The reality of life’s storms can be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re hit with a seemingly relentless barrage of challenges? Loss. Illness. Financial Hardship. Family and interpersonal conflict. You look around, and it appears the wheels are falling off the bus. I’ve been there before.
About a year ago, I began noticing “Keep Calm and Carry On” on stationery, coffee mugs, and other gear. Readers might already know the origins of this, but I had to do a little research. For those that don’t know, these words originated as a poster in 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War. The poster was intended as a message from the monarchy to the citizens of Great Britain; to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster. In 2000, a copy of the poster was re-discovered and the image made public domain.
As expected, the phrase/logo has been commercialized over the last decade. There are several parodies in circulation on the Internet :
“Keep Calm and Just Graduate.”
“Keep Calm and Dance off the Calories.”
Recently, I came very close to buying cocktail napkins from a kitchen supply store:
“Now Panic and Freak Out” (crown pictured upside down)!
Some might interpret this “Keep Calm and Carry On” stance as British cultural stiffness, or a severe case of denial. I view these words as the very essence of what it means to persevere through difficult times. Here’s my interpretation:
Don’t let worry overtake you.
Put one foot in front of the other.
Do the very next thing required of you.
Sometimes, there isn’t anything to do next but to choose to be present and involved in each day—staying the course even in the absence of immediate change or results.
Some practical examples of staying the course:
• Striving for excellence, even when you’re in a job you hate
• Holding your tongue when you’d rather explode on your co-worker, kids, or spouse
• Sending out another resume or making contact with someone who can help you
• Sticking with counseling or a support group (or returning if you haven’t been in a while)
• Do something to help someone else. While self-care and setting appropriate boundaries is important for managing stress and having healthy relationships, helping other people in need (either someone you know or through community service) can broaden your perspective and help you “get out of your own head” for a while. See my previous post, Moving Out of Isolation: Who Can You Trust?).
As you think about what it means to persevere, how might your mindset change? What small step is being required of you today?
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please call The Stone Foundation at 410-296-2004.
Elicia McIntyre, a licensed clinical social worker, and graduate of Smith College School for Social Work, has 15 years’ experience providing counseling to adults, children and families in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. She has helped clients navigate life transitions, depression, anxiety and relationship difficulties. Elicia helps couples increase emotional intimacy, and foster healthy connections among family members. She has spent the past 3 years traveling nationally and overseas, providing education and intervention to military service members and their families on communication, stress management and building healthy relationships.