There are many times when life throws us huge, bending curve balls–those ones that are so scary they make us not want to just back off, but to dive out of the batter’s box altogether. When this kind of curve ball comes our way, we usually define ourselves differently on the other side: drunk/sober, healthy/sick, married/divorced, working/laid off, etc… It’s easy to feel victimized by these disruptive, even catastrophic, events, we ask, “Why me?” and “Why can’t it be like before?” We rail at the universe, grieve, rage and cry.
While no one chooses to have cancer, be an alcoholic or lose their job, it is completely and absolutely within your control to choose how to face it. Here are some thoughts on dealing with life’s curve balls; I’d love to hear your comments as well.
Accept the Situation – Acknowledge that life is not going to be business-as-usual for a while (maybe forever), accepting this allows you to stop fighting your current reality and wishing things were different. The past will never return, wishing for it only creates more stress and removes your focus from helping yourself in the present.
Focus on the Moment – While the past will never return, by the same token the future hasn’t happened yet. Avoid “future-tripping” about things that may or may not happen. Stay in the now. What is going on right now? What can I do in this moment to help myself? Future-tripping leads to feeling overwhelmed and worse—helplessness.
Tackle Stressful Thoughts – Many times we not only have the curve-ball-event itself to deal with, but all of our own baggage it brings up. I don’t know about you, but I call this going into the spin-cycle and it goes a little something like this: “Oh no! I lost my job!” moves to; “I had no right doing that job anyway, I was a total imposter.”; blossoms into “Bad things always happen to me.”; culminating in, “I might as well just give up now.” Don’t go there! Ask yourself, what’s the truth here? “I’m not working at this moment.” might be the truth. How would you deal with that truth in the absence of the other baggage? Hint: you would probably just go out and find another job. Done. Byron Katie has a great tool called The Work for turning around stressful thoughts—I use this a lot with my clients.
Actively Choose – There are always choices, maybe not the choices you want, but choices nonetheless. You may not be able to choose to have your chronic illness or not, but you can choose to follow the nutritional plan you know helps you feel better. You can choose to keep your working hours in order to stay focused and feel professional during your job search rather than vegging out in front of the TV. You can choose to hug your child/favorite pet/loved one rather than feeling like you’re all alone. Actively making little and big choices allows you, and not your circumstances, to be in the driver’s seat.
Create your own Cheering Section – Find those people who have your back, who will provide invaluable support and cheer you up/along as you make your way. This is not necessarily the group of people you’ve always relied upon; it may require looking in new places: support groups, online forums, new friends, or people you already know may surprise you by stepping up when you’re down. This may also involve distancing yourself from people who aren’t supportive.
It Will Change – The optimist in me wants to say it will change for the better, but that may not always be the case. Regardless of what happens, your present situation will change (and most of the time it is for the better). You will not always feel like this, you will laugh again, the sun will rise again, you will learn how to cope, life will evolve, you will move on.
Give Yourself a Bunch of Credit – We are tougher and more resilient than we think. I regularly see people do amazing things in their lives and not only come out stronger, but better–more vibrant and alive. Our adversities make us who we are; they force us to dig deep and bring our core strength to the surface. Plus, we can show everyone our cool battle scars.