Be More Lobster

Renew yourself and your outlook to become resilient.

Symbols of strength exist in most cultures: the Tabono is an African symbol representing perseverance and purposefulness. It is drawn as four joined paddles or oars and represents the idea that a person cannot simply achieve greatness and success without sacrificing, working hard and staying strong.

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

Another symbol of strength is the Celtic Triskelion which is drawn as three legs or wheels that give the impression of forward propulsion. It represents the will and drive to keep going, even in the face of adversity.

Image by albinopanther from Pixabay

Draw these symbols when doodling, find a piece of jewellery (try Etsy) with a strength symbol or create one out of polymer clay.

Wear it or keep it in your pocket and rub it between your thumb and index finger whenever you feel the need for inner strength.

This practice can offers me an anchor to the present moment and I can try to train my mind to believe that the strength will emanate from the symbol and pulsate through my body giving me the resilience I need.

In time, I will not need such an anchor or prompt as with this new habit of mind I will have created a new pathway in my brain which will make inner-strength a ‘normal’ and established thought pattern.

A practice that encourages an anchor to the present is mindfulness.

I sit in a chair with my feet flat on the floor. I take a few deep breaths while trying to ‘scan’ through my body from my head to my toes. This encourages the idea of living in the now, in the moment, and I can use this incredibly simple strategy at any point in my day without anyone realising that I am doing it.

Mindful practice gives me a moment to reconnect with my body and allows me to stop thinking negative thoughts or panicking about something that has not yet happened and might very well not ever happen.

A resilient person does not go over past events or fret about the future.

They take each moment as it comes.

They pause before reacting and take a breath.

When I find myself in a difficult situation and I need to buy myself some composure or thinking time, I just smile and say, ‘Can you give me a moment, please?’ or ‘Can I think about that?’ or ‘That’s sounds interesting, can I get back to you?’

It would be rare for anyone to deny this and then I am able to regain control of the situation and avoid a regrettable knee-jerk response which could create anxious thoughts in my mind.

Over-committing and then cancelling plans can ensue without pause for thought. I tell myself:

Be kinder to yourself and have these ‘thinking time phrases’ ready.

Consider for a moment symbols of resilience found in nature.

Within the first 5–7 years of its life, a lobster may shed its shell up to 25 times. With each shedding, the lobster grows, and the number of sheds decreases.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Through this process, lobsters can regenerate lost limbs, eyes and antennae. Think about this as an analogy for resilience: I believe I can shed my negative thoughts or my ‘shell’ and grow again, even replacing my thoughts for new and positive ideas.

I may have to do this a few times until I have practised the skill or the evolutionary process of survival, and then I can continue to grow as a person.

I tell myself:

Face your fears, you are likely to survive, and with practice you will become stronger and more resilient.

Now let’s consider the lotus flower.

The actions of this beautiful flower are a perfect analogy of the human condition.

Photo by Jay Castor on Unsplash

The lotus flower grows in mud and is reborn each day. At night the flower closes to cleanse itself by submerging under the water. At dawn it emerges and reopens in all its glory.

The adversity that you might be facing is like the muddy beginnings of the lotus flower.

Despite the mud the flower pushes on through and flourishes. Like the lotus flower you can face adversity and transform your life into something purposeful, beautiful and productive.

I let these be the thoughts over which I ruminate in my mind.

I have realised that in roder to be more resilient, I must act:

  • I need to be open to new experiences.
  • I need to have courage and be brave and accepting of change to develop.
  • I need to step outside my comfort zone.
  • I need to accept myself with compassion but work on being the best version of myself.
  • I need to look for the positives rather than the negatives in every situation and stop catastrophizing over every little blip or blips that have not and may never happen.

This is my only life to lead and it is painfully short.

  • I need to live in the moment — forget the past and don’t fear the future.
  • I must live in the ‘now’ as that is all that really exists. I have the choice to shift my mindset. I can decide to become more positive and resilient.

Forcing myself out of my comfort zone is scary but if I do not do this, I cannot even hope to change.

I started to make an effort to reconnect with people when I moved out of the city into a small village.

In the city, it can be easier and even socially acceptable not to interact with strangers. The reverse is true in a small village.

I forced myself to re-think my interactions with people. Instead of believing that everyone was hell-bent on criticising everything about me, I began to let more positive thoughts cloud the negative.

Psychologist Martin Seligman believed that while social relationships do not guarantee happiness, happiness cannot occur without them.

Photo by Womanizer WOW Tech on Unsplash

Other research supports this: humans used to be part of nomadic tribes (with a real need for the fight or flight response to survive) and were able to survive because of such collectives.

Your tribe can be a family, friends, a group with a shared interest, neighbours or work colleagues, for example. You can volunteer for a charity or help someone without being asked or for any personal gain.

Thinking in this manner made me realise that I need to get involved in my life and the lives of others in a positive, helpful and generous way.

This is the route to a more positive mind set as it is entirely possible that such habitual actions can bring lasting happiness and rid me from any anxious thoughts.

I cannot feel down when you I am being kind and helpful.

Photo by Randalyn Hill on Unsplash

My mindset can become more balanced and not as susceptible to being de-railed by an unkind word from another or the misperception that someone is thinking negatively about me (when they are probably not).

Anxiety can become negatively narcissistic, but if I step away from my self-absorption; detach myself from my negative thoughts and instead focus on making meaningful connections with others, I can love myself in an entirely different way.

I can absorb myself into a new attitude of helpfulness and kindness.

This in turn will make me feel good as I help others.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

If I can fill my life with meaningful pursuits it will have the knock-on effect of giving more time and space in my mind for positive thinking rather than the rumination of damaging thoughts about myself.

A nugget of inspiration that helped me lift myself up from anxious thoughts can be found in the work of psychiatrist William Glasser.

He deduced that by nature, human beings are social beings. ‘Love and belonging’, he wrote,

‘are among our greatest non-survival needs’.

When our close relationships suffer, we can become unhappy but committing to rebuilding them can bring a state of happiness.

I have no doubt that I have been unkind, short-tempered and difficult to love.

The friendships in which I had not invested any time ebbed away.

I did rebuild the relationships that I valued and that would understand and keep me. I am so grateful for that and understand and appreciate their true value.

They are my tribe — they bring me great joy, grounding and inspiration.

I have friends that fill me up with their passion for music and singing, others who are engaging storytellers and fantastic listeners.

Many are incredibly generous with their time and help me raise my children, give me career advice, do favours for me and I, them. Together they have helped me to weave a tapestry of a fulfilling and rich life.

Glasser advocates a problem-solving approach to lift people out of anxiety, stress and depression.

I now follow Glasser’s idea of thinking carefully and clearly about the things that I really value in life, such as meaningful connections and friendships, positivity, love and creativity.

Each day I think about what I will do to bring me closer to my goals and then I assess whether the behaviours and thoughts that I have chosen bring me closer or further away from them.

At the end of each day I write down in a notebook the things that I have achieved that have brought me closer to my goals.

I have found that drinking alcohol to excess, gossiping, perfectionism, worrying and ruminating over negative thoughts do not serve me as they move me further away from my values and goals.

As a result, I do not prioritise or entertain any of these self-defeating pursuits any longer.

If I could give my 20 year old self some advice, I would say:

  1. Renew yourself like the lobster and lotus flower. There is beauty in cleansing and rebirth.
  2. Remember that every day is an opportunity to refresh your mind set, embrace new ideas and renew your approach to your life.
  3. The past has happened, the future has not yet happened. All that you can control is this moment. Focus on this alone.

Download my free e-book guide, Mindset7 for a week of motivational tips to balance your outlook on life.

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Hannah Young

I write about education, wellbeing, digital content creation & marketing www.hexis21.com