Life happens. It doesn’t matter how positive an attitude you have or how balanced and centered you are, there are going to be times when you are knocked down. Times when your carefully organized life is turned upside down and you get knocked on your ass. Life happens.
You will no doubt experience serious illness in either yourself or someone close to you. You may be challenged with the loss of a loved one, a divorce or perhaps the loss of a job or any number of situations that will leave you feeling like you were kicked in the stomach.
Let’s face it. These things will happen. They’re part of life and no matter how you try to explain them away with the idea that, "everything happens for a reason," they hurt. A lot! They hurt at the very core of your being. The pain begins in your heart and radiates throughout your entire being. Repeating positive phrases does not make it stop hurting.
At times like these, you’re going to feel down, even depressed. You probably feel anger or some other manifestation of your pain. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s ok. It’s ok to feel hurt, sad, angry or whatever your true feelings are. You cannot deny pain any more than can deny fear. The only way through either of them is to give yourself permission to feel the feeling.
The question is not whether or not you will feel down. The question is for how ling will you stay in this state?
The difference between people who get through life’s challenging moments, regardless of the seriousness, and those who are immobilized by the events is what I call the "Bounce factor."
How quickly can you bounce back? Of course, the severity of the event will have a lot to do with the time it will take you to get past the pain and on with your life.
Take the example of two people being downsized from their high technology jobs, something that is becoming a natural occurrence these days. One, whom we’ll call John, is floored by the news of his dismissal. He expresses his pain by becoming angry at the company, his co-workers and the system in general. He spends his days telling anyone who’ll listen, about his "problem." Usually from a bar stool.
As he sees it, his life is ruined and he’s blaming everyone for his troubles. People who react like John spend weeks, even months, wallowing in despair until, if they’re fortunate, someone close to them convinces them to seek professional help.
Mary, on the other hand, reacts much differently. Although she has gone through the same experience as John and has pretty much the same issues like living expenses, etc., she chooses to react differently.
After a brief period of feeling a loss of self-esteem, self-pity and anger, Mary decides to get back in the game. She begins contacting her network of colleagues and co-workers, avails herself of the outplacement services her former employer offered everyone and starts actively looking for a new position. In a short time, Mary finds her "dream job" with an exciting new company.
While both people in our hypothetical example Had the same experience and both went through a period of hurting, the time each allowed themselves to remain in that dis-empowering state was vastly different. While John remained "stuck" in his problem, Mary handled her loss and moved on with her life.
This is the key. It’s not whether life occasionally puts you into a tailspin, it’s how long you remain there.
When something devastating happens to you, allow yourself some time to grieve your loss, however, don’t allow yourself to get stuck there. Take some action. Join a support group, talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or your spiritual advisor. If necessary, seek professional help.
In the case of a job loss, perhaps you want to take some time to re-evaluate your career goals. You may even consider a change in fields. When you’re ready, you can begin networking and making new contacts. Attend social or church events. Call people you know. Do something!
One of the most important things to remember in high stress situations is not to allow yourself to isolate. While spending some time alone is normal, even necessary, isolation can be dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Get out and be with people as soon as possible. As a friend recently reminded me, "life is for the living." It’s important to get back to your life. In time, the pain will pass.
Shane Griffin CNP, ROHP