Where I Need to Be
We’ve all dealt with challenges in our lives. Some have been on the light side, like spilling your coffee, forgetting your planner at home, or arriving late to a meeting. But have you ever been faced with such a huge challenge that you honestly don’t think you’ll be able to overcome? And, even if you do overcome the challenge, you are sure your life will never be the same?
For some of you, this may have happened already, and perhaps on more than one occasion. The death of a loved one, loss of a job, ending of a significant relationship, or being forced to move can have quite detrimental effects. The effects may be such that you are still working through grief, anger, and sadness associated with the event. Yes, you made it through the challenge, and yes, you will make it through other challenges, but your life will forever be altered in some way.
How do you feel when you are in the midst of a significant setback? Do you feel angry? Resentful? Irritated that *you* are dealing with (insert situation here) and those around you seem to be leading peaceful, happy lives? You’re not alone. When we go through struggles–and we all do–we tend to look at others’ lives and wonder why *they* aren’t having problems. Now, not only are you angry, stressed, and worried about your current situation, you’re also angry, stressed, and worried because it feels like you are alone.
I chose this topic because I want to share something personal with you: I have major anxiety. About almost everything. I worry about Bashful, our house burning down, people coming over, my husband driving safely. I have been able to work with my anxieties pretty well, but sometimes, I perseverate so much on a certain issue (right now it’s giving Bashful his medication), that it is all-encompassing and I get “lost” in the downward spiral of anxiety. I know this level of stress isn’t healthy, and then I worry that if I don’t stop worrying, I will have more problems.
To be fair, some scientists say that some level of stress is normal and even healthy. Our stress response is designed to help our bodies know what to do in potentially threatening situations. In fact, many believe that moderate stress can improve alertness and boost memory. But there is a fine line between moderate stress and too much stress.
What are you to do with these big feelings? Push them away? Ignore them? Put them on someone else in the form of yelling, accusing, and dependence?
Any time we have big emotions we have decisions to make around those emotions; namely, what to do with them. When we are not under duress, we can more easily process the fact that we cannot control situations, we can only control how we react to them. But that’s very easy to say and a lot harder to do. Below are some great tips that have helped me in the past.
1. Recognize that what you are feeling is normal and okay. Do not let anyone “should” you: you SHOULD stop worrying, you SHOULD be happy, you SHOULD feel differently. What you are feeling, however powerful that emotion is, is exactly what you need to be feeling. Every emotion needs its time at center stage.
2. Breathe and connect with your physical body. Close your eyes, take in a deep breath, and feel your hands; notice the sensation of them. Take in another big breath and do the same for your feet. Spend at least 10 breaths here.
3. Open your eyes and consider what you can control in the situation that is causing you stress. You cannot control other people, how they act, think, or speak. You *can* control your reaction to the situation.
4. Choose how you will react to the situation. There are two main choices: fear or love. A fearful reaction includes anger, sadness, accusation. A loving reaction includes acceptance, calm, and level-headed thinking.
5. Accept the situation as it is. You don’t have to like it. In fact, in many cases, you won’t like it at all! But, accepting the situation for what it is will help you realize your role in it.
While the above suggestions have certainly helped me, I also recognize that I still have a long way to go. I continue to struggle with anxiety. I am making progress, however small, and I am exactly where I need to be.