It can happen to the best of us: we suddenly find ourselves in the black hole of despair. Perhaps we have experienced a devastating loss. Maybe we have reached a breaking point. Or we are in the middle of a sudden, unexpected turmoil that came out of nowhere.
Life is, to say the least, an experience full of surprises, some of which are awesome and some of which are awful. From the rational point of view, there is no rhyme or reason why some of us get a thicker slice of the awful pie while others get bucketloads of awesomeness. But there is a strong belief in the self-help movement that pain is the necessary condition for personal growth.
If we want to have more, we must become more and becoming more hurts because there can be no change without destruction of the old. This is what my favorite life coach Martha Beck teaches.
When the winds of change have started blowing, we cannot stop them. More is coming, whether we want or not. More is coming because even though we don't always see it, more is what we want. If we didn't, we would not find ourselves at the end of our ropes. But we do because we are programmed to grow and evolve.
There is no gain without pain.
How to deal with the pain when it hits you hard?
Here are some suggestions:
1. Accept the emotion that is active in your system. Observe it, tame it by naming it and then lie down next to it. Just stay with it as long as its there, without resisting it. Don't fight it. Surrender to it. Trust that it is OK, whatever it is.
2. Go to the place of No Hope. Imagine you really have lost everything and it is all going to end in a disaster. Set a timer for 10 minutes and just be there, in absolute misery. Get consumed by it. When the time is up, reward yourself. Drink a glass of wine or eat some ice cream or take a nap. You deserve it, whatever it is. Being miserable is hard work and you should give yourself some credit for doing it so well.
3. Remind yourself of some basic facts, such as: hope is not something that you can run out of. What is hope, anyway? It is a thought. We can think up to 60 000 thoughts a day so there is no way we will ever exhaust the resources. As long there is thinking, there is hope.
4. Avoid TV, social media and gossip columns. They take your attention away from the only place where meaningful things happen: your own life. They also distract you from the only moment that ever matters: the Now. Stay present. Every second of life is precious. On the other hand, you never have to endure pain more than one second at a time. If you are bored, watch inspiring videos such as TED talks. One of my favorites is Sam Bern's talk. After watching it you will look at your life from an altered perspective. Guaranteed.
5. Do whatever it takes to prevent yourself from comparing your misery to other people's success stories. Stay in your own business even if it meant closing all of your social media channels. And your phone. And your front door. And your eyes.
6. Consider the existing circumstance as a nightmare that you can design a new ending for. It is free thought and no one is looking inside your head to see what you wish for. You cannot control life but you can control your thoughts about it, whatever it is. If the situation is really bad, try approaching it with curiosity. I once listened to a man who had just heard he suffered from ALS, a neurological terminal illness. His way of coping was to think of his situation as an adventure, a leap to the great unknown. Wouldn't it be amazing to see life in that light?
7. Go for a brisk walk or run. Don't call it exercise. Don't call it anything. Just do whatever it takes to get sweaty. It is the perfect way to release tension and to get some endorphins rolling. And it is healthy, too.
8. Go to the woods. The vibration of nature is perfect. This is why it feels so healing to be there. It feels so healing because it is healing. Do yourself a favor and make a date with yourself in a forest or at the beach or in the mountains and just breathe in the perfection of creation. You feel so much better than you do after a shopping spree in a mall.
9. Your brain does not function properly when you are distressed. Don't even try to solve your problems when your mind is all over the place. Accept the fact that right now you don't have answers and no idea where things are heading.
I recently met a guy who had lost his partner, his job, his home and his health, all at the same time. Witless and clueless, he started following his intuition: he took a total time out and just rested, took long walks, drunk a lot of water and meditated. He not only survived but eventually got into a better place than he had been in before the disasters happened. I see this happening all the time: surrendering to the flow of life works like magic.
10. Meditate. Trust me: there is a calm place inside you that you can access anywhere, any time. Meditation is the ultimate way to get things together. The reason is simple: everything is always together. It is just our thoughts that play havoc with our minds. Sit down, close your eyes, focus on your breath and get centered. You will get into the space in-between your thoughts, even if just for a split second, and once you are there, you will see that everything really is always okay.