“Do you ever fall apart?”
That’s the question someone asked me recently and it’s one I really want to answer.
Do I lose the plot? Get angry? Focus on the negatives sometimes? Let life get to me? Feel sad? Sulk? Cry? Scream?
For all my talk and focus on removing roadblocks, pushing past excuses, choosing happiness, and focussing on the positives in life, do I sometimes just drop my bundle? Do I have moments when I let frustration overwhelm me, when I get stressed, beat myself up, or simply lose it irrationally for no reason?
The answer is easy: Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, and yep.
Of course I do. I’m human and we all have our moments. No matter how resilient, positive and strong we are, we’re emotional creatures and it happens. And it’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok – it’s totally normal!
The key is, I have strategies in place to ensure the moments when I fall apart are just that – moments. They happen, but then I get back on track.
- Allow yourself to feel.
Emotions are valid; they’re part of being human. Suppressing emotions and pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away, in fact, it does the opposite and is a recipe for disaster.
Ignored emotions often build under the surface, bubbling away until you can’t contain them any longer. And then you burst.
I allow myself to feel. That means I acknowledge my emotions and let myself experience them. I’m sad sometimes and I don’t pretend that I’m not.
By allowing myself to feel an emotion, I move through it much more quickly than if I deny it.
- Realise it’s a moment and it will pass.
While I allow myself to feel my emotions, I also see them for what they are – a moment in time. A temporary state. Something that will pass. Yes, I experience them, but then I do my best to move onto something more positive and productive. I choose to be a creator of my life, rather than a victim (read my blog from last week if you want to learn more).
I try to look at my emotions objectively and give myself a time limit. If I’m having a bad day, my internal dialogue might go something like this:
“Ok, so I’m feeling really down today. That’s ok. I’m going to let myself have it. Today I have permission to be sad, but tomorrow is a new day and I’m going to make different choices.”
Of course, the emotion may still be there the next day – particularly if it’s something big like grief – but you might then make the choice to live with it, not in it; taking control as much as you can.
What if it’s not a moment? What if it’s all consuming?
It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of depression to recognise when your sad emotional state may be something more serious.
According to beyondblue, “by rule of thumb, a person may be depressed if he or she has felt sad, down or miserable most of the time for more than two consecutive weeks and/or has lost interest or pleasure in most of his or her usual activities”.
If that’s you, it’s time to make an appointment with your GP. There’s a huge amount of support and help available.
- Control your controllables.
Control your controllables and let the rest go. Living by this mantra has changed my life. I don’t always get it right, but I try.
Bad things will happen. People will die too young; loved ones will suffer; relationships will break down; and you or a family member will get sick. It’s not fair and sometimes life sucks.
But while you can’t control a lot of what happens, you can control how you respond to it. You have that power.
Similarly, you can’t control other people; you can only control yourself. Recognising this is a game-changer.
You are responsible for your behaviour and you can’t help other people if they won’t help themselves. Yes, you can support, love, and care; but you can’t save them or do the work for them.
- Write it down.
I’m a writer, so this one comes naturally to me, but it’s a great technique anyone can use.
If something in your world is falling apart, your relationship sucks, or you’re not where you want to be – write it down.
Get it out of your head and onto paper. Purge all those negative feelings and emotions through a keyboard or pen.
Once I’ve written it down, I read back over it and work out what’s real and what’s not. What’s irrational and what’s justified? What do I need to take action on; what do I need to let go of?
I ask myself these questions, get clear on what I need to do, and then move forward.
What happens to the writing? Often it ends up in the bin. It’s not the words I have at the end that’s important, it’s the process of writing them down.
- Have a support crew.
This is essential. Even the strongest people need comfort and support sometimes. It doesn’t make you weak – a team is simply much stronger than an individual.
I’m lucky to have an incredible support crew around me. People I can vent to and share my deepest fears and worries with, without fear of being judged.
My husband, sisters and parents are part of my crew, as are a couple of my closest friends.
When the proverbial hits the fan, my support crew is there to help me through – sometimes with practical assistance, sometimes with just an ear to listen. I don’t need them every time things get tough, but the important thing is when I do, I know they’re there.
If you don’t currently have a support crew – don’t worry, you can build one. And it doesn’t have to be made up of family or friends. Find your tribe and surround yourself with people who will lift you up. Find people you can be open, honest, and vulnerable with.
- Ask for help.
This has been a tough one for me because sometimes I like to think I can do it all (I’m wrong).
While I love to help other people, I don’t like asking for it myself. It’s stupid, because my support crew is there – ready, willing and able – if only I ask.
I bet yours is too.
In fact, your crew is often waiting in the wings, wanting to help, but unsure how. By reaching out and telling them what you need, not only do you get the help you really require, but they feel better knowing they’ve done something that will make a difference to your wellbeing. It’s a win-win.
- Be grateful.
Gratitude isn’t just an airy-fairy thing for people who love mindfulness and meditation; it’s an important contributor to happiness and getting back on track quickly when things go wrong.
There’s always something to be grateful for, even in negative situations. It may only be something small, but it will always be there. Hold onto that.
At the moment, I’m grateful for my leg strength. Yes, my knees may be full of arthritis and pain, but my legs are strong and they’re allowing me to recover from knee surgery quickly. For that, I am grateful.
So there you have it. Just like everyone else, I have bad days when I drop my bundle.
The above seven steps are how I work through it. I’m not a psychologist or a counsellor, so this is far from professional advice, but it’s what works for me and maybe – just maybe – you’ll find something in here that will work for you too.
Leah Mether is a communications specialist, trainer, and professional speaker. If you’ve enjoyed this article and would like to hear more, book a ticket to Leah’s upcoming workshop, Remove the Roadblocks in Warragul on Sunday 26 February. Tickets on sale now at www.roadblockswarragul.eventbrite.com.au.
To read more from Leah’s blog, go to www.methmac.com.au.