To those who may be a little lost right now… life is surprising and confusing. I don’t know what it is you are going through that may have thrown your planned path off course. Maybe you have lost a loved one. Maybe your health was stable, only to have taken a shocking turn into the land of chronic illness and doctor's appointments. Maybe you are in the middle of a divorce, or the friendship you thought was solid was in fact toxic and abusive. Maybe you lost your job after years of faithful employment. There are a lot of maybes I could add in, but it all works the same if you fill in the blank with what you are going through. This is for those who are struggling.
What you are currently going through is unfair and complete bullshit.
I wanted to cut to the chase. Many people will say many things to you to pacify your experience. They will say that it was meant to be or things happen for a reason. Maybe things do happen for a reason, but it doesn’t make the place you are in any less awful. It’s much better in my opinion to acknowledge and validate the awfulness of it all. Who are we trying to fool? Sometimes things are just a bit shitty for a while, and it’s not “predestined” or “deserved.” Don’t blame yourself for something that was never potentially within your control to begin with.
You have my permission to cry.
There has been a strong increase in positive psychology, and I think there are numerous benefits to the research that’s come out of it. However, is it necessary for us to always be happy? Is it even possible? I can’t tell you the number of times I have been asked by my friends, especially guys, if it is OK if they cry, or worse, they apologize for needing to cry. We are all more fully fleshed-out individuals if we allow ourselves to feel the range of human emotions, including sadness and anger. The more we suppress negative emotions, the more it builds. It’s OK to be human. It’s not weakness.
Find your person.
In life we all have that person that we go to when we are not in a good place. Now is the time to open up to that person. This could be a family member, a friend, or a religious person of some sort. Whoever they are, if they are “your person” they will not judge you for where you are at. Because of the Internet age, “my people” live all the way from New Mexico to Michigan and beyond. If I am going through a rough patch in life, I know I can always Skype or Facebook message one of them and they’ll be there as a means of support. No person is an island. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
Stop trying to predict the future.
Once something bad or unsettling happens, it’s easy to begin to tell yourself stories of what will happen next. Stop. Did you see the current awful thing coming? Not likely, because we cannot predict the future. We can only do the best we can to prepare for each day. Once you realize it’s not within your control to account for what happens next, the more at ease you will feel.
Do something nice for yourself.
Why would you go out of your way to do something nice for yourself when everything seems to be falling apart? Because it gives you the opportunity to reassess your needs and make sure you are taking care of your well-being. Go for a nice meal. I’m a huge fan of massages, as it gives me time to decompress from all of my hospital visits and doctor appointments. Whatever that “something nice” looks like for you, when you are hurting, it gives you time to regroup. When struggling, it’s easy to forget meeting basic needs. If that “something nice” is allowing yourself a few hours nap — do it. When you are struggling, it is of utmost importance to make sure you are not neglecting your needs as a result.
Try to find a place of balance.
When your life has been thrown of course, it can be difficult to get back to any routine. Everything you previously had known has now changed. Set balance goals for yourself. If you’ve recently lost your job, maybe you can negotiate waking up at a specific time every day to start looking for work. If you are in the hospital long-term, maybe you can set reading goals for yourself. I’ve found that eating breakfast in silence helps me start my day off in a place of calm before the chaos sets in. Reading books by Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chödrön has been of immense help to me. Sometimes even skimming through pages of inspirational quotes can be of benefit. Escaping into a book or a movie can temporarily give you reprieve. I’ve gone back and forth on meditation. I enjoy it, but I’m not the most consistent meditator, which seems to be alright. Whatever it is that can positively direct you towards that place of calm will be your greatest asset.
Express where you are.
When I am struggling, I write it out. That’s my medium of expression. Sometimes I’ll play my ukulele and sing. It doesn’t have to be artistic expression. Maybe a half hour on the basketball court can help you get out that pent-up frustration. Maybe going for a run can release that inner angst. As a counterpart to finding a place of calm, it’s equally important to find a healthy way to get the frustration out.
Tomorrow is another day.
This may seem cliché, but you very well may feel like you’re looking at a mountain if you look too far ahead. Keep things immediate. A month out? Too much like a mountain. Tomorrow? Tomorrow is manageable. Keep each step at a manageable pace.
Put the mask away.
The most relieving thing will to just be you going through a rough time. You do not have to fake that you are alright. In fact, I often find it more frustrating to pretend I’m alright. It’s exhausting. Recently I’ve opened myself up to being a more vulnerable person, which admittedly is not easy to do. When I’ve been asked how I live this way, in a place of authenticity, I answer with this — at this time in my life, I’m in a place where I can no longer refuse to be my whole self. I can no longer spend time apologizing for who I am or who I can’t be. I just don’t have the energy for anything else, and when you put the mask away, you too will realize the weight that is taken off of your shoulders.
As I’ve said, dear struggling ones, these are not quick fixes. Life has its ebbs and flows of challenges. Don’t rush the process of what you are currently dealing with. There is no specific place in life you need to be at any given time. Take this time to be kind to yourself. I wish for better days ahead for you.
This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.