrage of victim-consciousness, and I also don’t over-reach and exhaust myself by trying to control other people or things outside of my influence. By staying aware of where my choices are, I’m more able to respond to events and less likely to be hijacked by them.  

ACTION IDEA: When you’re feeling activated, take a deep breath. Put your hand on your chest. Feel the self-contact. Ask yourself, what choices do I have at this moment? Put some spaces between the events outside of you, the reactions coming up inside of you, and the responses you want to bring into the world. 

5. Drawing on communities of support.  

I couldn’t do what I do in the world without the communities of people in my life who support, encourage, and nourish me. 

When I need empathy, I reach out. When I want to vent, I reach out. When I need to be seen, heard and known, I reach out. When I need to “think out loud” or get some clarity or support, I reach out.  When I need to cry, I reach out.  

As mammals, we are deeply social creatures who need each other. We are not meant to live alone, to be alone. Radical self-reliance, after all, is a trauma response. We need each other. We need each other. We need each other.  

ACTION IDEA: Reach out for support. Make a list of your inner-circle people: Those people who have earned the right to hear your vulnerability, to hold space for you. Those people who consistently have your back and empathize with you. Those people who help you face the truth about something. Decide if you need to seek out more people for this circle. Actively nurture and fertilize those relationships that resource you the most and are most aligned with your deepest values.  

As you navigate challenging times, you may want to consider drawing from the action ideas above for some concrete steps that you can take when it feels like there’s nothing you can do. When we have the tools, we can make even the most difficult situations into opportunities for tremendous personal growth. 

And what are some tools you’ve used to stay energized in the midst of challenges?
I’d love to know! Leave a comment below. :-)


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