This article is written by TSSM’s contributor Joanna Dutra, a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. Creative confidence coach (The Creative Confidant) with a Fortune 500 background, focused on helping clients build their best personal brand.
THE CREATIVE CONFIDANT
I had an unusual childhood. I grew up with a television but was never allowed to watch it. Except for Saturday mornings when my brothers and I could watch a few episodes of Sesame Street followed by a PBS-access show on the animal kingdom.
I haven’t bestowed the exact same rules on our two kids, but we do keep our house devoid of most technology. Unsurprisingly, nature documentaries are a staple, and David Attenborough a veritable demigod. Just the sound of his voice makes my girls snap to attention.
It’s easy to take cues from nature since it offers a constant source of inspiration. As we approach the changing seasons and how difficult it can sometimes be to say goodbye to the freedom and warmth that accompanies summer – I started thinking about bears. Did you know that bears consume 90% of their entire year’s food in just a few weeks? They store the food as fat that keeps them fed through winter hibernation. We should do this with our good vibes. We need to store up some good energy and fun memories to reflect on as we enter a time of our own hibernation.
It’s probably safe to say that in the past year all of us have been looking for ways to break out of our Covid cocoon and live in the most authentic way. We have been riding a wave of emotions – sometimes more like a roller-coaster – that can really mess with our internal chi.
I’ve always found it helpful to look for signs of hope around us. It’s hope, not happiness, which helps keep us afloat. But what happens when our hope is stretched thin?
This summer I experienced a significant dip – I’ll affectionately refer to it as “Angsty August.” It seemed like things kept happening, one after another, and I was beaten down like one of those toys you keep pounding with a mallet, but every time I’d pop up, I’d feel worse and worse. I was depleted. Zapped. Out of happy thoughts. I’d encouraged so many people to find good strategies for coping and I was all out of ideas for myself. I had a tough time finding my hope.
Upon reflection, I realized I hadn’t done any nurturing of my own soul. I hadn’t stored up any good experiences. We all rejuvenate in diverse ways. I love camaraderie, so I recharge on walks with friends. I recharge at the beach and at bonfires, listening to music, watching movies, and finding things that make me laugh. You must find the things that fill you and make sure they’re part of your daily life. Scatter breadcrumbs of hope for yourself, so you can always find your way home.
We recently experienced an interesting social experiment. The 6-hour Facebook/Instagram “outage” forced us to live nearly an entire day without social media distraction. It was eye-opening to uncover what else we could do with back-to-back hours of no interruption. I was able to write, edit and submit an entire article. It astounded me. Now I’ve decided to place my own outage rules. Leave my phone on a different floor during mealtime. Bring my book in the car and read in 5-minute increments while waiting at a pickup line, or before soccer games, or sometimes even before school, instead of turning to my phone.
We spend a ton of time in the car these days. The “Muber” (Mom Uber) is a thriving business. But I need you to take back your car rides. Take charge of the radio. Driver’s rules. Maybe it’s a podcast one day, a new album another. Your kids will adapt. There’s plenty of teachable moments in music.
Music is the great motivator. We use it for everything without even realizing it. For instance, it took me a while to recognize that whenever an MLB player goes up to bat, a different song plays – that’s their song choice, the one they’ve chosen to rev themselves up. I used it for skiing, I’d have a different song for driving to the mountain, then a different one for getting down a challenging mogul run. We can psych ourselves up for theater auditions, you name it. My husband still remembers the songs associated with bus rides for high school basketball games.
Music is powerful, it evokes memories. Last year I had to say goodbye to my grandfather but couldn’t be in the room with him. I recorded a song we’d used to sing together when I was a little girl. My cousins played it for him and, amazingly, his eyebrows raised upon hearing it.
On today’s car ride, I listened to Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” If you’re not familiar with this American composer’s brilliance, I challenge you to take a listen and see if it inspires you in any way. Just try not to see what the day, the week, the decade can bring. We’ve always been encouraged to “live in the moment.” Forget that for a second. Instead focus on what could be if this music were featured on the soundtrack for our life’s movie. Something exciting might be just beneath the surface for the movie’s protagonist, its lead character, and for you. As the music builds and we learn from the many challenges this year has brought, our life’s masterpiece is being created. You are in charge of your own story.
During my children’s early newborn days, I remember being told by a nurse that “sleep begets sleep,” –the more sleep they get, the more sleep they’re able to have. Well, the same goes for hope. The more we can save up, the more we can share.
We’re all accustomed to putting ourselves last, it’s hard. It’s really hard, this self-care thing. But we must save something for ourselves.
Mama bears allow themselves to be almost completely depleted as cubs drink their milk in the hibernation dens. When they emerge in the spring, they’re extremely weak, exhausted, and need to eat right away in order to live. We can’t let ourselves get to that point of diminution. It’s important to store up good memories. Find the things that fill you, sustain you – not rely on quick carb-like bursts of social media. Perhaps that gives you a temporary lift, and that’s fine – but we also need the protein-rich sustenance of books and movies and friends and hikes and experiences.
We know that winter is coming, so let’s consider avalanches. Like any construct, you don’t want your weakest materials at the bottom, so when you build a snowpack structure with weaker layers under stronger layers, it’s the perfect condition to produce an avalanche.
Our core, everything that lies beneath our surface, must be strong to weather any storm, any crisis, any pandemic. We’re going to go forward with a strong core built to take on the stressful moments. We won’t crumble at the first, second or even third sign of trouble – because we’ve created something which can take it. You might even surprise yourself by emerging from your den stronger than before.