Updated: Apr 13, 2019
It was the middle of the afternoon and I was exhausted. I plopped down on the couch to close my eyes for a few minutes. Almost immediately I drifted off…. I found myself driving my car up a steep rocky cliff struggling to keep the wheels in the ruts on the narrow path. I could feel the steering wheel pull to one side and suddenly slip off the road and into the water below. No longer in my car, I felt the water rise up my face as I struggled to find the surface. The water was rising over my face… I was drowning!
When I finally forced myself awake; I was dripping with sweat and shaking in fear. If that’s not a metaphor for my stress, I don’t know what is! I knew I needed to take care of my well-being and take action, NOW!
Positive psychology changed my life. I began learning about the neuroscience behind happiness and well-being roughly 10 years ago. It was fascinating to me and I began to practice the things that researchers claimed would improve overall happiness. I believe those things helped me get through the most stressful year of my life.
I was into the second year of my graduate studies and was starting the research. I struggled to get ethical approval from two universities. I also needed operational approval from my organization, which was akin to going through a mountain of red-tape. My first submission was denied and I needed to find new participants. Meanwhile, school was consuming me, and I also landed a new job within my organization – a promotion plus learning was like drinking from a fire-hose. Compounding this, I was in a crumbling 30-year marriage. The tipping point occurred when my son went into deep crisis and threatened suicide with a loaded restricted firearm –in front of his sister while I was outside on the phone with the crisis team.
In life, we all face struggles and adversity. Being able to both cope with challenges and to get back on your feet is the key to survival and growth. The tricky part is returning to a sense of balance and well- being. My journey began with the process of developing self-awareness, cultivating optimism, fostering gratitude, and building resiliency.
“your heart, your life, and your happiness is your responsibility to fix it” – Will Smith