I like to take big swings. I’ve quit my job and moved across the country on credit, relocated to a foreign country without speaking the language, and moved my partner into my tiny studio apartment two months after we got together.
Often these big risks result in big rewards. But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, in the midst of the chaos I’ve stirred up, everything gets murky and I can’t tell up from down. I struggle to find my way. If clarity doesn’t arrive as soon as I need it, it starts to feel as if the world is ending. Despite the heaviness in my heart, the guilt, the fear, and the frazzled nerves, not once when I’ve felt this way has the world actually ended.
The truth is that the stressful moment that feels like an ending frequently turns out to be a new beginning. You might think that this knowledge would be enough to avoid the pain, guilt, fear, and stress the next time life gets hairy, but that’s not how life works. In the midst of the murkiness, the lack of direction is suffocating. You begin to wonder: is this the one time the world actually ends?
It isn’t. But just knowing that isn’t always enough to make it feel true. So I’ve come up with five different ways to cope when everything feels like it’s falling apart.
- Talk to Someone
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you relish your independence. So much so that you decided to read an article on coping instead of reaching out to a family member, lover, or friend and asking for a shoulder to cry on. It can be hard to admit that you need help. Do it anyway. And, if you can’t go to someone you know, professional help is simply a phone call away: a quick search on Google can provide you with hotlines, therapists, and support groups. All of whom are standing by, waiting to administer help if you just ask for it.
- Get Real
When I start to spiral and my stress gets the best of me, I ask myself “What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen?” It might sound counterintuitive to give way to negative thoughts, but the point is to realistically look at how bad your situation could get and realize that — even if things get that bad — the world won’t end. For example, my financial situation recently changed and I’m struggling to pay all of my bills. When I think about the absolute worst-case scenario, I realize that my fiancee could leave me for my inability to contribute enough financially. If that were to happen, I’d sell all of my belongings, move back in with my parents’ on the east coast and get a job at Chili’s while I paid off my debts and built up enough money to move back to California and start over. Would that suck? Without a doubt. Would my world be over? No, it would just be dramatically different.
- Let the World Crash… For a Day
Two years ago on New Year’s Eve, I found out that I have a 38-year-old half-sister. One Facebook message from a stranger changed everything I knew about my parents and my place in their life. I took 24 hours and I wallowed. I allowed myself to feel all of the hurt and confusion swirling inside of me. The next afternoon, I pulled myself together and returned to work and my daily life. Those 24 hours gave me time to deal with my raw emotions and sort out my thoughts before deciding what to do next. You have a life and you can’t just disappear because shit goes sideways. But the world and your life will usually hold on for 24 hours while you get through the worst of it.
- Put It in Your Body
There are times when your emotions are so deep and so vast that your body no longer feels like an adequate vessel for containing them. In those moments, physical activity is your friend. Going on a run, popping into a dance class, or hitting up the gym can help get your mind off of your situation and move your focus to your body. This is when intentionally pushing your body just a little bit harder can work in your favor. You’ll exhaust yourself and lose the ability to focus on whatever is stressing you out. As a bonus, working out usually results in a great night’s sleep, which is something your body needs after an extended period of stress.
- Write it Out
Whether you keep them to yourself or share them with the world, sometimes just the act of getting your thoughts out of your head can be a big help. Writing your thoughts down makes them tangible and lets you take them in from a new perspective. Don’t underestimate the power of releasing the things that you hold bottled up inside. I find that when I do this I feel calmer and my mind quiets down enough to let me rest.
All of us endure stressful life-altering situations at one time or another. The key to surviving them is to realize that just because these moments are life-changing, it doesn’t mean they’re world-ending. Choosing to see them for what they are and responding accordingly can make them slightly less painful the next time around.