What to Do When it Stops Making Sense
Sometimes it seems that Lady Luck, Fortuna, or the fates are not on your side. In a moment, life can tumble into ruins, like a house of cards cast to a swift wind. This moment may be created by an external crisis, such as the illness or death of a loved-one; or an internal crisis, like the onset of mental health issues, or a crisis of faith. And if, as is likely to happen when life veers out of control, crisis piles up upon crisis, it may lead to a sense of deep sadness, despair, or even clinical depression.
In these times, it becomes hard to see the forest for the trees, much less a path through the dark, dense underbrush. It may feel like there is no hope, no way out of the mess you’re in. You may feel aimless, or trapped. When the house of cards blows to pieces, life stops making sense.
But sometimes all you need is a focal point to draw you from the senseless to the sensible; a few road signs to draw you back to the path.
A great focal point to begin with is your breath. Deep breathing has many benefits, from stress relief, to muscle relaxation, to cleansing of the lymphatic system, to quelling anxiety.
To practice deep breathing, exhale all the way, contracting your abdominal muscles and pulling your diaphragm – the muscle at the bottom of your lungs – up towards your ribcage. Once your exhalation is complete, breathe in slowly, chest and belly expanding all the way down to your navel.
Another benefit of breathing is that when it’s done consciously, it brings you fully into the present moment.
This moment is the place where you can create change. This moment is where you can decide which way to go; further into the underbrush of your own confusion, or out toward a clear path.
Once you’ve found your breath, there are many places you can go, should you choose to. Here are a few ideas:
1. Remember what matters most: your health, your family, your spiritual practice. If it helps, make a list of these things and keep the list in plain sight as a reminder when you feel momentarily lost.
2. Practice gratitude. There’s always something to be grateful for, even if it’s only your breath. To help you focus on the good, keep a gratitude journal. When you wake up in the morning, list at least three things you’re grateful for. Do this again before sleep.
3. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem. In severe cases, this may even mean getting yourself out of bed. Brushing your teeth. Calling a friend. Spending focused time with your kids.
4. Exercise. Many studies have shown that in some cases exercise is more effective than medication in treating major depressive disorder (MDD). 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week is what the doctor ordered. So get up and get moving.
5. Reach out to your circle of friends. A study recently completed by Researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that individuals with strong social networks had stronger immune systems, as well as better life expectancy rates. With at least as much importance, caring interactions trigger the release of oxytocin, one of the feel-good chemicals that controls mood, emotion, and a sense of loving connection.
6. Do something good for someone else. A small study conducted by Michael Steger, a psychologist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, showed that doing good for others feels good! Dr. Steger’s study focused on whether pleasure-seeking behaviors or meaningful acts – such as helping others – yielded a more long-term sense of happiness.
The winner? Meaningful acts, hands down. So instill your life with a new sense of purpose by serving others who may be having an even rougher time than you are.
Remember, even in your darkest hour, there’s always a light to be found.
Lasara Firefox Allen is an author, educator, activist, and coach. Lasara’s first book, the bestselling Sexy Witch (Llewellyn Worldwide), was published in 2005 under the name LaSara FireFox.