My normally positive, sunshine-y niece had a rough day and told me, “You know what I learned? ‘Life sucks and then you die.’” I was so sad to hear that jaded phrase from her. Now, granted, she is getting to the precipice of puberty — you remember, that fun time when your hormones are bouncing around inside you like in a bounce house and you can go from euphoria to tears in mere seconds — but this was a pretty “normal” reaction to a crappy thing that happened.
Sometimes, there’s just no sugar-coating it. Sometimes, it really does suck. What to do? I have tried several coping techniques in the past that don’t work — or work for a short time but have disastrous consequences. Things like:
* Eating brownie fudge sundaes. Make a pan of brownies. Pour on chocolate syrup and (if you live in Texas and can get Blue Bell) Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream. Repeat at least daily until the pan is empty, then start over. Disastrous consequences: [You probably guessed this...] Weight gain. And that doesn’t make me feel better!
* Drinking a lot of wine, vodka or other alcoholic beverage. Temporary numbing and occasional hilarity. But similar to those wild hormones in puberty, the emotions can turn on a dime. Disastrous consequences may include doing things you’ll regret, hangovers, drunk dialing or texting (see doing things you’ll regret), and weight gain.
* Shopping or other ways to spend money, especially more money than you have. Can be crazy fun in the moment, but if you’re racking up those credit card bills…Disastrous consequences!
Too much of pretty much anything isn’t going to be good. (Even too much sex can cause bladder infections!) Balance in everything is important, but now I’ve got a few more healthy ways to cope with the times that suck:
- Hang out with some really great friends. Even if it’s just a virtual get-together on a conference call, the support of good friends is hard to beat. People who understand what you’re going through, who love and support you no matter what, and who will also nudge you when you’re going off-course — I am so fortunate to have an amazing group like this.
- Find the funny. If possible, if you can laugh at yourself or the situation, it makes it easier. For me, the friends help me see this. And if you can’t laugh at the situation or at yourself, watching a funny movie or a silly video on YouTube can lift your spirits. (A favorite funny of mine is Engrish.com. This one is my all-time fave of bad English translation.)
- Feel the sadness, anger, fear. Believe me, I tried avoiding it. I’m quite good at stuffing it. The problem is, stuffing affects your body in strange and bad ways, everything from headaches to ulcers to knots in your muscles to IBS or worse! “What we resist, persists.” And if you actually give yourself a chance to just feel the emotion, it passes MUCH more quickly. If you’re scared that once you open that door, you’ll never be able to stop the torrent of emotion, be reassured: if you really allow yourself to feel it, it only lasts about 90 seconds. Now, granted you might have a few waves of 90-second emotion, but the body is actually very good at processing and releasing these things.
- Find the good. Rarely are things ALL bad. Even on the darkest days, you can find something to appreciate, even if it’s something small like “I love my cat.” (I do!) The brain is always looking for evidence that it’s right, so if you’re focused on negative, you’ll find more and more negative. If you focus on positive, even if it’s tough at first to get off the negative, you will find more and more positive. (Hopefully not in more and more cats. Remember, too much of anything isn’t a good thing!)
- Remember, this too shall pass. The sun will come up again tomorrow. One thing about getting older (yay), I do realize that things never, never stay the same. (Even those things we wish would!) From the broader perspective, this will be one small part of my life. And even if the metaphoric sun doesn’t come up on this problem or time period for awhile, I know it will eventually. Trusting that, having that faith, gives me relief.
[Update - can't believe I forgot these! Thanks, Steph for the reminder.]
- Get physical! Move your body. Even if it’s just a gentle walk, getting the body moving helps move that emotion through the system. “E-motion” — you need motion! I also really enjoy boxing for getting anger out. And you don’t need a fancy punching bag. You can always just use pillows or your mattress.
- Music soothes the soul. Music can be a powerful trigger. I have playlists for anger, sadness and happy. While the sad music can be helpful to feel the emotion, don’t stay there too long. Give yourself a time limit and then put on some good tunes to shake your booty to.
- Nature heals. Martha Beck talks about the healing effects of nature in her new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World. When you’re feeling low, get outside. If possible, get some sunshine. Walk around barefoot, or lean up against a tree for support. Notice how nature is constantly renewing itself. Your life will too.
- Positivity on the horizon. Give yourself something to look forward to — whether that’s lunch with a friend, a weekend away, or setting aside some time to read a really good book. Knowing that you’ve got a little reward in the future can help get you through.
What do you do? It would be great to hear what works for you and have a grab-bag of ideas to try.