“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”Helen Keller
If you don’t mind, I’d like to get uncomfortably vulnerable in this post:
My failures and poor decisions of the past couple years have been weighing on my mind the last few weeks. I’ve been in a discouraging, pitiful headspace. You likely wouldn’t be able to notice if we grabbed some coffee or ran into each other on the street. It’s likely because some of my habits, such as meditation, yoga, walking and writing keep me sane. But I know that I am more stressed and too serious than I normally am. It’s hard to describe. It’s similar to a toothache — you know something’s off, but you are not quite sure what or why.
How do you cope? We all have things we are going through, and we all have coping mechanisms which help us emotionally deal with them in the short term. Coping mechanisms come in all shapes and sizes, and they are usually hidden in plain sight. Worry, reclusiveness, silence… even anger can help us deal with life. Sometimes they might even be good things, like health and exercise, just taken to an borderline abusive extreme.
We may not consider anger a coping mechanism, but it’s an excellent emotion that can forcefully moves things forward… for better or worse. There’s a lot of Type A people out in the world who use anger to create success — and usually burn bridges and raise their blood pressure and self-loathing in the process. I know many people like this. They brute force their way towards what they want and burn themselves out in the process.
My coping method, on the other hand, tends to be numbing myself out. When things get extremely difficult, my mind falls into a black hole space-time reality. It’s an unfortunate after-effect I picked up after badly injuring my neck over 5 years ago. Numbing myself doesn’t require any substance to start, my mind provides all the chemicals required to get it going.
I used to hate the fact that my mind would numb myself out (…if that makes sense). In the past, I’ve been envious of the people who can face setbacks or misfortunes and use anger to defy them. But I don’t feel this way anymore. We all deal with trauma and misfortune some point in our lives. Sometimes that requires different coping mechanisms to make it through.
The key is appreciating (even being grateful for ) what has helped you to get where you are, and becoming aware of when an emotion, habit or coping method isn’t working for you anymore and finding a healthy alternative. Numbing myself helped me get through the pain of my injury, but I have no use for it anymore.
Suffering and pain reminds me of rain.
Rain comes and goes. Sometimes it’s torrential rain that almost picks us off our feet and whips us around. Other times its light and distant. But it always clears eventually. (Even Seattle gets a few days off. 🙂 If we can learn to watch for the signs of rain on the horizon, then we can preemptively give ourselves what we need to prepare for it.
My goal is not to stop it from raining, but to appreciate it while it’s here (and maybe even learn to enjoy it). Because there’s grow in rain. There’s lessons to be learned. We can connect more deeply with others by experiencing rain.
Here are a few insights I remind myself when it starts to rain:
Focus on Opportunity Instead of Negativity
It’s so easy for to make ourselves feel stuck by focusing only on the problems in our lives. But, for every problem there’s an opportunity we could be putting our energy into instead. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Focus on the good versus the negative.
Focus on Possibility
Every great story, be it fiction or real, has its ups and downs, trials and triumphs. Each problem and setback we face becomes a part of our own story. Use it. Build deeper connections by sharing your story. We want to be the big hero, but if we have to be the underdog, or the friendly neighborhood hero, then so be it! Every disadvantage is actually an advantage in disguise.
And Give Yourself as Much Self-Care as Possible.
We usually know what we really need when we need it. We’re usually just too stubborn to allow ourselves to have it. When I say self care, I’m not talking about treating yo’ self to a new pair of shoes, inhaling a bucket of ice cream or any of the other bad habits we lean on when we are feeling low. Self-care is giving yourself solitude and when you need space, or reaching out to friends when you need community. It’s giving therapy a go. It’s taking breaks from work when you feel overworked. It’s prioritizing things that don’t feel like an obligation or things that don’t have a deadline attacked to them. Self-care is giving yourself the health, happiness, connection and meaning you’ve been missing or neglecting.
STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #703