When life becomes too much, it’s so easy to get sucked into the whirlwind of anxiety, depression and hopelessness. If things are combined, constant and chaotic enough; it can leave you feeling like you’re in a paralysis; unable to move, make decisions and stuck in that ‘new life’ forever, ever and ever.
Good news is that I learned uncertainty and chaos eventually pass and new normal’s are worth embracing. I feel strongly about this from my own experiences and real life examples where I had to make a choice of pulling myself out of the darkest, worst of times. I learned that out of hundreds of methods out there., it is for certain that a few simple practices will help you really prepare for the “when it rains, it pours” periods in life. You don’t have to keep feeling the surprise aftermath of being knocked down underneath your feet. Life can be hard and still feel worth it at the same time.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve felt comfortable in chaos. Growing up in a divorced family that had two completely opposite sets of rules, to being the older sibling with a different set of expectations; I always felt like life was anything, but steady and calm. That was OK, life was a circus and I survived it just fine. I felt that I was created to handle the storms in life; not only for myself, but for those around me. I use to I thrived in chaos until the chaos I was dealing with became my own brain and it’s chemical imbalances.
As life carried on, the realization came with it that challenges we face as an adult become so much harder. I’ve realized some people have it easier in life, some have it harder; but we all experience the eye opening, potential learning circumstances that come our way from life’s uncertainty and chaos. Examples so commonly will include our own shame, decisions, our past or perhaps the future and mix that with just the unfair, random crap parts of life. I’d include my own examples, like when situations are minor, but annoying enough to make it a bad day like when I get a flat tire while becoming sick and nothing going as planned. Than we run into the more serious situations that happen to all of us; like making a bad decision,knowing it sucks, feels so unfulfilling, and having to pay consequences. Or being told to do something from an older and wiser adult, choosing to do it your way anyway and suffering consequences. I know only one thing from experiencing so much ongoing, unstoppable, uncontrollable and uncertain chaos which is that you have a opportunity to come out with a new perspective on some topic in life, but it is your choice. Just pure Life experience can be a free education topic & one that you can’t pay for…
Skip forward to being in your mid-twenties and life seems to get harder, challenges seem more complex and worst of all; they happen all at once. I call these periods of life: transitions. They’re uncomfortable. They’re isn’t always a bright side. But maybe we can make it our goal to make sure we have some lesson to be learned or use it for a part of your story to make you who you are . I can handle these hard times, not with grace and not with perfection, but I know I’ll make it through. Even when my depressive episodes enter and the feeling of worthiness goes away, I know I’ll have good days again and I’m sure you can relate too as we all have had our unique times where we’re forced to navigate difficulties.
What I have the hardest time grasping my head around is the unofficial, but totally true… the basic rule in life that seems we all experience which is having to go through so many transitions at one time. How can one person possibly do that and thrive? Maybe they handle the issue well, but is it possible to handle several life changing circumstances while keeping in the right mindset easy? Maybe. But definitely not without purpose and practice.
At 27 and someone who is comfortable in chaos; I still get knocked on my feet and struggle to cope with the magnitude of the uncertainty in life and the chaos it brings when situations begin to stack on top of each other, day after day and one by one. I’ve failed miserably at keeping a open mind in the midst of a hardship. After a few other things like loved ones being diagnosed with deadly diseases, betrayal and being diagnosed with my anxiety disorder… I realized I couldn’t live any longer in this constant trap of chaos. I started to become more mindful and open to listen for ways I can deal with these circumstances as they come. I can’t control a lot of things in life so instead I’ll focus finding what I can. I know that reading simple positive mantras while contemplating my life isn’t very motivating. I know to count to three during an anxiety attack, but does it always help? Definitely not. With purpose and setting out to make a plan, I now have a few concrete steps that ground me no matter what situations life throws at me.
It’s always a work in progress, it doesn’t work for everyone; but through trial & error, I found what works for me. I can now follow at least 3 simple steps when I begin spinning into the whirlwind of chaos and uncertainty. Even this last month, I was diagnosed with a life changing disorder, while just adjusting to the new invitation I extended to a family member (living with mental illness) to move in to avoid further hardships for them and than I’m in my first scary car crash which totaled my car and now leaves us paying for expensive fees and rental cars as my husband’s car is out of control too. It’s raining and pouring in my life, from one transition to another, one change than the next; but I’ll be the first to say people have it worse out there though and I’m not going to lose hope. If they can do it, I at least owe it my best shot. I know I made it out of harder times before.
So because I know that talking about realities that can feel so isolating, but actually happen to all of us and can help people deal with the pure hard times in life; maybe we can use that as motivation to find helpful steps that work for you. Until than, here are steps that I know to rely on time and time again.
- Constructing the Right Frame of Mind:
Understanding hardships are a part of life. I’m not meant to feel happy and content all the time. Even the great accomplishment that I might have just achieved yesterday, is yesterdays celebration and this new hell-ish circumstance I may be going through today doesn’t take from the celebration yesterday. I know that actions come from thoughts so to avoid making radical decisions that I don’t want to regret later; I try harder to take control of my mind and my thoughts. I push the negative thoughts out or at least die trying, and rephrase the questions that naturally enter. For example: “Why does this have to happen to me, again?” will not help me see anything in a new light and yet it’s always the first question that pops up in my head. It wasn’t till I learned how powerful our minds are and that it’s possible to re-train them that I began shaping the question into “I’ve done this before, I can do it again”, which now gives me the opportunity to change or grow, through uncertainty. Feeling in control of my mindset is not only something I CAN do and CAN control (unlike many things); but it’s so important to making it through the circumstances. Speaking from just real life experiences and periods in the journey, being positive and optimistic has no negative side effects. Being pessimistic can ruin almost anything.
- Prioritizing my Self-Care and Self-Love… above all.
Setting up routines and sticking to them, for myself, is the best way I learned keep a sense of normality and calm in the midst of these circumstances. If I take on too much and commit to too many plans and people and obligations; I’ll feel so overwhelmed that it’s inevitable before I’m emotionally drained. Instead, I’m learning to pace myself and choose my time and energy wisely which is my form of self-care. I have to align my actions with my values during these periods which isn’t always easy. I’ve had to give up serving and volunteering which I loved. I’ve missed out on hanging out with my best friends. I wanted to do all those things and more, but I’m contingent because I must use the right mind. Even choosing to say “no” and spend time with my son, my family or myself is one of my most important values and since it’s what I learned that I needed most during life storms; I take care of that need to keep on keep-in’ on. I have only learned this by watching people do it around me. They break down barriers and stand strong in the worst times of their life because they built up the courage to love them self like they deserve.
- Not Isolating, but Socializing with the Right People.
A concept borrowed from Stephen Covey’s, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, teaches a general concept that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. After understanding how much truth that holds, I realized I needed to evaluate a circle of friends who influence me and have values, dreams and ambitions that align with mine. Surrounding yourself with people who lift you up and inspire you is not only a healthy way to live life, but for me it helps me use these back-to-back hard times to grow into a healthier version of myself because I’m surrounded by people who can tell me a different perspective when it seems so cloudy to see myself. To prove that it’s healthy to socialize, and with the right people, research shows that connection helps reduce stress. So while I’m typically one that can easily isolate myself—I’ll push myself to talk to my favorite humans during the ‘rainy days’ in life because I know it’s exactly what I need.
- There is a super cheesy quote that goes, “You can’t control the waves; but you can learn to surf”. And boy, how true is that.
- While I don’t believe a lot of our hardships are designed with intention, made for us only to thrive and become our best self in; I do believe they happen, inevitably and you have the option to give up or keep going forward. As you move through it, In time you may understand that you are so much stronger than you think. Life experience is our best teacher. I also pay such close attention to how others handle the storms in life and I’ve watched time and time again the most courageous people fight in the midst of chaos or remain calm when they’re dealing with abrupt life changes that I have yet to deal with myself. This is where I’m introduced to these steps that I can rely on. The real life experience and people that motivate me help me get to the next stage in my life. Just like surfing is learned by practice, not through a how-to book; I don’t think these situations are something you learn in a book. I learned the hard way how to find tips for me that will make certain I walk with a sense of peace or resist the urge to feel defeated during the chaos. I know if I can do it, anyone can.