Here’s the thing about life sometimes, just when you think you sort of have things figured out, the water underneath your surfboard changes. You were cruising along, nice and steady, and then suddenly you hit a pocket of different water and things got unstable in a real hurry. So, now what?
Well, first things first…don’t panic. Anytime you freak out, you are not thinking clearly, and you are prone to bad decisions. Delay your reaction(s) at all if possible, step back and look at your situation objectively. If necessary, pretend this is all happening to a friend, and they are asking you for advice on what to do next. A third person point of view is critical at times to making better and more coherent decisions, and that is your best chance of staying on the board and getting the most out of the ride. Shit happens; life is 10% what actually happens to you and 90% of how you deal with it.
Getting divorced? Fired from or quit a job? Having a health scare? These are MAJOR life changes, and they needed to be treated accordingly. This stuff is the real deal, and you’re going to need time to figure out what to do. Luckily, most things fall way short of something this serious, and those things should also be treated on a different scale. Don’t make more out of a situation than it really is. Keep things in the proper context; this is how you are going to recover, pivot, or do an about-face and get things resolved.
I have a checklist that I run through in my head that sometimes helps bring clarity to tough situations.
Phase One goes like this:
Am I going to die from this?
Is someone I love going to die?
Am I going to lose everything I own?
Once I can firmly state “No” to each of these three questions, I know I am going to be okay. Whatever it is I am dealing with is not life-threatening or going to have me wandering the streets or couch surfing with friends. The next phase is things of less severity:
Am I looking for a new job?
Is the relationship I am in ending?
Am I closing a chapter of life that will likely never reopen?
While these things are an upheaval in your life, they are not in and of themselves life-threatening. They are going to be cause of concern, don’t get me wrong, but they are not insurmountable issues. Finding a new job when you NEED a job is far more stressful, and puts way more pressure on each part of that process. If you are ending a relationship with someone, things like moving out to your own place become front and center. But there are peripheral things like telling your friends and family that will make this uncomfortable process linger. It is never like ripping off a Band-Aid and moving on, there are many details to be cleaned up along the way, and a bunch of them won’t be discovered until you are upon them. Here is your reality check: you’ve been through stuff before, and you will have more stuff in the future. You’re gonna be fine.
Sometimes life sucks, grab a helmet kid!
Personally, I don’t even have a Phase three. If the level of concern doesn’t fall into one of the first two phases, I should not be dwelling on it. I try not to sweat the small stuff. easier said then done, but I have practiced that skill over the years. My ability to compartmentalize has proven to be very valuable in getting me through tough times, and I encourage you to start working on that skill set yourself, whether it is during a crisis or in advance of one. Life will afford you many practice sessions for this, you just have to “take advantage” of them and practice tuning out some of the noise. There will always be something new to deal with, so get that part through your head now.
You will need to ride the wave of uncertainty for a while, and get things figured out. YOU WILL GET THINGS FIGURED OUT. One way or another, you will find a solution, make a change or get a new job and life will move on. You’ll look back on this as a speed bump, not a brick wall. Here are some things I have learned to do during tough times that make a big difference:
Be sure to sleep – Not sleeping is one of the most detrimental things you can do to yourself. It clouds your mind, makes you more prone to emotion, and everyday life gets exhausting quickly.
Watch your diet – Make sure you don’t drown your sorrows in junk food and alcohol. Once in a while is fine, but don’t make things worse by not supplying your body and mind what they need to get to get your through the day. Drink lots of water, as it will keep your brain soft and squishy like its supposed to be.
Spend time with friends and loved ones – Even if you don’t want to talk about what is going on in your life with them, just being in their presence can lift your spirits and make you realize that you are not alone.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – I have been there, a couple of different times in my life, and looking back was happy I made the decision to ask someone for help. I’ve been to counseling, and I have used the Behavioral Health Hotline through my work insurance. Those resources are there for a reason, and it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to ask for help or an outside perspective on your situation.
Almost everything, even life itself, is temporary. You need to step back from your situation and realize that this, too, shall pass. Things are not always going to be the way they are in the midst of your dilemma, this is not your new “normal”. Slowly but surely, little by little, you will climb out of this hole and move on. You will take lessons and experience from this situation, and be better prepared for the next time life rips the surfboard out from under you.
Good luck…and remember #4 if things get beyond your personal capacity to handle!