The steamroller of fate has pulverized you and left you flat. Well-meaning friends and co-workers have been telling you that you need to get over it, to move on, to even get a life! Yes, everyone’s life has its disappointments and failures, but you have been bludgeoned by events fiendishly designed by fate to leave you gasping and devastated, depressed and hopeless. How is recovery possible?
Basically, you recover one step at a time – that’s how. Begin by starting with the steps below.
Start where you are
First, remember that the heart has its own timing. This is not an excuse to prolong your misery, but a statement of fact. Friends and family aren’t having your experience, so they can’t know how or when you can begin to live again. If you’re so depressed that you can’t imagine where to start, that’s where you are, and that’s where you begin your recovery. Being honest about where you are emotionally and how you feel is the first step to making things better.
First, nourish your body. Have you lost your appetite? Are you comforting yourself with ice cream or beer instead of nourishing meals? After months or years of stress, your system is probably worn down, and the simple act of giving your body some real food, even if you just start with good vitamins, can work wonders. And don’t forget the miracle of light exercise.
Next, nourish your mind. It will give you something to think about besides your misery. You don’t need to delve into self-help books (unless that’s what draws you). How about a coffee table book of nature’s wonders? Or the mysteries of astronomy or physics? Crossword puzzles? Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, like kayaking or riding a motorcycle. Now’s the time to go for it.
Last (but not least!) nourish your emotions. Feeling connected with others, including ones who aren’t bugging you to get a life, is an important part of getting back on your feet. A warm, fuzzy, uncritical and enthusiastic pet can provide immeasurable comfort. Think about what small things give you a lift. Is it window shopping? Mystery novels? Monday night football? Whatever they are, indulge yourself – regularly and often.
Be here now
After long periods of extreme stress it’s not uncommon to find yourself in the habit of living in “fight or flight” mode. Whether you’re frozen in a helpless or hopeless state, or hyper-vigilant and over reacting at every small shift in your circumstances, you’re not living in the present. Hope and possibility exist in the present, not in the painful past or the uncertain future, but the habit of living there instead of the present can be a tough one to break.
Set aside several times a day when you consciously check to be sure you’re in the here and now. Take a deep breath and softly say “be here now,” and look around you at details. Or focus on each of your five senses, one at a time, and absorb in detail wherever you are in the moment. Once you’re comfortable remaining in the present, you’ll begin to see patterns of thought and behavior that are holding you back, and even more important you’ll begin to see possibilities that give you hope.
Give your feelings a forum
Most people who are having trouble moving on are stuck in feelings they believe are inappropriate. Unfortunately, feelings don’t go away just because you choose to ignore them. Set aside time as often as you can, perhaps with a counselor or with your journal to listen to your most difficult feelings as you would a friend in distress – give each one a hearing and acceptance, but don’t encourage obsessing. Then release the feeling to move on and open a space within you for the next emotion to step forward and be heard.
This is not a process to be rushed. You will probably find that those feelings progress from despair and hopelessness to several kinds of anger, including feelings of revenge. That means you’re making progress. Keep on going through resignation and on into the realm of neutral feelings. But don’t stop there. Continue until you reach contentment and hope and even joy.
One of the most devastating effects of hitting bottom is loss of faith. You lose faith in a higher power, lose trust in friends and family, in the system you feel should have helped you, and most particularly you lose confidence in your own judgment, in your ability to recognize danger, to take action to stop a disaster or even to see it coming. After reflecting on it, forgive yourself so that you can truly move on. Remember, we are all human and make errors in judgement. It’s okay.
As you get healthier, as you give your feelings a forum, as you get better at being present in the present – at seeing things without the distorting filters of fear and panic – you will gain the perspective you need to understand, and to forgive (yourself included). And from that will come the renewal of hope and confidence in all areas of your life.
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