No one likes hearing bad news, but unless you live in a bubble, it’s fairly unavoidable. No, scratch that – even completely internal realizations can be stumbling blocks. We have certain preconceptions about who we are, who others are and how life works. When you discover a glitch in the blueprint, you have to scramble to adapt the plan. Trust that you and your decisions will be stronger for it. Here are a few reminders on how to cope with unexpected let-downs.
Ignorance is hardly bliss. Yet our first instinct is to ignore an unpleasant reality for as long as possible. We stay in relationships long after they’re over, put a happy face on strained friendships and pursue careers we don’t really want. Resist the urge to bury your head in the sand.
Telling yourself to “just get over it” is an unrealistic. Grieving – whether you’re grieving a friend, a relationship or a dream — is an active process. Write in a journal. Even people who don’t do any personal writing can find it a helpful way through a crisis. Talking to friends or to a trusted advisor is another crucial coping skill that can accelerate your process. Remember, we usually have to see a scenario from multiple angles before we can truly accept it. Talking your way through the problem, even if it seems repetitive, is an effective way to come up with solutions for those things we can change and accept those we cannot.
The process is important, but giving yourself permission to explore a crisis fully is not the same as locking yourself in a room with it. Stay busy. If you’re holed up somewhere thinking about it, it’s not long before your bad news takes center stage. You don’t have to work through it all at once, and you don’t have to do it alone. Your mind will still be churning when you’re on the treadmill, at the movies and on the beach with friends.
Do: move on
Once you come to a conclusion, take your own advice. Take steps to solve the problem or commit to accepting the loss. You relationship isn’t working out? Start that dialogue with your partner, and begin looking ahead. Your job isn’t making you happy? Search for new opportunities, even new career paths. Just getting a glimpse of what else is out there can keep you from feeling like you’re at a dead end.
The most important step in dealing with unwanted information is to understand that life always moves forward. No matter how conflicted you are, what seems devastating today will be another chapter in your story tomorrow. And whether or not it is obvious at the time, every crisis is an opportunity to define yourself. We only think we want life to be easy. In reality, it’s challenges are what make us who we are. And in the long run, that’s a beautiful thing!
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