One hopes to never get disappointing or shocking news, but life is difficult. We’re often dealt more than we think we can handle and are seldom equipped with the right tools to do so. At least, that’s been my experience. We can spend a lot of time spinning our wheels and engaging in unhelpful activities. All we really want after a while is to move on. Here’s how I deal with the first stages of a crisis and get to a place where I can begin actually dealing with the problem.
Note: For those who read my blog, you know that I underwent a surgery I thought would put an end to this year’s health problems. Last week I got word that it didn’t and that I could be in for a longer process than I thought. While it’s not serious, it’s emotionally stressful. I went through all kinds of emotions and wrote all kinds of blog posts. Finally, I realized the only advice I could rightfully give is how to survive the first days of shock and how to move out of it, because that’s what I wanted to read.
Let it out.
It’s natural to be upset, disappointed, angry, frustrated and/or shocked. I was all of these things. I spent pretty much the first four hours oscillating between anger and tears. I always know I’m going to go through this, so I just let it come. This isn’t a stage to short-cut. It will come out sooner or later, and it’s been my experience that later is worse.
Make the space to regroup.
You can’t just jump back into life and work like nothing’s going on, as tempting as it is. In my case, I got my bad news at the end of the day so I took the following day off. I needed the opportunity to get enough sleep, move at a natural pace through my morning and deal with any leftover emotions from the previous day.
Fill up your cup.
While I’m not religious, I believe that we all have a spiritual aspect to ourselves. I tend to think that we have spiritual reservoirs in which we make deposits and withdrawals. After a big withdrawal, it’s necessary to make some deposits. I call this “filling up my cup.” I spend time with family, watch a funny movie (laughter is a high-dollar deposit in my book), read meditation books, and hang around people who I think really have the life thing figured out. I always walk away from them feeling like they’ve rubbed off a little bit.
Process. Process. And process some more.
Emotions are flying, stress hormones abound. I’ve never been able to get a hold on a single sensible idea for more than 10 minutes when something like this happens. After every emotion possible has run out, then start processing them. Examine each emotion individually. There’s usually more than one factor playing into your emotional state. For me, anxiety over my job and leftover emotions from my past were showing up around the real problem. Separate your emotions out, deal with the ones you need to. I can toss out the job anxiety and regrets from my past. They don’t need to be here right now. It’s much easier to deal with one thing at a time.
Research. Ask questions.
Research does not equal Googling your condition. Good lord, no. If you want to send yourself to the padded cell, go for it. Find a legitimate source and start researching your options. Talk to a professional in the field and ask questions. It took me 5 days to ask my doctor what the heck all this meant. From there, I could start researching.
There’s a comfort in knowing. Fear of getting an answer we don’t want to hear can keep us from asking. It doesn’t make the answer any less true, unfortunately. Knowing exactly where I’m at allows me to figure out where I’m going. Think about it: if you asked me for directions to my house, my first question would be “where are you coming from?”
Make a battle plan.
I like the phrase “battle plan” because it suggests you are planning for a fight. And that connotes that you aren’t about to give up and let life steamroll you. This makes me feel empowered, as opposed to overpowered.
Start with the things that you can control. For me, it’s exercise, diet, and stress levels. So my battle plan pertains to those things. If you set yourself up to battle something you can’t control, you will lose in so many ways.
Detail your battle plan on paper. In what ways are you going to attack your situation? What are the things that can take a back seat in your life for a while? Who can you trust for good support? In my case, I write down my diet, my exercise schedule, and how I’m going to reduce stress. It’s important to write it down because at some point you’ll say either “I’ve got this down, I don’t need help” or “screw it, it’s not working anyway.” Been there, done that. It doesn’t work. If you’ve got it, you’ll forget it, and if you think it’s not working, then you should reevaluate, not throw it away.
Make a plan for when you lose your head again. You will probably become an emotional mess again at some point, so write down the process by which you got out of it this time (like this post!) so you can refer to it later. Write down the things that made you feel better (family, funny movies, coffee with friends) and the things that didn’t (isolating, eating comfort food, imagining the worst). When you are emotionally stressed, it’s easier to follow some self-tested steps than trying to figure it out all over again.
A friend of mine says that if you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward. At the very least, remember to keep moving forward.