When life gets difficult, overwhelming and scary, your emotional health takes the biggest toll.
You might still prioritize certain aspects of your life, but when it comes to your emotional health, the first thing to go are the routines and habits you’ve built to keep you feeling good.
You might start eating poorly, stop exercising, drink more alcohol than usual or stay up late.
You abandon meditation, withdraw from friends or ditch the self-care routines you normally rely on. You get stuck in the pain - unable to move or do things you ordinarily find easy.
And what’s worse, you know that getting back into your habits will help, but the problem is that now you’re so tired and drained of all energy.
It feels like a no-win situation.
You might even feel a little desperate, resorting to wishing, praying and hoping that something in your life is going to turn so you can move forward.
The truth is that when life surprises us with a roadblock, whether it’s a financial loss, personal loss, career challenge or even difficulties you face with children, all of the emotional reserves you’ve built up get depleted quickly.
And because you were probably never taught how to truly weather difficult times (after all, there wasn’t a class when you were in high school that you could take on this), you resort to what feels safe - which often means you withdraw.
You pull away from the resources that might help you and you begin to get wrapped up in all the negative fears and stories you have about your life.
Now, what I want you to know is that it’s completely natural.
Countless clients I know have long lived their life this way because during difficult times it feels too hard to put on a mask for the world and pretend you’re ok.
If you’re nodding along, I want you to know I see you.
And I also want you to know that you don’t have to become trapped by the overwhelm or disappointment of where you are right now. Learning how to manage your emotional health can be vital to moving forward and not staying stuck for too long.
Staying strong through a crisis is possible and can help you feel more prepared for no matter what lies ahead.
The first thing I recommend is giving your emotions the space they need to be expressed.
During a difficult time, you might feel tempted to stuff down your emotions or put on a brave face.
You might even fear that if you “fall apart” those around you will do the same and you might be left to take care of them.
But, in truth, it’s vital that you give yourself permission to express your feelings - no matter what they are.
It might feel a little uncomfortable if you’ve been someone who likes to remain strong for others, but giving your emotions the space they need can truly help you recharge.
You might want to take some time to be alone or find a trusted friend or partner with whom you can openly share your fears, your doubts or your disappointments.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to lock yourself in your room for days at a time - that might not be as helpful as it sounds right now.
The key is to instead strike a balance between time to grieve and time to be productive.
The more you’re able to honor your feelings the less you’ll feel the need to stoically carry yourself from moment to moment.
Next, I often suggest you begin to accept the situation.
Acceptance can be difficult for the best of us. And right now it can feel like the last thing you want is to accept where you are.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in anger, resentment or conversation focused on how you “shouldn’t be here right now” or how this “shouldn’t be happening.” But what happens is that when you do that, you end up wasting important energy that you might need to help you get to the next step - to either find a solution or to feel a little stronger.
Accepting your current situation exactly as it is, can help open doors.
I’m not telling you that you have to like what’s currently happening. I only suggest that the more that you can accept the situation as it is, the easier it becomes to see possibility around the corner.
But if you get stuck worrying about the why or how you got here, it takes you out of the ability to use your resources to truly move you forward.
Once you are able to accept, you’ll also be able to surrender to your situation.
Now, if that sounds like I’m telling you to give up, I assure you I’m not. I think surrender gets a bad rap, t’s not about giving up or giving in or waving the white flag.
When we are in difficult or tough situations, our first instinct might be to fight or to run. But often that instinct only depletes our energy more.
This is not a time you should be building anything or fighting like a fish swimming upstream. Rather, surrender is about releasing your willful stronghold on needing anything to be any different way. Surrender calls on you to simply be in the flow of life and trust that you’ll be able to gain clarity or release pain as you move forward.
And while that instinct to fight or get out of where you are right now is perfectly natural, it often has the opposite effect than what we intend. We might think that by resisting our situation that we’re working our way out, but in truth the more we struggle - the more we end up glued to the exact situation we dislike.
So, even though surrender may feel a little difficult at first, you end up finding greater emotional relief and ability to replenish your reserves in the long run.
Lastly, I suggest a radical self-care approach.
If you’re anything like how I used to be, self-care might feel selfish.
But during times of emotional stress (even when others rely on you), radical self-care can be the exact thing you need to turn everything around.
So, even if you feel like it’s wrong to sit and read a book or get a massage or spend time with friends - if you know that it will help you feel better I want you to do it.
Or maybe you might not feel like exercising today, but if you know that it will ultimately make you feel better, I want you to do it!
Whatever radical care looks like for you, I invite you to step into a new level of self-care during difficult times - especially if you aren’t receiving support from others.
It’s important that you become your own biggest cheerleader so you can move beyond this time.
In the end, I believe that the more compassion you can bring to your current situation, the more gentle you can be with yourself and the more you can honor that this time is important for you to experience too - the better you’ll be able to embrace this time!