The Art of Strengths Coaching

N is for Numbing Yourself And Getting On With Life When Adjusting To The New Normal

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There are many ways to deal with dramatic changes. One approach is to numb yourself and get on with life when adjusting to what may become the new normal.

Different people do this in different ways when dealing with an illness, bereavement, loss, dramatic event or change in society. The first reaction may be shock followed by a period of mourning.

A person’s system can only take so much pain, however, so they may numb themself in some way. They may do this to deal with physical pain, emotional pain or some other debilitating condition.

There are many ways to numb parts of yourself for a while. A person may choose to take medication, drink, compartmentalise their feelings, do stimulating projects, encourage other people or whatever. There may be pluses and minuses with each strategy.

Many people take this approach to deal with the immediate effects of a dramatic event. At a certain point it may be important to emerge from the numbness and develop more sustainable ways of dealing with the new normal.

This does not mean that the pain or difficult feelings go away. People do, however, learn to manage them. They then try to get on with their lives.

Can you recall a situation when you numbed yourself and yet got on with life to deal with what might become the new normal? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things. 

Describe a specific situation in the past when you numbed yourself and yet got on with life when adjusting to the new normal.

Describe the specific things you did to numb yourself and yet get on with life.

Describe the pluses and minuses involved in taking this approach.

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Different people use different strategies for feeling alive whilst also finding ways to numb the pain. You will do this in your own way. Bearing this in mind, however, here are some strategies that it may be worth considering.

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You can be a
positive realist
 

Healthy people are often positive realists. They have a positive attitude towards life, but they are also good at reading reality.

Such people want to know the truth when faced by challenging situations. Gathering information, they focus on what is happening and the possible routes for going forwards.

Imagine that you have experienced an event that has caused pain. It will be important to carry living, but also to do a reality check. Bearing this in mind, you may want to ask some of the following questions.

What is actually happening? What are the facts? What are the examples that back up the facts?  

Looking at what is happening, can I see any patterns? What are the consequences of these patterns? What will happen if these patterns continue?  

How are people behaving? Who is actually doing what? What are the consequences of their behaviour? What will happen if this behaviour continues? 

What are my choices in this situation? What are the possible routes I can follow? What are the consequences – the pluses and minuses – of each option? What route do I want to follow in the future? 

What are my strengths? How can I build on these strengths? What are my personal and professional assets? How can I build on these assets? 

You can do things that
give you positive energy

How can you continue feel alive? Energy is life, so it important to do things that give you positive energy. This is especially so if you are numbing parts of yourself to deal with pain. Here are some of the answers that individuals give when exploring what gives them positive energy.

The things that give me positive energy
in my personal or professional life are:

Being with our children … Gardening … Listening to the sound of our waterfall … Singing in the choir … Taking walks by myself … Playing the guitar … Cooking for our family … Caring for our horse … Doing exciting projects at work … Sleeping deeply.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things that give your positive energy. 

Describe the specific things you can do to do more of the things that give you positive energy.

Describe the specific benefits of doing the things that give you positive energy.

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You can build on the positive
values you believe in

During the past 20 years many people have talked about living in a VUCA world. This is a world where situations can be volatile, uncertain, complex or ambiguous. Some events contain aspects of all four elements.

This world provides opportunities for people who stick to their values. It gives them the chance to translate these values into action in their daily lives and work.

At the same time, however, such a world can be frightening. This creates opportunities for demagogues who promise simplistic solutions or who create scapegoats. Some people yearn for a return to what they believed was a more predictable world.

How to thrive in such a world? How can you create a sense of stability? How can you deal with challenging events in the midst of what sometimes appears to be chaos?

As mentioned earlier, one way is to return to your deepest values. You can then translate these into a clear vision and deliver visible results. You can ask:

What are the values that I believe are important in life? How can I follow these in my daily life and work?

You can make these values the anchor for your life rather than be tossed around by events like a cork on the ocean. When in doubt, you can return to these values. These can provide stability in your life.

Looking at your own life, what do you believe are the values that are important to follow? Different people give different answers to this question. Here are some that they give.

The values that I believe are
important to follow in life are:

To encourage people … To be kind … To care for my loved ones … To care for nature … To help people to fulfill their potential … To always do my best … To make beautiful things … To make a positive difference … To care for the planet … To build a better world for future generations.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific values that you want to follow in your life.

Describe the specific things you can do to follow these values. 

Describe the specific benefits of following these values in your life.

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You can be a positive model
and encourage other people

How can you act as a positive model during challenging times? How can you encourage other people? How can you give them hope?

Recently I spoke with a friend who has a terminal illness and yet is providing inspiration to others. She felt thankful for the life she has been able to live and is full of gratitude.

Looking ahead, she focused on pain management and getting certain things done. This involved catching up with old friends and making sure that her treasured possessions went to good homes.

People were amazed by her attitude of acceptance. On occasions she went into the role of counselling them. As she said, however, this was a role she had often played. She felt content and took time to keep revisiting the positive memories from her life.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the specific things you can do to be a positive model and encourage other people.

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You can follow your plan for living a
positive life whilst also managing any pain

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you may want to numb parts of yourself? You may anticipate experiencing a loss, going through a transition or facing a difficult challenge.

How can you manage such a situation? How can you continue to live a positive life? What can you do to manage any potential pain?

One person took the following steps to get through a difficult illness. They did their best the tackle the illness and then boxed off their concerns about the challenge.

The first step was to research the illness, the potential treatments and the surgeons with the best reputations. This led to organising a schedule for treatment.

The second step was to have the treatment and follow up over a period of months. This took a lot of emotional energy and threatened to consume their life.

The third step was to get back to appreciating life. This called for accepting that they had done everything possible to tackle the illness. They then boxed off their concerns about the challenge. The person explained how they did in the following way.

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“This was a hard step to take. I wanted to put my energy into living life again, however, rather than worrying all the time.

“I kept following the treatment schedule and found a way to manage my concerns about the future.

“Sometimes I worried about the next rest results, but then had a mantra I said to myself. This was:

Slow down, breathe. Look ahead to the next positive thing you want to do.

“Sticking to this mantra helped me to get on with life.”

Different people have different approaches to dealing with challenges or adjusting to what may become the new normal. You will have your own approach.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to get on with life whilst numbing yourself to what may become the new normal. 

Describe the specific things you can do to numb yourself and yet get on with life.

Describe the pluses and minuses involved in taking this approach.

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