Hard Things – Can I Handle This?

Spoiler alert: yes, I can! Here’s the proof:  you’ve already survived 100% of your bad days.  You’ve already done so many things that felt impossible or forced upon you. 

Nobody panic! (Me internally panicking.) New people, new tasks, old realities, old coping skills, new coping skills, responsibilities, goals, fears and hopes. Just another day of being a human, a 21st century American human. Busy, crushing goals, having it all. Except for rest. Except for the satisfaction of a job well done – when your job never ends or is cyclical. Completely this budget analysis (at work, at home) and an unexpected expense comes up, forcing you to creative shift things around and reprioritize; this means taking from one area to compensate for another area. This means flexibility and creativity.

When I feel anxious about an upcoming event, project, social encounter etc, I sometimes fall flat on my face into panic mode. (Any astrology fans out there can picture the cancer crab retreating inside it’s shell and avoiding stressful situations.) And while we all need to retreat and reboot regularly, we can’t just avoid the unpleasant parts of life. Even people who don’t have an anxiety diagnosis struggle from time to time with engaging in life-on-life’s terms.

Let’s circle back to “old realities and old coping skills” for a minute. My old mindset was that I am a victim and life hurts me. My old mindset was fear-based and fact-based. Surviving childhood abuse was no easy feat. It required coping skills such as people-pleasing and discarding my own needs. in the fast, I was not safe. So one of my new coping skills is telling myself “no one is hurting you; you are safe.” My body was in an abusive situation for so long that it got stuck in “fight, flight, fawn, freeze” mode. The fancy word for it is complex PTSD – my alarm system never goes off. You don’t have to have a faulty alarm system to be paralyzed by fear, to dread the future, to feel anxiety telling you “don’t bother.” Every human gets kicked by life HARD eventually. And this time, in the safety of the present, when faced with challenges and anxiety, I can react for healthy coping skills. Let me please say here that we are never responsible for our first thought (“I can’t do it; I’ll fail someone else could do it better.”), but we are responsible for what we do after that first thought. I call it the hamster wheel, when my mind spins and spins on how I’m going to fail at a new idea or skill. Sometimes I can’t get off the hamster wheel for a few spins, sometimes I can get off before it gets going. No one has this coping/thriving thing perfect. Accepting our imperfections is a secret weapon in life. If the thought comes “[so and so] can do this better than me,” my second thought is either going to be a list of reasons to back that up, or something more like “[so and so] might be able to do a better job than me at some things, but my skills are still valuable and I have a lot to offer that is original.”

I’ve learned that while every human experiences suffering, not everyone experiences love, hope and peace. I used to look for reasons to lash out at the world because I was in so much pain on the inside.

How do I even get myself to a place where I realize I can interrupt those intrusive thoughts? How did I even get myself to a place where I can complete new tasks with more confidence and less fear?

Tip 1: Normalize Unpleasant Feelings

Here’s another spoiler alert: everyone experiences fear, dread, sadness, depression etc. That feeling of not being good enough, of feeling stuck, of feeling like your return does not match your efforts – that is common to every human. I promise that whatever you are feeling right now, you are not alone. Depending on which voice is louder at the moment, your inner critic vs your inner wise woman, you may already have some great coping skills for going with the flow and letting those feelings pass. Accepting grief, depression, loss, disappointment as normal humane experience can shorten the time of sadness. Accepting the unpleasant parts of life can sound something like this “I feel like crap today. I’ve felt like crap before. I’m allowed to feel like crap. I have space to allow my feelings of [disappointment]. And I know that I will cycle back to a place of peace. I am allowed to choose to wallow or to choose self-compassion.” A term that I hope you hear from me repeatedly is radical acceptance. It has been a gamechanger for me. Radical acceptance is when you see a situation for what it is and you accept you cannot change or control it, but that you can control your responses to the situation.

Tip 2: Practice the Pause

This is the gateway to responding versus reacting. This is how we choose Door B(etter) instead of auto-piloting through Door A (nger). For me, practicing the pause is a conversation I have with myself . It sounds like this:

  • Wow I’m really elevated right now.
  • Something triggered me.
  • Why am I triggered?

Or the conversation with myself may sound like:

  • Note to self! I’m really having a hard time with [my car needing repairs, my job, etc]. Note, that I may be easily triggered today. CAUTION AHEAD! Just realize in advance that if a situation or person seems too much for me, it’s based on the fact that I’m already energy-diverted by [my situation.] The only one to play defense with today, Jamie, is your own self.
  • Note to self! Do not take things personally. You are not a mind reader, so do not superimpose your self-reflection into the minds and thoughts of others. You cannot assume they think you are dumb, annoying, etc. They may find you genuinely engaging.
  • Note to self! There is nothing I can do to control my situation right now. I acknowledge that I have put in effort as much as possible, and the rest is out of my hands. I radically accept that this situation is beyond my fixing right now. HOWEVER, I will trust that a solution is coming soon and I will not obsess over that one area of my life. I will be grateful for all that is still right.

Tip 3: Let It Go

  • Oops happens. All. The. Time. We do our best. Here’s a Minute Mindfulness quote: “I did it. I let it go.” I’m sure I don’t need to mention this isn’t an opportunity to ask for negative karma and get a free pass. Whatever you want to call it, it comes down to this “you get what you give.” Accidental oops is what I’m talking about.

So when life hits, YES! – Yes you can absolutely weather the storm. Practice self-compassion. Practice the pause. Take a deep breathe before you respond. Ask yourself how do you feel and how do you want respond. It is absolutely acceptable to choose to a boundary in place when you are triggered. It is absolutely acceptable to say “I need some time before I can discuss this.” It is absolutely applaudable for you to practice self-care in those ways. You are valuable and you are allowed to have needs. You are allowed to need to reset. You are allowed to be triggered. You are allowed to have boundaries. You are allowed to choose to live in your power (empowered) with your inner wise woman running the show.

I am so proud of you.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for accepting yourself and nurturing yourself.

Continue on your path in love and self-compassion.

Go for it. ~ Jamie

Published by Surthrivor

Surthrivor: a survivor who takes control of their own recovery.

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