This is our Year of the Lost Luggage. Our suitcases have been lost twice this year. In the many years that I have been traveling by plane, to places close by and some very far away – somehow I have been fortunate enough for my luggage to have arrived along with me on all of those flights. However, this year has been different. Back in March, our luggage was lost for 5 days of our 10 day trip. That was a long time for someone who packs as much as I do. If you look at our pictures from that trip, you will notice a certain similarity in the outfits we are wearing. (Happily, our luggage did make it back to us a week or so after we returned, so better late than never.) Then in July we went on our summer vacation. The bags were lost again. This time they arrived after 24 hours. Much better.
On a scale of 1 to 10…1 being “no big deal” and 10 being “this is a tragedy”, for some people losing their luggage might be a 1. No big deal, I’ll buy some things and off we go. For others, it might be a 10, like if you are on the way to YOUR destination wedding with all your wedding and honeymoon clothes in your bags. There is no right number rating, it’s just your number and how you rate it. We can’t really put a judgment on how individuals react to various situations.
And all of this is important why? Because this was a lesson in flexibility, dealing with uncertainty, being spontaneous, and did I say looking on the positive side? And when we got through it (successfully) the first time, and packed differently the second time, based on new-found packing wisdom, was it easier? (A little, but not a lot.)
I was forced to draw on my coping skills for these situations in a very conscious, purposeful way. And my go-to coping skill is positive self talk. I said things to myself (and out loud) like, “I can do this”, “this is not a crisis”, “we can still enjoy our time here”, “we’ll make a few adjustments and keep on going”.
These are skills and strategies I work on all the time with my clients and students. And I utilize them myself. And they take work and practice, and then some more work and practice.
What are some of the situations that test you and require you to use coping skills to stay centered? Things like missing your morning train to work by two minutes, getting stuck in traffic on the way to an important meeting or event, missing a flight because the security line was too long, getting rained out, snowed in, sleeping through your alarm, or losing power in your house for several days right after you have filled your freezer.
What are some of the strategies that you use in these situations? Maybe your positive self-talk sounds like……“I can do this.” “I can handle this.” “Keep this in perspective.” “Take a breath.” “This is not that important.”
So let’s talk about positive self-talk.
There is research that suggests that an effective way of using positive self-talk is to talk to yourself in the third person. So instead of saying, “I can get up in front of this audience, I know my stuff”, you say,” Sally, you can do this, you know your stuff, you are ready.” You become the rational observer of yourself, like you are your own coach. Try this and see if this is effective for you.
Think about athletes. They are taught to use positive mental imagery and positive self-talk to get them through meets and games. Telling themselves they can do it, picturing the success. Re-centering themselves when a play goes bad.
Does positive self talk have to kick in right away? No, we are allowed to have our time to express frustration, disappointment or anger with something that has occurred. We can do this in our heads, or we can do this out loud. It is natural, reasonable and appropriate. We can do this in front of our kids. Words like “this is ridiculous”, “I can’t believe this is happening”, “this airline is totally incompetent” ….or more expressive words of your choosing. But we realize pretty quickly that the negative thoughts keep us in a negative place and make it harder to change gears in order to move forward.
Can we model positive self talk for others? Absolutely. If our children hear us express our frustration but then (in a reasonable amount of time) move into positive self talk, they will learn that model from us. Say it out loud for the whole family…..”OK guys, we can do this.” “OK guys, this will not stop us. “
I will continue using my positive self-talk. I just hope not to have to use it in an airport. Happy travels.