On Monday, May 23, I woke up, went downstairs to my kitchen and discovered that the inside of my refrigerator was room temperature.
For any of you who have had this experience, it is a huge pain in the ass. Not even 6:00 in the morning, I was already feeling my stress level rising and anxiety setting in. How early could I call the appliance guy? Would I have to purchase a new refrigerator? How much of my food would I lose?
So, I climbed back upstairs to begin my day, first turning on the tv so that I could get the news of the day. When I turned on the news, I learned that a massive tornado had swept through Missouri, leveling a town called Joplin.
My heart sank. The devastation was extraordinary. Thousands of families were now without their homes, having lost everything. And for hundreds, their lives.
In that very moment, I realized that my broken refrigerator, which felt only minutes ago like a “mini disaster” in my life, was now no big deal. In fact, a feeling of complete gratitude swept over me.
On May 23rd I was reminded that how every challenge, obstacle or moment of adversity is experienced by us is dependent upon the lens that we are looking through.
What can one minute look and feel like a monumentous challenge or feeling of anxiety, can only moments later look completely different if we CHOOSE the meaning we apply to it.
Divorce can present numerous challenges and adverse situations. Whether a result of the legal process of divorce, financial challenges, co-parenting issues, or anything else, our ability to move through these experiences will depend on how we choose to frame them.
I recognize that while a broken refrigerator does not have the same emotional response as the challenges that come up around divorce, I know that we have far more to be grateful for than we often allow ourselves to feel. And that we can move through these challenges in way that minimizes our anxiety and pain.
Issues around infidelity, financial inequity, parental alienation and other painful experiences can create so many overwhelming emotions that we have difficulty finding a lens that will allow us to view these experiences with a different perspective.
Here are three tips to help you change your perspective when faced with a challenging situation:
Imagine a situation that could be worse than the one you are experiencing. While this might sound like advice a mother would give a child complaining about being “starving”, it can actually work when faced with adversity that feels overwhelming. Ask yourself, what is something that would be far worse than the situation you are currently experiencing?
In the case of my refrigerator, turning on the news gave me a scenario that was far worse than what I was experiencing and immediately reframed my own situation.
Tap into gratitude. During the time of my divorce I was not always good at this. However practicing daily gratitude has helped me to improve my skills and become more comfortable tapping into it when facing difficult situations. Take a moment to ask yourself, is there something about this situation that you can feel grateful for?
While the thought of purchasing a new refrigerator was not something that made me happy, I realized how I could get a new one within 24 hours should I have needed to replace it. As it happens, all that was necessary was a part replacement and my worst case scenario didn’t come to pass.
Focus on options that you have rather than the emotions of the situation. When we are faced with a challenge while we are going through or moving forward after a divorce, it is easy to allow our frustration and emotions take over. We are often exhausted and depleted of energy, which lead us to feel emotionally overwhelmed. A helpful question to ask yourself is how can you manage your challenge in the most practical and efficient way to minimize any unpleasant emotions?
Even after I had seen the news of Joplin, I realized that I still had to deal with the refrigerator issue. Instead of focusing on what was going to happen if I had to replace it and all of its contents, I made a list of what I had to do to deal with it. First I had to call the appliance company and ask them to come out as soon as possible. When they could assess the situation and let me know what was wrong, I would the n take the next step.
During times of great transition, as with a divorce, we can experience more moments of challenge than normal. What happens when we run into an adverse situation is that we see it as “one more thing we have to deal with”, rather than a unique, individual moment. Each challenge becomes one of an ongoing series of challenges instead of one, single situation that can be managed with minimal overwhelm.
Remember this, you will never be given more to manage than you can handle!
How wonderful is that! Once you know that you can and will successfully navigate any challenge that comes your way, it merely becomes a question of energy and endurance!
What is one challenge that you can reframe and manage with ease and grace? W
hat lens will you choose to look through the next time you face a difficult situation?
I look forward to hearing your personal stories!!!