Sometimes, out of nowhere, major circumstances happen to us that turn our world upside down and make it feel like our whole life is falling apart. Whether you are experiencing a divorce, a huge life change such as moving, a new job, loss of a friendship, a breakup, death of a loved one or an illness — any one of these events, or a combination of them, can make us feel like we will never be OK again. Here is what you can do when you feel like everything is falling apart:
1. Don’t force yourself to remain positive.
Interesting advice, isn’t it? Staying positive is wonderful and can be incredibly helpful. Sometimes, however, forcing yourself to stay positive may result in feelings of hopelessness and resentment. Not being able to truly express how you feel because you’re afraid of being negative can make you feel you like you’re moving backwards rather than forward. During this difficult time give yourself grace. Allow yourself to feel your feelings — sadness, anger, shock, loneliness — and be present with it. It is OK to say, “I can be positive tomorrow,” and to be fully present with how you feel right now. Honoring yourself, your journey and your heartbreak can help you break through to healing.
2. Speak to yourself, and treat yourself, as if you were your child.
If 5-year-old you was crying due to pain, heartbreak or fear, would you criticize them? Self-soothing during difficult times can be incredibly healing and helpful. When you feel upset and start criticizing yourself for your feelings, speak to yourself as you would to the 5-year-old version of you. What would you say? You would likely say things such as, “It is OK,” “You are doing your best,” “I see how hard you are trying,” “Things are hard right now,” and, “It’s OK to be sad.” All of these things are true, no matter what age you are. Even as adults, we still hold an inner child. When that inner child is hurting, it is important to treat ourselves just as we would a child right in front of us: with compassion, respect, patience and understanding.
3. Nourish yourself and practice self-care.
You probably have heard of self-care from various sources, as it is definitely a buzz-word right now. Self- care has become all the rage for good reason — because it is necessary! However, when you are going through a very difficult time, it can (ironically) be difficult to engage in self-care, even when it’s needed the most.
Often when you hear of self-care, you hear of vacations, massages, pedicures and nights out with friends. While all of these suggestions are great ways to engage in caring for yourself, they are not always entirely possible, whether due to financial reasons, illness, lack of support (ie lack of childcare) or severe depression or anxiety. During this difficult time, engaging in self-care might include setting an alarm on your phone to make sure you are hydrating and eating frequently enough, texting a friend, watching your favorite television show, ordering takeout or creating a spa experience at home. When you are feeling depleted, it is especially important to make sure you are caring for the basics: make sure you are eating, even if you are having smaller meals or snacks throughout the day, make sure you are hydrating and try to get quality sleep. While this might sound very simple, it can make a world of difference to make sure your body is rested and your blood sugar is regulated during a time of unknowns, when stress hormones may be released through your body due to big changes.
Caring for yourself at home can be rewarding and beneficial, and might include: using a face mask while listening to a 10-minute meditation on YouTube, following a yoga sequence on YouTube, taking a bath, watching your favorite television show, watching an inspiring Ted Talk, painting your nails, baking, calling a friend or family member, purchasing a new toy for your pet and engaging in play, reading a book, journaling, using adult coloring books, crochet, or lighting a candle and laying in a dark, cool room for five minutes. Self-care does not need to take a great length of time, and can include small things you do throughout the day that add up to make a difference
4. Try to give yourself something to look forward to — even if it’s small.
In this case, the idea of having something to look forward to might look similar to the self-care you can engage in when you’re going through a particularly difficult time. It might look or feel “smaller” than you imagined, but can make a big difference. There is immense pressure in society to perform or to have big events to look forward to, but the body and the brain does rejoice in small joys. It can be hard to think of what there is to look forward to when you are going through a difficult time, so this can be a time to reflect on, appreciate and become centered when engaging in small joys, such as your favorite morning coffee, taking a more scenic drive home from work, listening to your favorite podcast when they release a new episode or even getting some extra sleep on a weekend day or day off from work. It’s OK to look forward to the comfort of staying in bed a bit longer on a weekend day, spending some quiet time reading and/or not having to put on a brave face. It is OK to give yourself permission to “be,” remembering that “being” is absolutely enough.
My wish for you is that you find happiness in yourself before anything or anyone else, and that you realize your worth and how necessary you are on this earth.
Medical/Mental Health disclaimer: If you are finding difficulty with sleeping, getting out of bed, changes in eating habits or overwhelming symptoms of anxiety or depression, please contact your physician or a therapist, even if you are already in treatment. Your medical and mental health providers will want to know about any changes in mental health or medical symptoms so they can help you. If you need to find a therapist, please use search engines to locate someone in your area who can help. You don’t need to go through this alone!