Life takes twists and turns. Just when it seems you've figured things out, that metaphorical rug can get yanked out from under you. It can leave you spinning and wondering which way is up... or out! A sucker-punch can come from anywhere, a divorce, a terrible boss, an impossible project, a bad loss, or a family conflict, to name a few. It can be unexpected and disorienting.
So, how do you pull yourself up by the boot-straps, get back on the horse, and restore your mojo after a crisis? Here are a few tips for getting unstuck, lifting your mood, and redefining your course.
What are you thankful for today? After all, not everything is a mess! Start a journal of what is going right. Spend at least two minutes each day thinking about one positive thing that occurred that day, or a distant fond memory that makes you smile. You'll actually change your brain structure over time to think more positively, naturally, by doing so. Neuroscientists have found that neurons that fire together, wire together. So get to work on changing your neural pathways.
Sometimes bad things really do come your way. The marriage is not working out, the job turned sour, or you’ve got a child with an emotional problem. It’s important to mourn the loss of what you might have had. Grief feels like depression, but it’s really something different. It is the necessary unhappiness required to adsorb your hurt and move forward. Healthy grief leads to healthy acceptance, which then opens the door to taking constructive action.
Notice Your Body:
Where do you feel stress? Is it in your neck, your stomach, or your back? Stretch, move, exercise. Be mindful of your physical experience. Those aches and pains are indicators that you need to breathe, move, and play. It's no secret that exercise has many benefits. It improves mood by increasing feel-good chemicals, like endorphins, and reducing stress hormones, like cortisol. Find a yoga class, get to the gym, go for a walk, or a bike ride. Do your best to keep a regular sleep schedule and eat healthily.
What are you saying to yourself about the situation? Neuroscience and Cognitive Therapy have demonstrated that the way we think effects the way we feel. Is there a less extreme way to describe what's happening in your life? If it seems hopeless, impossible, or devastating, search for the glimmer of light that keeps you going and adjust your vocabulary. It's easier to change a situation that feels disappointing, challenging, and frustrating rather than awful. Take your feelings-words down a notch to less intense ones and see how that changes your perspective.
What will your life look like when this problem is getting better? Envision yourself in that place. Time heals. Whatever the situation, your experience of it is temporary. Notice the feelings you have now, acknowledge them, give them a name and let them go. It's a sort of Zen experience that allows feelings to float by like a cloud in the sky or a leaf on a stream, simply noticing them and letting them go. Don't get wrapped up in them.
Identify Your Strengths:
Remember what makes you the wonderful brother, sister, friend, colleague, or parent that you are. Take stock of your talents, skills, and values. They define you, not the external stresses that are bringing you down. Own your strengths. Be a friend to yourself.
A Proactive Plan:
There is nothing like being effective to set your mind at ease. What one thing can you do this week to effect change in the problem situation? Can you schedule a meeting with your boss or consider options outside your company? Can you communicate with your spouse about your concerns in the marriage or begin exploring mediation? Can you talk to your child's teachers and counselors or establish increased support at home? Start by asking questions and communicating with those around you. Remember, you're not alone in this experience.
It’s okay to lean on friends and family during times of need. How have you felt when a friend came to you with a problem? I'm willing to bet you were happy to help! The same applies to you. Reach out, remember people love you. Get off the couch, change your scenery, and be social. If that's not enough, don't be afraid to call a therapist. The stigma about therapy that once existed is now obsolete. Therapeutic intervention has hard science to back it up. In other words, it's legit. Your mental health deserves the same attention you give to your physical, financial, or spiritual health.
Heather Edwards, MA, LMHC is a therapist and life coach located in New York City. She can be reached for consultation at:
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