Sometimes something awful happens and you feel like everything is hopeless and everyone is horrible and just 'oh-my-god-this-is-the-absolute-worst-how-did-I-get-here-I-just-want-to-curl-up-and-cry'.
It sucks. I've had my share of those days over the last twelve months. This is how I have managed to get through them and come out the other side.
1. Take a breath
Stop. Take a really slow breath. Don't skip this one... do it. Count it out. 5 seconds in, hold for 2, and 5 seconds out. Just get in this present moment. Right now, in this very moment, everything is ok. Look around yourself. Get present. Feel the air going into your lungs and out again. Cool as it comes in and warm as it goes out. Just focus on that. Listen to the sounds around you. Listen for the quietest sound you can hear. Not the obvious, louder sounds. What's beneath that? Focus on the quieter sounds. Ground your feet onto the floor and mindfully acknowledge the present moment that you are in. Come back to your breath, slowly, in and out. If you get stuck as you read on, come back to your breath, get centered and try again.
2. Take stock of what you've got
There are positives in any situation. Look for them. Gratitude is such a powerful practice. You are alive. You have people around you who care. You are capable. You are powerful. Remind yourself of what you have to be grateful for. There is so much. The fact that you are reading this article right now means that you can read, you can see, you can think, you have resources available to you. There are people that can't do those things. It's easy to forget how lucky we are and feel like 'everything has fallen apart'. It hasn't. It's just that this one thing is not going the way you'd like it to right now. You are still so very lucky to be who you are and have what you have.
3. Be realistic
Put things into perspective. Whats the worst case scenario? Is this really as bad as you think it is, or are your emotions getting away from you and making it all feel much worse than it is. What's the worst that can happen. Write it down if you need to. Then step back and question it. Is that really likely? If you were an outsider with a clear head, would you predict that those things are absolutely going to happen? And even if those things do happen, what can you do about it? Do you have options that may help improve the situation. It's much better to channel your energy in that direction. Being in action can often dull those anxious feelings.
4. Forget blame
Don't start looking for a bad guy. Blame and hate does nothing to improve a situation. Don't blame yourself, and don't blame anyone else. And even if the situation appears to be someone's 'fault', don't waste your energy focusing on some kind of backlash or revenge. You never, ever make your own life better by making someone else's worse. No one needs to 'suffer' or 'learn their lesson'. They are on their own journey and they will learn the lessons they are put on this earth to learn and that is not your responsibility to make that happen. Focus on your own journey and let go of resentment. Channel that energy into finding the most positive outcome that will make your life better. You are what matters here while there are likely many factors at play, looking forward and being solutions focused is the best use of your energy.
Sometimes when it's all too much, the best thing you can do is unplug. Literally and figuratively. Take a step back from everything. Cut it all back to basics. Simplify your life. Shut out anything that doesn't absolutely need your attention right now and just focus on healing. If you, like me, are an introverted personality type, then this is one of the most powerful things you can do. Being 'on' and communicating with other people takes energy and if you can reserve that energy to hide away for a moment you may find that you're able to build your 'armor' back up much more quickly. Plug into only people that inspire and energise you. Those that have nothing but unconditional love and judgment-free understanding for you. Do not feel obligated to allow people to 'be there for you' if that's more about them than you.
6. Feel it
The thing with 'feelings' is that you have to feel them. They are there for a reason. Every emotion has it's place. Sadness allows us to release. If you try to push it away it will exhaust you, and if you try to bury it down it will fester and grow. If you allow yourself to feel it, you can then set it free. Let the feelings come. Let them wash over you. Cry, it's incredibly cleansing. You'll often find that if you allow it to come up, it actually doesn't last as long as you might have thought. Feeling the pain and releasing it can actually be less difficult than trying to push it down. So many of us tend to feel anger instead of sadness, as it's less painful and we can project it onto someone else. We can lash out and it prevents us from having to feel what's under the anger, which is often sadness, or some form of it. At some point that sadness has to be felt and released. Better to just let it come rather than trying to push it down and build a layer of anger on top of it.
7. Self compassion
Check in with your self talk. Are you being kind to yourself? Are you talking to yourself in a way in which someone who loves you would? Or is your inner critic running amok right now? Your thoughts create your feelings so if you are not feeling good then the best thing you can do is try to change the way you are thinking. Show yourself some compassion. Give yourself the love that you would want to receive from others. If your mind is saying things to you that you would not say to your best friend, things like 'you are useless, no one loves you etc etc' then you really are not being kind to yourself and you are not going to start feeling better until you turn that around. You are doing the best you can with what you've got. Forget blame, forgive yourself and tell that inner critic to back down just like a really awesome best friend would do.
8. Remember who you are
In the midst of a difficult period it can be easy to lose your 'sense of self' a little. Do something that makes you feel like you. Something that will make you feel good about being you. I often find that doing something kind for someone else can anchor me back in to the essence of who I am. You are complex and unique. Your identity is not made up of what other people think of you. In fact what other people think of you is not your business. And it is absolutely a hell of a lot more about them than it is about you anyway. Forget what others think of you and focus on what you think of you. That's the only opinion that matters.
9. Look for the lessons
This has been the absolute biggest thing that has gotten me through some of the toughest times in recent months. Everything that life throws at us is there to teach us something. When you are cracked wide open and completely raw you are forced to grow and learn. In every seemingly awful thing, every heart break, every disaster, there is a lesson to be learned. Some way in which we are meant to expand our awareness and understanding of ourselves and our values. It's not meant to be easy, but if you can try to look for the lessons and allow your challenges to help you develop as a person and improve your situation, then maybe it will all be worth it when you come out the other side.
10. Do a little self care
Self care is an absolute must when things are difficult, yet it is so often the very last thing on people's minds. Don't reach for junk food, or drink yourself stupid. It will only make you feel worse. Your body and mind need you to treat it well right now. Nourish your body with lots of water and healthy foods. And most importantly, move. There were moments when I could barely get up off the floor but I somehow managed to drag myself outside and walk to the end of the street. The combination of movement and fresh air and sunshine on my skin was so powerful. A walk outside is one of my 'happiness islands'. Some others include a hot bath, an early night, watching a favourite old movie, dancing to 80's music, journaling, buying a new crystal, cuddling up with my little girl. Write a list of your happiness islands and make sure you do one of them every day, or just whenever you know you need to lift your energy.
11. Do something different
Mix it up. Try something new. I have discovered so many amazing new things that have helped me to heal and to stay positive through a difficult time. I've discovered healing crystals, journaling and the power of reiki. I've taken part in womens sharing circles and I've had psychic readings. These are not things I really expected to be doing. One of the biggest gifts has been discovering how much I benefit from mediation. For a while there I was needing to take sleeping tablets, which I hated. As soon as I started using guided sleep meditations I no longer needed the pills, thank goodness. I cannot recommend it enough to simply open your mind and try something that you haven't tried before. You might just find that it works for you.
12. Look to the future and trust that everything is going to be ok
Life doesn't give you anything you cant handle. Some say that we come to life, having already accepted a 'contract' that entails what we will experience in our time on earth. They believe that we take on a life knowing that there will be challenges but that it will all be worth it. I'm not too sure where I sit on that but I do absolutely believe that everything happens for a reason and that while I'm alive I will handle whatever life throws at me. Right now it might feel hopeless but if you can focus on you and take the lessons along the way then I wholeheartedly believe that you will be a stronger and better person at the other side. Some days are really, really tough but there is one thing that I know forsure. I am going to be ok. I am. And so are you, I promise.
Carlie Maree is a writer, life coach, student and mother. She blogs about all things life and love over at More Than Mum.