Help fight the stigma of mental illness

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Is being unemployed an adverse situation? Lesson from a paralympic athlete

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If you think that being unemployed for a long time is an adverse situation, think again.  I watched a news story on the Today show about yet another person who truly faced adversed circumstances and made incredible changes in his life.  Recently, Italian paralympic athlete Alex Zanardi who three medals in the Paralympics. You can see the clip online So what's the buzz? Zanardi, a former Formula 1 driver, lost both legs while competing in his beloved sport. When asked how he pulled through, Cinnoti said,: "It was up to me to change an adversity into an opportunity."

Zanardi's startling response to adversity made my think of familiar refrains of people who have lost their jobs and remain unemployed:
"They laid me off. I didn't deserve it. Why me?"
"They hired someone else instead of me. I was more than qualified!"
"I've worked hard for XYZ company for 15 years. I didn't deserve this layoff!"

We perceive circumstances as adversity, which are based on our core belief systems. These are influenced by our childhood, past experiences,  culture, current circumstances, faith and values.  We then judge a circumstance or make opinions about every situation. So how can we change our opinion or judgement about adversity? Gain a different perspective.

I work in the mental health field daily and help others see things differently. Mental health professionals speak about three minds: the emotional, the rational and the wise. Go back to the three reactions above. They represent the "emotion" mind, which means our thoughts are based on distressing feelings. The rational mind examines factual evidence. So instead of thinking, "I didn't deserve the layoff," rephrase that with  "What are the facts? I've felt this way before and I've come through it." The wise mind  takes a breath and looks at the better picture. So instead, you can start to think, "What's best for me in this situation?"  The remedy in this case is the "STOPP" technique. Check out the web site for more details.

Paralympic athlete Alex Zanardi changed his perspective on facing adversity and made significant changes in his life. Can you do the same?

Melissa C. Martin
bilingual career/social media strategist (under construction)
Approved career expert on
T: @ravingredhead and @melissacmartin

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