Sometimes, despite your best efforts to remain positive and proactive, it feels like life conspires to take you down. Whether it’s a romantic breakup or betrayal, a job loss, the death of a loved one, an unexpected diagnosis, or a financial crisis, times like these can feel overwhelming.
In my experience as a therapist, I’ve noticed that some of the most disruptive experiences are those that:
- Suddenly shift our basic understanding of the nature of our lives; a jarring experience that can shake us to our core.
- Challenge your joy, appreciation, hope, and resilience, causing even the most positive among us to feel pervasive anxiety.
- Make getting through the day challenging, sometimes slowing our perception of time to a crawl and causing us to worry that these feelings “will never end”.
When you are in the thick of a crisis, it can be hard to imagine that you will ever feel better, but that’s not true.
It is possible to live with these challenges and feel happy again.
Here are ten strategies that can help you find your way forward when your world feels like it is crumbling.
- Accept what is. One of the hardest parts of facing a crisis is accepting that it is, in fact, happening. You may want to avoid, deny, and reject the circumstance to protect yourself, but you must instead accept what you are experiencing is happening. When you accept it, you can begin to move forward.
- Face what’s happening to you and move forward, at least a little. When you feel overwhelmed, it can be tempting to hide your head in the sand, ignoring the problem and hesitating to take action. While this strategy can provide some very short-term relief, it also prolongs the crisis. Instead, you must face the circumstances and have faith that you can handle them. If you need help assessing how best to move forward, get professional guidance. This might mean reaching out to a therapist for emotional support or seeking medical, legal, or other specialized advice.
- Take care of your physical needs. When your distress causes you to neglect your sleeping, eating, and self-care, the stress compounds. Take steps to keep yourself nurtured inside and out because you will need all your resources to navigate this experience.
- Allow escapism. You don’t need to face your concerns every minute of every day. Once you’ve taken some steps forward and cared for your fundamental needs, allow yourself respite. Take a break from thinking about it at all: hide under the covers, watch escapist television, and inform your friends that you will only talk about something else.
- Know who you are. In times of trouble, Buddhists point us toward the mantra: “Help me know who I am”. You are strong enough to deal with your troubles, and you need to remind yourself of that fundamental truth. Be confident in your ability to tolerate the discomfort, be decisive when necessary, and know that this degree of pain is temporary.
- Believe that this can make you more resilient. No life is without its struggles. While it can feel unfair, untenable, and crushing, even the worst of crises can result in an expansion of yourself as a person. In the darkest moments, you can find your light by remembering the mantra in item 5: “Help me to know who I am.” No matter how challenging your circumstances, transcending your troubles will lead you toward a life of deeper meaning.
- Listen to yourself and believe what you hear. When in the midst of challenging times, you must give yourself what you need to feel better. People may offer their advice, but the most important voice is your own.
Ask yourself what you want. What will help you feel better today? It might be that you need to let the dishes slide, or you may want to clean your entire house. You might be yearning for a new challenge, or desperately in need of rest. Go in the direction of what you believe will make you feel better.
- Help people support you. While most people will do their best to support you, they might unknowingly overstep, miscommunicate, or be too mired in their own fear and worry to respond effectively. You can help them by setting limits and holding your boundaries. In some cases, it might best to withhold your news from people whose response might not be constructive. With intention, you can shape how others respond and get the support you need.
- Bring your attention to the good. It is normal to feel consumed by your concerns, but there comes a time when you need to look beyond and be reminded of the good that exists in the world. What books have you loved? What television shows have made you laugh? What mountain, river, ocean, or flower has caused you to feel awe in your lifetime? Who has made you feel appreciated? Redirecting your attention even in the depths of your despair, will give you strength and lift you up.
- Talk to a therapist. Though you feel that your world is crumbling, you do not have to do this alone. A therapist can help you navigate the path forward.
Do not forget that this is a time of need that would test anyone. Despite the hardship you feel today, after decades as a therapist I can promise you that it is your hardest times that result in your greatest evolution. I am happy to help you through this difficult time. Please reach out for help here.