Life throws us curve balls, and how we deal with them is important. Much of the world seems to agree on this as we see a never-ending amount of plays on the phrase Keep Calm and Carry On. Some are quite humorous, but many show the serious side of life, offering encouragement and applause to forge ahead and come out victorious.
While we’ve only recently seen an influx of Keep Calm memes, the motto is said to have originated back in 1939 as a poster intended to raise the morale of the British people amidst the threat of airstrikes. The airstrikes happened; the poster, not so much. Despite millions of copies made, very few were ever displayed. Although more than 75 years late, thanks to social media, the poster has finally made its rounds and has been seen by people all over the world.
Setting aside literality, there will be times in life when we face airstrikes. They might come in the form of serious health issues, loss of close friends or family, dire financial situations, or they might be less-so yet nevertheless impactful, such as an unexpected move, a flooded basement, temporary illness, or even just a change to our daily routine. Our reaction to unanticipated changes will often dictate how smooth our sailing will be through the rough waters and how intact our boat and crew will be after the storm.
First, we need to Keep Calm. It’s natural to go into fight-or-flight mode when faced with a challenge, but most often neither one of those actions is the solution. If we take some time to reflect, we can usually direct our thoughts and actions in a beneficial way. For example, if your spouse loses their job, your first thoughts might include that you will have to quit your online training in order to secure more employment yourself. However, if you take a deep breath and open-mindedly look at the overall situation, you might find you’re able to re-budget, forgoing some lattés and streaming channels in favor of saving on monthly expenses. Try reframing situations from negatives to positives. See challenges as obstacles you can overcome—tests to your creativity and to your frugality, and motivational pushes to focus even more intensely on the coursework so you can enter the field you have so determinedly trained for. There is some truth to the adage that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Look at challenges in life as opportunities to grow as a person, push your limits, and strengthen your character.
Next, we need to Carry On. Once we have had sufficient time to process the challenge and find a way to tackle it, we don’t want to just sit there. Unlike the last adage, there is very little truth to the idea that it’s the thought that counts. Rarely do thoughts alone result in anything worthwhile. Writing a list or set of attainable goals helps us to not get lost in the process. Especially when stressed, we can turn into a deer caught in headlights, confused and unable to move, unsure of where to go or what to do next. We’ll be able to keep moving forward if we have something in writing to refer to when our thoughts start to cloud our minds and we start to spin circles. Seek out help and support, and don’t forget about the Career Step Student Support teams and your fellow students on the forums—they can assist and encourage in ways our family and friends might not be able to.
At times, our motto might change from Keep Calm and Carry On to Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate, and that’s okay! Sometimes we remember to charge everything in life but ourselves. Take time to plug-in to something that can recharge your batteries. As you do so, give yourself credit for how far you’ve come. Look back at your successes and accomplishments, even if they’re still a work in progress. Don’t feel discouraged because you didn’t do as well as you’d hoped on that last unit test; feel empowered because you made it through that last unit test and can now see where to sharpen your skills!
Something I find I have to continually do is Keep Calm and Simplify. This does not mean trying to remove the most difficult challenges in an effort to make things easier. Focusing energy on something we likely have little control over often just leaves one feeling frustrated and worn out. Rather, let go of things that are unimportant but that make life feel cluttered and hectic. It might be literal clutter that makes cleaning the house a real chore, but most likely clutter is hiding in over-complicated tasks. If you tend to spend hours making dinner, look for recipes that take only 20-30 minutes and have 5 ingredients or less, or that can feed more than your family and be frozen for another night. If you spend substantial time watching the news and reading the newspaper to stay alert to world happenings, subscribe to a news feed that only alerts you to breaking news. If you spend a lot of time sorting the laundry before starting the machine, teach your family how to sort their own laundry—or better yet, teach them how to do their own laundry! Removing unnecessary steps in our daily tasks helps to free-up our mind, leaving it feeling more calm and relaxed and able to focus on the things that really matter.
Next time you’re faced with something unexpected—and maybe that time is right now—try implementing some of the ideas above. In doing so, you’ll start to develop strategies that work best for you and your unique life. Or maybe you’ve already found some tried and true ways and have written your own Keep Calm motto. If so, please share it in the comments below!