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Finding Joy When You Need It Most

A best-selling author offers tips for managing stress as you juggle today’s many family, work and health concerns

By Lisa Nichols

THE PANDEMIC IS AFFECTING US ALL, restructuring our lives in disorienting ways. But, as women, we face a unique set of challenges. We typically handle most of the caregiving, make up a lot of the hardest-hit professions like teaching and healthcare, and are largely responsible for home-schooling our children, while juggling work responsibilities at the same time.

"What I’ve learned is that situations cannot take away your joy unless you surrender to them."—Best-selling author Lisa Nichols

We’re so busy taking care of everyone else that we can end up putting our needs last. But while we currently can find ourselves preoccupied with multiple financial, health, family and work concerns, we can also choose to use this time with our families to slow down, take a breath and tune in to what really matters to us.

To find the space to do that, though, you have to fight the feeling of being overwhelmed. The strategies below have helped me manage stress and even find joy through difficult times in the past. I hope you’ll find them useful as you juggle your family and work responsibilities and move forward to whatever the new normal brings.

Shift Your Perspective

I have a challenge for you: It’s going to feel a bit uncomfortable at first—especially for all you gladiators out there. I want you to try to eliminate using the word stress whenever possible. Don’t say, “I’m feeling stressed.” Instead, say, “I’m inviting grace and ease into my life.” Why? Because energy grows where energy goes, and I want you to move in the direction of where you are going versus where you’ve been for a long time. 

Here’s one of my personal strategies for inviting grace and ease into my life. I practice the rule of 4 x 5 deep breathing—try it:  Take in a deep breath to the count of five, then hold it for a quick count of five, then exhale it to a count of five. Do this breathing exercise 5 times a day. Your body cannot experience stress while you’re taking deep breaths. Isn’t that amazing? 

Find Joy in the Now

I’m not saying everything is going to be sunshine and roses, especially right now. But what I’ve learned is that situations cannot take away your joy unless you surrender to them. Here are three things I do daily to remain joyful in the present:

  1. 1. Practice gratitude. I make a list of 25 simple things that I’m grateful for, things like taking a walk with my 91-year-old grandma or dancing with my mom in the kitchen, or having my son create a meal for me. I love to just sit and experience my gratitude on a cellular level. I mean I really get into the things I’m grateful for. I list 25, but somewhere around #16 or #17, I can feel my heart expanding and my eyes welling up. I take a deep breath and say, “Yes, we’ve got all this noise out there, but I’ve got all this deliciousness and gratefulness over here.”
  2. 2. Get excited about where you’re going. Setting an intention for the future helps you move out of reactionary mode. So focus on where you’re going physically, financially, spiritually—and who you’re going with. Make some time to meditate and exercise, maybe schedule a Skype call with your financial advisor. I’m always setting intentions and getting excited about them. I can’t wait to see them happen. I get really detailed about what the future looks like, smells like, tastes like and what I need to do to get there. Then I bring that joy into my now.
  3. 3. Stop and celebrate yourself more often. I know we’re not in a place where we can meet with others in person right now, but during your next Google hangout or Zoom happy hour with friends, ask them: “What do you want to be celebrated for since the last time we met?” Why? Because what gets celebrated gets repeated.

Take Care of Yourself

Recently I realized a very important truth—self-care is not selfish. We can’t take care of others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Self-care can be something as small as taking a walk outside, making time to exercise, curling up for an hour with a good book, taking a nap or making a phone call to catch up with an old friend. You decide what works best for you—and then make it non-negotiable.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Asking for support when we’re feeling overwhelmed can make us feel weak—it can seem like an admission that we’ve failed. But I recently had a light-bulb moment: Asking for help when I need it is the ultimate act of self-care. It’s actually the strongest and most courageous thing anyone can do. 

The author of several best-selling motivational books, Lisa Nichols is the founder and CEO of Motivating the Masses, Inc.

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