What to do when life storms around you
In the last 6 months, I’ve lost my job, started a new one, dealt with two deaths in my family, gone through a sort of a break up, broken up with a friend, and dealt with pretty major amounts of stress and upheaval in one of my other jobs. My dad was diagnosed with some skin cancer (after a diabetes diagnosis last fall), I’ve done 7 major work projects, and my best friend moved to Utah. It would seem that the ocean of my life is pretty stormy right now.
And that’s…difficult. How could it not be? Change, although good for us, is by its very definition, uncomfortable. And my poor system has gone through a lot of change in the past six months. Even more if you look at the past year. Some of it has been amazing. That new job? It’s the best… except when it’s the worst. All that upheaval? You guessed it. But losing my 27 year old cousin to cancer? There’s no good way to say it: that kind of pain sucks.
So how, when everything is crashing down around our ears, do we rise? How do we look around at our situation, our change, our stress, and find the upward motion? How do we calm the ocean of our lives and right the ship?
I’ll never claim to have all the answers. But here’s some ideas about what works for me:
-find your net. When the storms start to rage, find the people who will catch you and pull you back. Your friends, your co workers, your family. Your dog. Your gym buddies. Find them. Lean on them. Let them love you and take care of you. Let them take you to dinner. Let them text you to ask how you’re doing. Reach out to them when you can’t and let them comfort you when you can. The night I found out we’d lost my cousin Blake, two of my dearest friends, who live thousands of miles away, helped me organize an impromptu long distance movie night. We went and got snacks, and we each started the same movie at the same time so we could watch it “together” on facebook messenger. Silly? Maybe. But I loved every second of it.
-Use your systems. We all have them. I meal plan, make obsessive schedules and lists, check my calendar every night, and try to do a chore before I get in my bed. Am I perfect at these? No. But when everything is a mess, some structure- any structure- can be helpful. Develop your habits during times of calm waters so when the storms come you can rely on them.
-Move your body. Go for long walks, take a lot of yoga, stretch on the living room floor. Do anything, so long as it gets you moving. I truly believe the best cure for an anxious mind is a workout so difficult you can’t think about anything else. It’s brutal, but very, very effective.
-Let yourself off the hook. Sometimes, you’ll need more sleep then you’re used to. Sometimes you won’t be able to focus as well. Sometimes you’ll have a short temper. When you’re going through those storms, let them be scary. Give yourself permission to take extra naps, say no to things that will stress you further. Indulge in as much self care as you can handle.
-Don’t lose yourself in the storm. Don’t throw in the towel on your food plan, or your workout plan. Don’t spend 36 straight hours bingeing Orange is The New Black. Do your best to take good care of yourself which means staying active, eating good food and leaving the house.
-Take it one day at a time. It can be easy, in the storm, to think ahead. Well, the next time I’ll see the people at this funeral will be at the next one- that’s sure to be Grandma. Those kinds of thoughts are not helpful. Try to think instead “it’s nice to see all these people. I’m glad we could all be together today, even though we are all grieving.”
-put your shoulder against the wind and remember it will be over eventually. Nothing lasts forever, and this season will pass too.
Storms are a part of life. But we can whether them. And when we come out, we’ll be stronger, and happier. In the meantime, chin up, my lovelies. And soldier on.
Superhero action of the day: If you’re in the middle of a storm, find a way to ground yourself today. If you know someone in a storm- reach out and see if they’re looking for a lifeline and don’t know how to ask.