Glitter storms are a daily occurrence in all our lives. Stuff happens that disturbs us, stresses us, throws us off our game and makes us anxious. While we are in the glitter storm things are messy, unclear and we feel out of control. The key to surviving a glitter storm is to give your glitter time to settle. If you let it, it always does.

I picked up this very helpful glitter storm concept from a book called Under Pressure (Atlantic Books, 2019) by Lisa D’Amour, which confronts the epidemic of stress and anxiety in girls, in particular, but I believe the glitter storm concept works for us all. So, imagine you have your own glitter jar in front of you (if you have a real one, all the better). I want you to pick it up and give it a good shake for a few seconds to create a storm. The storm can be representative of any issues that are stressing you out or causing anxiety in your life – this is what it feels like in your brain right now. Once you have identified them while shaking the jar, put it down and watch the glitter slowly float to the bottom of the jar. What I like is the fact that you need to give the glitter time and space to settle. Just watching it settle is therapeutic in, and of, itself. It’s a practical exercise in mindfulness.

You see, when you are upset, super-charged emotions can hijack your whole neurological system putting you in a state of panic or paralysis. Your ability to function optimally is reduced and you lose your perspective – everything is terrible or just too much. You become a victim of your own fears and wild thinking, spinning in a cyclone of distress. You start to feed your anxiety by over-reacting. When we feel out of control, we instinctively want to go into over-control to take back our power, but this is very often counter-productive. We need to first slow down and take a few minutes to let our glitter settle, to be a little patient with ourselves, to wonder aloud, take a walk, sleep on it or even colour in a picture or build part of a puzzle. In other words, we need to take a step back from the window and breath.

The trick is not to ignore the glitter storm but to side-step the melodrama before it becomes all-consuming and destructive. I have summarised some of D’amour’s advice below and added some of my own too:

  • Acknowledge that what you are experiencing/the situation is horrible, less than desirable, it stinks
  • But, also acknowledge that it can be handled (there is a solution for most things)
  • Slow down and allow your glitter to settle
  • Give yourself the gift of a little time and space (even ten minutes can make a difference, enabling you to diffuse your anxiety and distress and deal with things more effectively)
  • After you have identified the sources of your stress and anxiety, play the game of ‘worst case scenario’ (catastrophise by asking yourself what the worst thing is that that could happen and what the consequences of that might be – it is often not quite as bad as you think once you do this exercise)
  • Now you can re-frame the issues as ‘on your way not in your way’ (a lovely concept borrowed from Dr John Demartini) because you have perspective and can implement solutions
  • Follow this with a plan of action to change or diffuse those issues that are in your control

The above steps provide a simple exercise in developing coping skills that build resilience. Every time you overcome a glitter storm you build your confidence. You get ‘glitter storm fit’ developing an inner knowing that you’ve got this. In other words, you discover that while you can’t control the world around you, you can control your reaction to it. You have the power to re-author situations and circumstances by choosing your own response to them. This is within your power. Every time.

Take aways for winning at work:

  • You will not always be able to control your colleagues, your boss, your suppliers, the micro or macro economic environments, but you can control your own responses.
  • Acknowledge the aspects contributing to the storm, don’t ignore them and push them under the rug where they will only fester and get worse. Remember that one drowning person cannot save another so find support for your own stress and anxiety.
  • People feel safe with you when they feel you are able to keep perspective. Learning to re-frame is a fantastic for anyone, particularly for a leader or aspiring leader who can also help others to do the same for themselves.
  • Help mentor others in your circle who are ‘losing it’ by teaching them the glitter storm concept – it can help enormously to talk things through with someone else – remember that most of us have the answers within that we need, we sometimes need another person there so that we can get them out of our head, and stop them from going round in circles creating more anxiety.

Take aways for winning at home and life:

  • Families are made up of human beings who are unpredictable because they are emotional and multisensory, unlike robots. They will have glitter storms (and so will you). By accepting that glitter storms will come and go and that they are part of learning how to deal with life with confidence, you invite them in as a teacher for every member of your family, believing that you will get through them and build resilience at the same time.
  • Teach your family how to deal with glitter storms and how to let their glitter settle with the glitter jar concept – make sure you make a family glitter jar or that everyone has their own.
  • At the end of every week you could acknowledge and celebrate all the glitter storms you have faced as individuals or a family, and what they have taught you. What a great way to keep stress and anxiety in perspective in family life. What a life skill to give your kids!
  • As a mother or father, you need to take responsibility for your own stress and anxiety because parental anxiety is the most infectious thing in the world. Your children can read even the most subtle cues in your face or demeanour which fuels their fears. By dealing with your own stuff you make them feel safe and empower them to re-frame and bring down their own stress because they see you doing it for yourself.

A snow globe or glitter jar is a powerful visual metaphor illustrating how mindfulness — the cultivation of stillness in the face of swirling chaos of life is so important. It helps us to see that we need to choose not to get caught up permanently in a glitter storm where we become victims of circumstance. We must choose to empower ourselves and each other by first letting our glitter settle and then re-framing and re-authoring our response to the storm. Now take a breath, or two or three. Shake that glitter jar. Whether you are at work or at home, you’ve got this.

Human Potential and Parenting Expert, speaker and author:  Helping you win at work and life