November 30, 2013

The Other Shoe Dropped, Now What?

Sometimes everything is going so smoothly.

I’m loving my work, the home routine is skipping along fairly well, the bills are getting paid, I lost five pounds and the sun is shining. Life. Is. Good. Just like the t-shirt says. The periods in life where this happens are spectacular and greatly contrast other times. They contrast so much, that the skeptic in me starts thinking that maybe things are going too well.

I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, I think to myself. And then, as life has its way of riding high, hitting a peak and descending back down—it happens. The proverbial shoe drops. Crap.

This is usually followed up with a sort of brooding and permeating feeling of discord. Suddenly the skies are dark. Pulling myself out of the wallowing thoughts and pessimistic attitude is a feat. Oddly, I can almost step outside my body and see myself in this state, yet I have a hard time turning it around. So what do you do when life throws in a monkey wrench? This is how I deal with it:

1. Allow yourself time to wallow.

Okay, this is a tricky issue because those that are prone to depression can find it a slippery slope. Obviously if you know you can quickly relapse into a depressive state (or currently are already in one) find someone that can help you through this professionally.

Allowing a little time to be down though, can actually be healthy. What goes up must come down—it’s nature. We need balance and we learn from it. When we need to be down, give in to it a little. Just like our souls need to feel love and joy they also need periods of anger and sadness. This is what makes us human and it is okay.

2. Don’t obsess.

A period of gloom is natural, but obsessing about an issue is not. This can be easier said than done. I know this from personal experience because I used to be a chronic obsessor. I have paced floors, talked an issue over on the phone for hours, lost sleep and found myself staring into space on and off for days.

This is not good for anyone.

Meditation works wonders in helping control the mind. Is meditation easy? For some yes, and others—not so much. If you find meditation a challenge, you probably need it even more. The techniques used in almost every form of meditation teach us to take our thoughts and release them. This becomes invaluable to an obsessive mind. Try a couple forms of meditation—there are tons available. If you already have a form you practice, then take this time to practice more. Let go of it.

3. Distraction is key.

Call up a friend and go to lunch. Take the kids to a park or museum. Rent or go see a movie. Read a book. Do whatever it takes to distract the mind. I know those negative thoughts and feelings can still pop up when we are doing something we enjoy, but try to let them go and focus on the moment at hand. Sometimes, when we step away from the mental loops and allow something else to fill our brains, we see the issue differently.

Distractions also help prevent us from slipping into a depressive state. I’m certainly not saying that dinner and a movie is a replacement for anti-depresants or professional counseling, but they take your mind off—even temporarily—of the stuff that is bothering you. This is a start.

4. Ask for advice.

A third party’s observation can sometimes give crucial insight to a dilemma. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in the situation we can’t see the obvious solutions. This reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago.

A truck was stuck in a traffic jam that was backed up for at least a mile. As it approached a low lying bridge, the driver thought it may not fit underneath, but was frustrated at the time wasted so far and didn’t see a way out other than through. Slowly he pulled under the bridge and heard a scraping noise above his trailer. He put on the brakes, and then gently pressed the gas pedal, but realized he was indeed stuck. Angry drivers behind him blew their horns as he got out of his truck to assess the damage.

Soon, people were leaving their cars and making their way up to the driver to tell him off. Yelling and conflict ensued. Suddenly a young girl—about the age of six—appeared next to her father. He tried to usher her back to the car, but she stood firmly and pointed to the truck’s wheels. “Why don’t you try letting a little air out of the tires?” she suggested. The fighting quickly stopped abruptly and before long, the truck was easing it’s way under the bridge with slightly less air in the tires.

I doubt whether this story is true, but the point of it is what is important. An outside perspective can be just what you need.

5. Ride it out.

You know the phrase: This too shall pass. Life is a series of ups and downs, as well as plateaus. I know it kind of sucks right this minute, but it will most likely change. Maybe you lost your job? Maybe you are getting a divorce? Maybe you recently lost someone dear to you? No matter what is the cause of this sudden change in plans, things do get better. It may take time and outside help, but life does turn around.

Think about times in the past when you struggled with something. Eventually you felt better, right? Perhaps you were effected or hurt afterwards, but we learn from those bumps in the road. This leads me to my next tip…

6. Learn from it.

Not every problem is caused directly by us, but most of the time we at least played a small part in it. So you’ve taken time to wallow and you’ve stopped obsessing. Now is the time to re-assess and figure out how to avoid this in the future (if possible). History repeats itself, but if we pay attention we can sometimes avert a crisis.

Look back at the steps you took and everyone that played a part in the problem. What could you have done differently? Did you react negatively? Were you not prepared for something? Is there something you would change if you could? Just like a coach goes through all the plays after a game, take some time to think about how the whole problem came to be.

7. Forgive yourself.

Forgive yourself for what you said or making a mistake. Forgive yourself for how you feel now. We are human and we are living among humans.

We are bound to screw up from time to time so expect it. This is a part of the journey. No one said it would be easy, so allow for the bumps and bruises. Tomorrow is another day and we will start again. Most of all, while forgiving yourself, forgive all those involved too. Harboring resentment or hurtful feelings does not help anyone.

Sometimes we are faced with change and we aren’t ready for it. Sometimes we get blown over or are metaphorically punched in the stomach and just can’t catch our breath. This happens to all of us and is inevitable, but you can find a way back on your feet. I promise.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo credit: Pixoto

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