This has been a rough week. Not for myself, but for many people I have come in contact with. Sadness, worry, stress, loss, change. And not just small issues either but major life-changing events. The transition from the known to the unknown can be scary because we don’t know what to expect and it gives a feeling of powerlessness. Feeling powerless and out of control can trigger anxiety and depression and make a person feel even worse. Then what do we do?
Give Yourself Permission
The first step in handling hard stuff is to give yourself permission to feel. To cry, to fear, to worry, to feel whatever you need to. You have to go through it to get beyond it. If you try to ignore it or repress it or delay it, it will wait, and it will grow and seep out when you don’t want it to. Giving yourself permission to feel puts you in charge and thus begins regaining control.
Processing it can also be helped by doing something with a tangible result such as writing, drawing, or talking. When worries stay in your head they tend to spiral, going round and round and adding other thoughts to them from the past and making you feel worse. Writing and talking require a different part of the brain than thinking, and as we organize and formalize our thoughts they stop spiraling and start forming into a plan that we can start to take charge of.
Be Your Own Counselor
The next steps in feeling better are creating that plan and counseling ourselves. Ask yourself regarding this event, what do you fear? What are you worried about? And then make a plan for it. For example if you are asking yourself, “what if I lose my job?” answer the question. What if you do? What will you do? You probably know. Often the worry leading up to the event is worse than the event itself. Making a plan to address what you fear gives you back that sense of control. Even if the thing you fear doesn’t happen, you are prepared just in case.
Be your own counselor in your head. Say nice things to yourself. Comfort yourself. Tell yourself the loving nurturing things you would say to a friend in need. Instead of being your own worst enemy, be your own best friend. Albert Ellis once said “Don’t underestimate your ability to handle adversity.” You may not feel like you can handle this, but you’ve been through hard stuff before and you can handle this too.