If you’ve found yourself suffering from a recent loss or major life setback, odds are you’re having a rough time stepping out of it – or worse, you might be stuck in a life holding pattern. Problem is, if you stay in that state too long you might trigger an already-negative streak into spiraling.
If your head is bobbing with a knowing nod, that’s good news – it means you’re aware that you’re headed for trouble. Before this mindset has a chance to stick, it’s time to shift gears out of knowing about your setback, and on to doing something about it.
Put it out there
Sometimes, when we’ve experienced a loss (job, financial security, loved ones) part of what prevents us from moving on is the anxiety around dealing with that associated network of people. There is an unstated (and sometimes over-stated) need to implement a “stiff upper lip” coping mechanism around friends and family, even if they all know you’re hurting.
Why not decide to put a more honest front forward, and tell them exactly how you really feel? In doing so you’ll thwart the inevitable onslaught of “everything will work out, things will get better…” sentiments from a well-intentioned peanut gallery, which if you’re not careful could send you even further down the rabbit hole. The more you purge and acknowledge the loss internally and to those around you, the more you will release their tension – and your own.
By letting go of the associated angst you’ll benefit physically – by ratcheting your stress level down a notch. A key step toward recovery is to recognize not only the loss, but whatever feelings (anger, sadness, ambivalence) you have around it, so that you can push through the pain. Before you can move forward you have to bust through any and all barriers that are standing in your way.
What often follows a loss is the absence of a familiar routine or environment. If you lost your job, you’re not only feeling the absence of money and sense of self, but also the territory that went with it – whether that’s a social network of friends, or a community that you spent months, or even, years fostering. In relationship terms you might be experiencing that loss of familiarity and comfort you shared with your partner. If you once shared a “couple’s shorthand” in your day-to-day communications and routines, the absence of it could leave you feeling empty and incomplete.
The only way to get past the funk is to make a deliberate move. Set one foot forward – be it to a new coffee shop, a networking event, the library, or walking out to your mailbox. In taking one step you are forced to take another – and then another. Before you know it you will be, by the very nature of moving, in new territory. You’ll be in a new crowd, meeting new people – and probably experiencing something for the first time. By planting yourself elsewhere, if only for a few moments, you’re off and running. The great thing about motion is this – once you start, it keeps on going.
Now that you’ve taken the first step, here are some things to consider to keep yourself stirring:
1. Do something new. If you’re out of work, balance time spent on the job hunt against time spent doing something new. Attend an art opening, hit a new gym, check out an independent film, eat out somewhere new, start a new business. Networking, socializing – whatever you want to call it, it is multifaceted, and it can open up a whole new world of experiences. And, let’s face it, you can no longer say that the reason you didn’t do such-and-such is because so-and-so didn’t enjoy it. Like it or not, you now have creative liberty over your own life – make the most of it!
2. Keep your body in motion. Take a walk, do yoga, hit some golf balls, go kickboxing. Find new ways to keep your energy pushing forward. In doing so you’ll continue to unearth any walls that have been erected without your conscious knowledge. Exercise causes a release of endorphins that give your body and mind a natural boost.
3. Travel somewhere. Whether you take a vacation out of the country or embark on something as basic as a local day trip, new scenery is a good thing. By shifting your space you’re flipping your mindset away from your setback – and on to something new. By stepping outside of your routine (trust us, it will be there when you get back) you gain perspective – and you also see your life from a new vantage point. Who knows, you might even miss your life once you’ve had some distance. Or you might come to the conclusion that a change of zip code is exactly what the doctor ordered.
4. Let go. Holding on to the past does just that – it keeps you beholden to outdated circumstances and situations. If you’ve suffered a loss, it’s important to acknowledge it – but it’s also essential to shelve it afterward. If you rehash old territory and hold on to anger and sadness, you’re preventing yourself from directing energy in new and positive directions.
Nobody is saying that loss isn’t hard – and even devastating. It is. But once you’ve come to terms with things it’s time to grab a one-way ticket out of the devastation zone. Regardless of how you’ve ended up where you are, you’ve been granted the opportunity to start a new chapter of your life.
While we have no control over loss and its ramifications, we can change the course of our lives for the better as a result. So go ahead – take that first step, make your move, and then sit back and enjoy the self-discovery that follows.
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