Ups and downs… Why they are a good thing and how to deal with them

All too often we (myself included) focus on the successes of those we admire.  Whether it be a professional baseball player, business mogul, or college professor, we see the end result of their greatness and think to ourselves: “Wow, look how amazing this person is at (fill in the blank),” never stopping to think about the hardships and trials the person had to endure to get where they are today.  It is unfortunate that we glorify success so much in our society because the true learning and growth happens when we fail or experience a severe emotional low.   As this blog is meant to document my journey as accurately as possible, I want to share with you my most recent time in the trough.

The Breakdown

Since I am spending money more often now (specifically on gas, food while driving Lyft, and parking in SF), I feel the pain of outbound cash flows more deeply and more consistently then I ever have before.  As I pulled out of the parking lot last Friday after buying the bare minimum of groceries (eggs, spinach, and 1 cube-like package of ground beef in case you were wondering) and filling up my tank, my mind started racing with negative, anxiety-filled thoughts: “I’m spending so much money, I’m not making enough, I can’t do this Lyft thing anymore, how am I going to pay rent on time?, I’m drowning in debt, I can’t development a positive context around money because I’ve never experienced money in abundance, etc.”  I could literally feel the stress take over and flow through my entire body.  Upon arriving home my friends could instantly tell something was up, they could “feel my stressed vibes from across the room” as one of them put it.  I was in one of those I-kinda-want-you-to-know-I’m-upset-but-also-kinda-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it moods, and it showed.

The Build Up

When this type of stress takes over my mind and body I find that taking one of two courses of action is very effective in bringing me back to my emotional set point:

  1. Meditation: First off, meditation is not reserved for monks, Buddhists, or tech hipsters trying to be cool.  It is a way to bring your focus back to the present moment without judgement or emotional bias good or bad.  I am just beginning my meditation/mindfulness practice so I prefer to use guided meditation as it provides some structure to the session, I highly recommend downloading the app Calm and starting there if you are a beginner!
  2. Exercise: Working out is a a great way to relieve stress both in the moment and as a general lifestyle rule of thumb.  When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which make you feel better.  Next time you are feeling stressed about money, work, or a relationship try going for a quick run and see how that makes you feel.

After a quick 10 minute mediation session using Calm, I felt the stress levels in my body reduce to a more manageable level and just felt better in general.  I learned from listening to Practicing Mindfulness by Professor Mark Muesse that meditation helps with anxiety because the stress felt from anxiety exists based on what we think is going to happen in the future.  We are only worried about what is going to happen, not what is happening right now.  Mindfulness practice helps bring us back to the present moment.

Many people have the misconception that successful people are always positive or that everything always goes right for them.  This is far from the truth.  Successful people DO have the ability to bounce back quicker because they understand that emotional lows always present a learning opportunity and that they are necessary for personal growth.  Your capacity to handle the “downs” in life works like a muscle in that it can be made stronger through self awareness and deliberate practice.  Meaning, that when you are experiencing a difficult time in life, stop for a second to take note of how the situation is affecting you, what you can learn from it, and how you are going to bounce back.  Over time, your ability to handle whatever life throws at you will improve.

If there are any other techniques for dealing with stress or low points, please comment and share with our community below!

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