There are days … and then there are weeks ……

I previously shared my emergency toolkit which I use to get through troubling situations without spiraling out of control into despair.

Sometimes, I still spiral out of control into despair. And when that happens, I’ve made myself a runbook.

When one of these alerts fire on repeat, for days or weeks on end

  • scream at someone because you’re upset about something else
  • find somebody to complain to and seek validation
  • eat junk food because it’s easy and there and you don’t have energy to figure out something better
  • play Candy Crush to distract you from thinking about hard things
  • use humor to deflect being uncomfortable with something
  • binge watch TV to keep your mind off what’s going on
  • clean so that you can feel good about something because nothing else feels good
  • not workout because you don’t have an ounce of energy left
  • cling to others so they will make me feel better when I won’t
  • ignore my calendar and plans because I don’t feel up to it

… choose an option:

1. Do that thing.

Maybe it’s not ideal, but it’s certainly not abnormal. And you’ll be ok.
There’s no deadline for processing pain. It will wait.

2. Do some work to process the emotion.

This is work with intention here.
Start at the first step, and don’t move to the next step until you can check off the previous one.
It’s ok to take one step forward and two steps back here, just keep going.

Let it take as long as it takes — don’t try to force it. Know that time really does make it easier.

Get in touch with the physical part of the emotional pain.

  1. Notice how it feels in your body. Put it in words; describe it.
  2. Allow those painful vibrations to be there. In your throat, your chest, your legs, your shoulders, your head. Allow it as you clean the house, drive your car, or talk in a Zoom call.
  •  “I can focus more on what it feels like in my body than why I’m feeling it.”

Notice the less-than-effective actions you are inclined to take, and work on not taking them.

  1. Acknowledge the action you want to take. Say it out loud, in your head, or write it down.
  2. Say “That won’t help” or “That’s not worth it” every time you notice it. And say, “This is {name the feeling you’re feeling}. We’re doing {that feeling} for now.”
  3. Categorize it as one of the four types of actions people take when feeling pain.
    • Denying (I’m fine really!)
    • Distracting (I see you Netflix and cupcakes)
    • Reacting (sorry kids, I’m mad about something else really, not that you left the dishes in the sink)
    • Allowing (It’s understandable that I’m feeling {the feeling}, and I know it’s going to take some time to get through it, and that’s ok.)
  •  “I am curious about what I am thinking/what I want to do. e.g. Isn’t it fascinating how I think this jar of peanutbutter delivered a bite at a time via this spoon here will make me feel better! That’s interesting that they just yelled at me, I wonder what’s going on for them right now? It’s pretty intriguing that I dove into my work without acknowledging that this change doesn’t feel great.”
  •  “I am ready to allow the {this named feeling} instead of {category of action} for now.”

Identify the facts of the situation, and what you believe about them.

  1. By allowing the emotion, your thoughts start to flow more clearly. Observe them. Write them down. Don’t try to change them, especially when there are a lot of them.
  2. Of those things, pick out what no one would be successful in seeing differently. Numbers, quotes, direct observations. If you don’t have any, ask how you know your thought until you can prove how you know with a fact that would be impossible to argue.
  3. Check-in to see if you have thoughts that can keep you stuck, like “I’m better than this” or “It’s just how it is and there’s nothing I can do”. It’s normal to think these types of things, and letting go of the judgement and disempowerment can be helpful in moving to acceptance and processing. Self-care and self-compassion win.
  4. With the facts separated from your judgements of the facts, look through the thoughts again and own the ones you’re going to keep. They represent what you are choosing to believe about the situation, and that’s ok.
  5. If you need to, forgive myself for your part in it. Accept yourself for who you are, that you are more than this thing. You are good.
  •  “I am choosing to believe these things, and it makes sense, and there’s nothing wrong with me believing them. I’m still an amazing human.” (You have to relax into this, not only logically acknowledge it. No cheating.)

Move into and through the pain cleanly.

  1. It is time to let the thoughts that are causing this pain go. Acknowledge that you’re holding onto them, which will allow you to release them more easily.
  2. Just like you can create pain with your mind, you can create relief with your mind. You can learn from this if you go in without resistance. Take some time and write down your answers to these questions:
    1. How can I use this pain?
    2. How is this perfect for me?
    3. How can I accept this with grace?
  3. If the thoughts come back, that’s ok. It’s a process. It’s not one and done.
  •  “I want to figure out what I want to do next.”

One last question …

What can I do that comes from peace, is for me, and is not trying to change anything? 

3. Get help

Sometimes, you need a friend or a coach to help you get through this process, who can meet you where you’re at and remind you that you’re ok there. Other times, you’ll need a therapist or doctor who is trained to work with us when our minds aren’t in a healthy state.

It's never a bad thing to get help. Humans are meant to come together to get through life.

Certainly let me know if I can help!

Q: Do I need to explain what I’m going through to people? When they sincerely ask how are you doing, should I tell them? If I hide it from them, am I denying it?
A: Totally up to you. Depends on the relationship and the situation. “Doing well, thank you for asking” is not a lie. You can take an opportunity to set expectations if that seems helpful, with or without explanation.