Guard your heart, for out of it flows issues pertaining to life.
When people hear this phrase from the book of Proverbs in the Bible, they think that means putting up an impenetrable wall to keep yourself from getting hurt.
This is a natural reaction if you’re experiencing burnout symptoms but…
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
To guard your heart means not allowing bitterness, resentment and negativity to reside in your soul.
It doesn’t mean closing yourself off from feelings – negative or positive.
When I’m coaching my clients – busy professionals who are struggling to keep their heads above water – I remind them to guard their heart, but not in the way they expect.
Here are 10 healthy ways to guard your heart:
1. Be mindful of your associations and relationships.
Your relationships can make or break you. Do you want them to bring positivity, or negativity, into your life?
Pay attention to the conversations you have with your closest friends…
Is it all gossip…and stories about all the things that are wrong in the world? Are you spending your precious time with people who are constantly angry and bitter about their lot in life?
You’re already suffering from compassion fatigue, so watch out. These “friends” can snuff out your light. You’ll find yourself gradually turning into one of these people, and that’s not healthy.
It’s okay to commiserate with a friend who’s having a bad day…but there are limits. Make sure you set them.
2. You are what you read, watch and listen to:
The news can drag you down – the naysayers. They can be carriers of doom and gloom. Even the fiction we watch or listen to constantly has an effect on the state of our mind and our heart.
Be aware of finding a balance in what you choose to read or listen to so that you’re not constantly bombarded by negative images and stories. It’s alright to stay on top of current events, but make a conscious effort to seek out something that’s pure entertainment that fills you with joy.
That will look different for everyone: it may be a light comedy or an old black and white classic, a book that is uplifting. Just be aware of the imagery and how it might be affecting your soul.
3. Acknowledge and deal with negative emotions:
Let me be clear…
The presence of negative emotions is not a moral failure.
The presence of negative emotions is not a character flaw.
The presence of negative emotions is not a sign of mental illness.
It all just means that you are human.
Think of it this way: a negative emotion is like a poisonous spider walking into a room. We do not ignore the poisonous spider. However, the alternative isn’t to burn the house down.
The most appropriate reaction is somewhere in the middle…and the same goes for our emotions. Do not ignore or suppress them, but do not overreact, either. Suppressed emotions, once they have reached a certain ‘critical mass’ can boil over into resentment, and recovering from that can be very difficult.
Find an avenue to travel through your negative emotions – whether it’s talking to a friend, a professional – don’t be afraid to go through that journey.
Visit that place, just don’t stay there…
4. Have a circle of trusted friends who can help you bear your burdens.
The Bible talks about helping others carry their burdens.
Make sure you have a circle of trusted friends that you can bare your soul to – and who can help you – when your heart gets cluttered with overwhelming ‘stuff’. This is so important, especially for people who deal with life and death decisions every day.
Sharing your worries and frustrations can lighten your load – and remind you that you’re not alone. It’s difficult to be vulnerable, but liberating when you learn to expose your fears and frustrations to people you trust.
5. Do not violate your conscience.
Do not go against your own moral principles. This leads to a spirit of heaviness in your heart. Be clear on what your principles are and stick to them, as they guide your life.
Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Let go and let God. Choose to walk the path of light and love. Prayer will guide you on this path.
Don’t pray to add some “goodness”to your life, or check off the “I-had-my-quiet-time-today” box. Get closer to God and fill your life with the Divine. The more God fills your heart, the less room there will be for the ‘wrong stuff’ to weigh you down.
7. Realize that there are some things you can control and some things you cannot.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Instead of getting mad about what you cannot control, change your focus. If you can do something about a situation, do something. If you cannot – not if you will not, that’s different – redirect your efforts to something else.
If a situation is unacceptable to you and you’re genuinely powerless to change it, remove yourself from it.
8. Set boundaries…and make yourself responsible for enforcing those boundaries.
This goes back to honoring your conscience.
If your boundaries are disrespected or overridden, this can lead to bitterness and resentment towards the offending parties. However, if you continue to allow your boundaries to be disrespected, you will only have yourself to blame in the long run.
There’s nothing wrong with setting limits for what you will tolerate. If you are consistent in upholding those limits the people around you will respect them.
9. Refuse to live a life of offense, malice and unforgiveness.
I can’t emphasize the importance enough. Be slow to blame and quick to forgive…and learn how to let people go.
Forgiveness may not always mean reconciliation. Your parting may be permanent.
But it’s up to you to choose an attitude of joy. Do not be that person that ‘isn’t talking’ to a dozen people. And keep in mind, if a dozen people are ‘offended by you’, the problem is likely not them, but you.
Learn to become self-aware. You can purposefully choose positivity and light, instead of resentment.
10. Develop an attitude of gratitude.
It can be difficult during your workday to remember the moments in which you can celebrate life’s gifts. But practicing an attitude of gratitude brings joy. It displaces negativity with positivity and light. Gratitude for what you have is a true antidote to grumpiness, bitterness and resentment.
If you are willing to open your heart, find a trusted circle of friends, learn when to let go of the things (and people) you can’t control and celebrate even the smallest moments of joy in your life, you’ll be living with a lighter heart.
In what ways do you guard your heart? And how do you cope? I’d like to hear from you.
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