Flagler Beach shore, june 2015

All of us experience hard times. So it helps to have a toolbox of healthy strategies we can turn to. In fact, it helps to have a toolbox for navigating every day. Because so much of life is how we look at it. This might be anything from dealing with a difficult situation to tackling our to-do lists.

One helpful strategy is shifting our perspective. This doesn’t mean glossing over our feelings. Because feeling our feelings is vital (and healthy). And it doesn’t mean pretending that things are rosy, when they’re clearly painful and hard or overwhelming or super busy (and overwhelming).

Reform Your Inner Mean Girl book

But by shifting our perspective with some things, we can save ourselves a whole lot of suffering. We can reduce our stress. We also avoid making things worse than they already are (by feeding into the chaos by bashing ourselves, for instance).

And we can see the opportunity or potential positive changes. We can feel empowered or inspired.

In their book Reform Your Inner Mean Girl: 7 Steps to Stop Bullying Yourself and Start Loving Yourself Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo feature these excellent examples for shifting our perspective:

  • Instead of saying, “I feel overwhelmed,” try “Wow, I have so much going on…I am so popular!”
  • Instead of saying, “I am so busy,” try “It’s a really intense time; I am going to make sure I take even better care of myself.”
  • Instead of berating or judging yourself, try noticing that there’s a breakthrough coming and get curious and excited. Ask yourself: “What breakthrough is on its way?”
  • Instead of saying “I should go visit my mother,” try “I choose to go visit my mother.”
  • Instead of saying, “I must finish this,” try “I’d love to finish this!”
  • Instead of saying, “I have to work this weekend,” try “I could work all weekend, but I choose to work Saturday and rest on Sunday.”

Some of these may work for you. Some might not. The key is to pick whatever rings true for you — whatever feels honest and most helpful.

Consider writing out your own perspective shifts. Think of the common things you say when you’re swamped or overwhelmed or going through a hard time. Pay attention to the dialogue running in your mind on any given day.

Then come up with alternative statements. Statements that support and empower you. Statements that might uncover an opportunity. Statements that inspire healthy action, and inspire you to take compassionate care of yourself. Which might include the words “choose to,” “love” and “could” (or not).

Keep your list handy (like on your smartphone or taped to your office and places in your home), so you can refer to it at any time. Because when we’re in it, really in it, shifting our perspective can be powerful.