BAD THINGS HAVE HAPPENED: NOW WHAT?
At different stages of our lives, we must face challenges that we never imagined. Major life changes, whether they are positive or negative, like getting married or going through a divorce, or losing your job, can pose serious adjustment struggles. Changes that are unexpected or painful pose additional problems and challenges. “How am I ever going to go through this?” and “I can’t believe that this is happening” are questions that can plague our minds and drag us down. What we need in times like this, is to bounce back up and get back into the driver’s seat. But how? How can we facilitate your “bounce back ability” after changes that can sometimes overwhelm us to the core?
Some changes in life can occur beyond our control. Being fired, losing a loved one, a death, a divorce or your teens acting out… the changes are many. Sometimes these changes can create a slippery slope of sadness and worry that can create even more problems in addition to having to adjust to your new circumstances. It might feel like you are beyond overwhelmed and you are worried you are losing control. A lot of your bounce back ability depends on how the problem you are facing is affecting you. Is it a disappointment in your child’s struggles at school? Or is it a flurry of anxiety and sense of helplessness related to the falling apart of a marriage? Some challenges affect us more deeply than others. What can be very tricky for some, is that even positive life changes, like getting engaged, can create its own spirals of worry around changes yet to come, concerns about disapproving in-laws or perhaps second thoughts about the engagement itself.
After a set-back, it can be hard to imagine getting back up on your feet, but there’s good news. The ability to bounce back is something we can develop and build, just like a muscle. Sure, it can take time and the way we do this is very unique to each person. However, there are some things we can do to make our bounce back ability easier:
PROCESSES FIRST, OUTCOMES LATER.
Remind yourself that getting back in control means focussing on the process of recovering, not on outcomes. Outcomes will happen, when the process are back in place. Focusing on results without paying any attention to the day to day process, may frustrate you even more. What you want is to recover your sense of power to have an impact in your life. Even if this means small successes such as getting out of bed, having a positive interaction with your teen, seeing your child successfully accomplish a school task, or a simple smile from your partner.
BREAK IT DOWN
Break it down to smaller and yet smaller tasks or challenges. Having difficulty facing the day? Turn it into a question: “What is making it hard to face the day?” You might answer: “I’m overwhelmed, I’m in pain, I can’t believe (…I’m not with my husband anymore, or this loss is too much to deal with… for example)”. Then break it down a little. Ask yourself: “What can I do right now?” Maybe I’ll get up and shower and have breakfast…” Still feeling stuck? Break it down even more. Ask yourself: “How can I get myself to the shower?” Still stuck? “How can I sit up on the bed?” Get the idea?
Take the time to redefine what happened. No matter how much easier it may seem to you as time has passed, right now it might feel impossible to tolerate the new reality. So, feel free to review, reflect, and understand how you want to make sense of the change. What is now different? What needs to be done by me? What exactly are the little and large changes that I must face, one by one? What lessons can I take from the changes? What spiritual messages could there be in all of this? What am I being challenged to learn?
RECONNECT WITH LOVED ONES
Connect with those who love you. Reconnecting and reaching out to those who have your best interest at heart is powerful and soothing. Make sure not to isolate yourself. Answer your phone, reply to the emails, and take your friends and family up on meeting up with them. It may not always feel easy at first to be with other people. The wounds that may have been created due to change will heal faster, when they get filled with love and care.
Body care. Even though you might think that this is silly, or not important, your body is your biggest ally in recovery and needs all your help. Feed it well, find ways to relax it, sooth it by taking a hot bath, sleep as well as you can or getting out to the gym and working out the stress with a good run or yoga class. Find what works well for you. Relentlessly love your body and care for its needs even though this may be hard at first. However, a recharged, replenished and restored body means a stronger capacity to deal with challenges and bounce back.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
Reach out to those who have successfully struggled through the same problem(s). Those who have been through the pain may be better able to hear your pain and help you through it. They may have valuable lessons and strengths gained through the process that they may share with you, leaving you not only connected deeply with another person, but also encouraged to bounce back more quickly. But make sure that this does not become a big pity party. It’s OK to feel sorry for yourself but after a bit of time it’s not time to look to the future instead of wallowing in the past.
REWARD THE MINUSCULE CHANGES
If you reward yourself on the smallest of positive recoveries, you build towards having more and more of them. It might not seem like much to have recovered a slight sense of confidence after having done one or two things to get back on your feet, but rewarding them will fuel more progress. It’s important to celebrate your successes. Too often we wait and wait until we have a huge success or we don’t acknowldge any sucesses at all. Remember to celebrate even your small quiet successes.This is a cycle that speeds you up towards getting right back on track.
Use the changes that you have been going through as the springboard for something that is meaningful for you. How do you want to use the set-back or the change as fuel for a cause, or for your own new direction? What can you imagine doing when you are through this? What new doors may be open to you now that you never imagined before? What gifts are there in this experience that you never thought about before?
This can be tricky, because we might fall into downward spirals of confusion. Keep it simple. Your goal is recovery and bouncing back into gear. Use a guiding principle for yourself to help you keep on track when you reflect and plan your day, or morning, or the next few hours. For example, “What 3 things do I want to focus on for today?” or “How am I feeling?” and “What do I need to take care of it? or “Remember a time when I was happy.”
SEEK PROFESSIONAL CARE
Sometimes when we have reached out, done what we thought would help, talked to friends and family, we might still feel lost, confused, unsure, and doubtful. A speedier recovery is possible with the help of a professional who can assist your recovery. Professional psychotherapists and social workers are trained and skilled at helping you find shorter routes to reclaiming your life. In the process, you might experience that this may also be an opportunity for insights and growth that may not only help you recover, but also to thrive.
These are only a few of many possible things that you can do. If you are having problems getting back on your feet after a set-back or you are having difficulty adjusting to your life changes, there is professional help at Family-Therapy in Ottawa / Kanata. Call one of our youth, individual, family and relationship counsellors at: 613-287-3799.