As much as you’d like it to be, the world isn’t this calm, perfect, fairy-tale place.
Discomfort, loss of control, change, pain, overwhelm; these are some of the things I’ve been dealing with this past year.
First, I lost one of the closest people in my life, right before Christmas. Then, I went through my treatment that took quite a physical toll on my body and then finally, in June, I was rear-ended and just recently found out that I will probably end up with a permanent injury that can potentially leave me living with chronic pain.
If I were to use one word in which to describe the way I’ve been feeling these last few months, it’d be “tired.”
I was so tired. Man, was I tired.
I’ll be honest here. I don’t even feel like the same person anymore. While usually I love being organized, active, having everything under control, I felt like everything was falling apart. Like the control I’ve had over my life was slowly slipping away. I had so many things planned for this year, none of which I was able to cross off my list.
There was a short time when I’d ask myself “why is this happening to me?!” but I soon realized that this kind of mindset, or throwing around blame, will not serve me.
Instead, I embraced gratitude.
Things like a loss, grief, major life change- they kind of carve you. Make you feel empty. But that also means that you’re able to carry a lot more.
More love, more gratitude. You start noticing how “good” things were before you got injured, lost a loved one or went through any other major change. You have this new-found appreciation for small things; things that to some, seem insignificant.
When you’re going through bad times, it does often seem like everything is spinning out of control. I’ve been making progress over the last couple of weeks (slow, but progress nonetheless) and these powerful practices for stressed and overwhelmed, is what helped me fight both through the emotional, and physical pain.
POWERFUL PRACTICES FOR STRESSED AND OVERWHELMED
FEEL THE PAIN
Lean into the discomfort. Let yourself feel. Let it all out. Whenever something goes wrong, whenever you’re dealing with any kind of issue- big or small- your first instinct might be to run. Just hide. Mask the pain. You’re thinking “this doesn’t feel good, I do not want to feel this way” and you try to distract yourself, refusing to let yourself feel.
You need to learn to lean into that discomfort. This was especially difficult for me when I lost my Granny. I’ve come to realize that grief is a very individual thing. Some people don’t want to mention, talk about or even think about the loved one they lost. Others can’t stop talking about them, telling their favorite stories, looking through old photo albums. You kind of don’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings, you don’t know what will make them cry, or sad, or angry. So I felt like I was left with it, all by myself. There comes a point when you just have to let yourself feel that pain. Let it rip your heart. You have to lean into it and let yourself feel all those things you’ve been pushing away, things and feelings you’ve been storing someplace deep in your heart.
Those difficult times, times when things are falling apart, is when you have to let yourself feel the pain. If you have to, do it in small doses. Sometimes, the pain eventually goes away. Other times, it changes from a storm to a passing cloud that shows up once in a while. Don’t run from it, don’t let it build up. Let yourself feel.
REALIZE THAT IT TAKES TIME
With some changes, things just never go back to being “normal.” With others, it takes time. When going through a major setback, you want things to go back to being the way they were, immediately. You need to first allow yourself to take some time to process the change and come to terms with the situation. This is one of the things that I need to tell myself constantly, these days: “it takes time, give yourself time.” It’s especially important when recovering from an injury.
I’m used to going through intense workouts at least 4 times a week and I haven’t been able to exercise for almost 12 weeks now. This makes me feel weak and even more so, frustrated. When I can’t even make it through a 30-minute walk with my dog, I feel like crying- not from pain, but from frustration. Again, I then remind myself: “it takes time.” Admittedly, I don’t always do it willingly because duh, I want to feel like my old self NOW. I want to go back to being active and working, cooking, exercising… but well… it takes time.
Aside from things like physical injury, there are so many other minor or major setbacks where this little gentle reminder can help you feel a bit better. Whether you’re looking for a job, long to be in a relationship, trying to get over a breakup- it takes time. The sooner you realize this, the better. It’s okay to take some time off to process everything that’s happening in your life at the moment; whether it be a failure or a disappointment.
EMBRACE THE UNCERTAIN
I have a friend who was devastated when her 5-year relationship ended a few years ago. That was a person she intended to spend the rest of her life with. There was a ton of wine, chocolate, and sobbing involved for the first couple of weeks. Then, she decided that she is making the next 12 months all about herself. That pain was still there, but once she embraced that uncertainty, she went on a beautiful adventure, one that continues to this day. She went on to do all the things she always wanted to try, made new friends, discovered new places, tried new things and realized that she probably wouldn’t be able to grow as much as she had if it wasn’t for that relationship ending.
So go ahead, embrace the uncertain.
HOW YOU RESPOND, MATTERS
Life isn’t meant to be controlled. It’s meant to be lived. This means going through things that change us. It means going through things that aren’t always fun, or pleasant. While you can’t always control the things that happen to you, things you go through, what you can control, is how you react to them.
And that, my friends, is your superpower.
These things, like someone cutting you off on a highway, a coworker being unpleasant, your partner getting on your nerves, a work project falling through- these things have as much power and effect on you, as you give them. Take my accident, for example. I ended up taking a different route to work that day to avoid traffic. At no fault of my own, I got rear-ended and have spent my entire summer being in pain, dealing with fixing my car, setting up a rental, going through doctor to doctor, feeling anxious and basically just not having a very good time. While talking to my mom one day, I said to her: “I have to go through all of this, all because of someone else’s mistake. I did nothing wrong!” My mom looked at me and said: “Paula, it was an accident, these things happen every day, it wasn’t anyone’s fault.”
That’s when I realized that I was holding on to judgment, maybe even resentment. It was at that moment that I realized I could either: a) cry and bitch about how much pain and stress someone else has caused me, or question why on Earth did I decide to take a detour when going to work that day- all of which, in turn, will make me feel even more stressed and frustrated or b) I can accept that it was just that: an accident and all I have to work on now, is getting better. “You’re right,” I said to my mom, remembering that “I am so sorry, are you okay?” were the first words that the other driver has said to me when he approached my car. What good is blaming or name-calling going to do for me? It certainly won’t make things any better, won’t help me deal with my injury or frustration. It was just that. An accident.
So, next time shit hits the fan, things go wrong or you find yourself in a situation where judgment, anger, and frustration is the first thing you turn to, remember that the way you respond to those particular situations, can make all the difference.
Whenever those “bad times” hit you, remember that it’s those moments that we prepare ourselves for, whenever we practice mindfulness, or when we work on self-growth. We want to grow and be better so that when things do go wrong, we know how to respond, how to react.
There is a part of me that just wants to throw in the towel and say “I give up,” take my pain meds, cup of tea and just nap all day, or watch TV, or maybe call someone close and bitch about how bad I’m feeling today and how tired I am of feeling like I have a body of a 90-year old. Instead, I can’t help but still feel very excited about the future. I can’t help but feel grateful for all the beautiful things and people (this includes you guys!) that I have in my life.
It’s those tough times that make you strong, so if there is anything that you’re going through right now, know that I’m with you. You’ve got this.