“Why worry about things you can’t control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you?” ~Unknown
I celebrated an anniversary recently. It was the night I experienced my first, and hopefully last, earthquake.
My husband and I had retired for the evening as usual—said our goodnights and went to sleep. I was jarred awake at 2:30 AM by him trying to pull me from our bed. At the same moment I heard the most deafening roar. Could a freight train be barrelling through our loft?
Our attempts to escape the upper level were hampered by the violent shaking. As we stepped forward we were propelled side-to-side. We were being tossed like rag-dolls as we scrambled down the stairs, only to be greeted by the sound of glass objects smashing from below.
Skirting around the shards of broken stemware, we fumbled with the house keys and made our escape to the front porch. The same instant that we arrived outside, the 7.3 earthquake stopped as abruptly as it had started.
We were fortunate that our home did not collapse on top of us, that in our community there was no loss of life, and the tsunami that we were warned about never materialized.
Although we were lucky and it only lasted sixty seconds, I put earthquakes at the top of my list of things I never want to experience again.
So why celebrate the anniversary of such an event?
One minute your life is normal. You carry on not giving a thought to what may be. You are the master of your destiny. Then something beyond your control happens—your world gets all shook up.
You have no control over the event specific to you, but you do have the power to decide how to deal with it. The following six things you can control when dealing with an earthshaking event.
1. Offer help to others.
When you focus on someone else’s emotional or physical needs instead of dwelling on what has happened to you, you’re too busy to think about what happened, and you feel a sense of accomplishment instead of hopelessness.
Perhaps your earthshaking event is your company closing, leaving all its employees jobless. You are rightfully devastated by the news but you know you’re capable of updating your resume to pursue a new job.
What about the person who works beside you and has never written a resume before? Why not suggest you work together to prepare both resumes? Arrange to do mock interviews for each other. A trial run can help alleviate the nervousness, fine tune your own skills, and could just outright make you laugh when you are at a time in your life when you need it most.
2. Look at the event as a not so gentle reminder.
It is so easy to take your life and people you love for granted. When something shakes up your world, it might just be the reminder you need to appreciate everyone, including yourself.
It is easy to perceive there are more important things to do rather than spend time with your loved ones. You don’t have time to go for a walk or sit together and talk. You have to get the kids somewhere, or perhaps finish that report.
And what about for yourself, when is the last time you took even a few minutes just for you. There’s always tomorrow, right?
When an earthshaking event happens, be grateful for the reminder that you can’t count on there being a tomorrow. Find the time for the people that matter to you, including yourself right now!
Looking for the silver lining like this goes a long way toward helping you deal with it and returns a sense of control in a situation that you didn’t initiate.
3. Respect and accept the strength of forces larger than yourself.
The smartest people in the world with the best resources could never stop an earthquake from happening. Sometimes you need to accept that there are forces larger than you at play. Accepting that you simply cannot control everything is an integral part of dealing with difficulties.
4. Appreciate twists in the adventure.
Limiting yourself in fear of what you can’t control will do you no good. Appreciate the adventure of not knowing what might happen next.
Roller-coasters, bungee-jumping, sky-diving, and many other man-made attractions are put in place to give people an adrenaline rush—a sensation that while it is happening, you are out of control and terrified. The pay-off is when it is over. Your heart is racing, your palms are sweating, and perhaps you are even feeling nauseous—but you did it!
During the earthquake and after, I felt all those emotions and physical sensations. For days I was paralyzed with the fear of it happening again. The more I gave in to that, the more out of control I felt.
My ability to carry out normal daily tasks was being hindered. With every aftershock I would become instantly sick to my stomach. I would tense every muscle in my body and experience a headache that would further limit my ability to function.
I’d been told the aftershocks could continue for a month or more. I needed to find a way to deal with them to gain back a sense of control.
When the next aftershock hit, I envisioned that I was on a roller-coaster. I relaxed into the motion instead of trying to fight it. While not 100 percent effective the first time, at least I avoided a headache and losing hours of my day. By using this technique I got to the point that I could make it through an aftershock without any problem. It became an adventure, a game.
By considering your earth-shattering event an adventure, you become a contender, no longer a victim holding yourself back. You regain control and are better prepared to find ways to get through it.
5. Consider how it helps you grow.
Every experience is a life lesson. You will be wiser, emotionally stronger, and perhaps have some newfound knowledge or skill in an area you knew nothing about before.
You and your family used to eat out all the time. But now, loss of a job means you no longer can afford to do that. At times you’re not sure how you can even afford to make a meal at home. Out of necessity you get creative. You seek out recipes that are most economical, invent a few of your own. You discover a passion for cooking.
You were considering going back to school for retraining but had no idea what you would study. Maybe now you do. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs achieved their status from having to deal with a situation they had no control over.
6. Be proud of yourself.
As you work through an earthshaking event, give yourself credit for every step forward. By acknowledging your achievements, no matter how small, you regain trust in your ability to fix what you didn’t break. You empower yourself to take the next step. Besides, the situation is beating you up enough—don’t help it!
Earthshaking events will continue to happen in our lives; we have no control over that. But we do have the ability to control how we respond. While in the midst of such an event it may seem hopeless and unbeatable, but you can do it.