Getting Through the Day

For all Re-booters, there are periods of our lives which bring us to the brink of overwhelm. Depending on the circumstances, these phases can range from a few, intense days to a mind numbing block of months (or years). How we think about and handle such concentrated stress makes a world of difference in our health, our sanity, the end result, and the toll imposed on those around us. It’s difficult not to take this hardship personally. “Why me?” we complain. “Why did I get saddled with such a burden? How in the world am I going to get through this?” It’s a familiar refrain for me, and I’m positive you’ve muttered something similar once or twice.

 

Whether your challenge involves family responsibilities, physical ailments, or money issues, the here and now quality of these struggles seems to lend itself more easily to feeling overwhelmed than other, more metaphysical conundrums. And, the trickiest aspect is not making these problems about us, despite the fact that they are happening to us—impacting our, very own, individual lives. Taking things personally seems to me to be one of the very worst characteristics a person can have because it makes everything exponentially harder. I know whereof I speak; I struggle with this propensity all the time. As I counseled a friend who was getting divorced when their spouse flipped out and decided to walk out, “I know it’s happening to you and impacting you and hurts you, but this is not about you. It’s about them.” (Easier said than done, I know.)

 

At the start of my re-booting journey in Santa Barbara, it was all I could do to get through the day without falling apart. In fact, I had to focus exclusively on the immediate task before me and would not allow my mind to speculate about The Future. I felt as if my life had imploded and I was standing in the middle of a smoke strewn chasm, unsure if I could find my way out. Dramatic image, yes, but it’s also how I felt.

 

The truth is that while I had endured an enormous, disruptive upheaval, there remained many elements of my life that were working successfully. And it was this notion I clung to during those early days. I hadn’t the foggiest notion what would happen next or how I was going to survive this crisis. In desperation, I would list out anything I could think of that could possibly be characterized as going well for me, and used this as a rampart against slipping into misery and panic. I stuck these lists of positives in diaries and calendars, in glove compartments, gym bags, and pasted on bathroom mirrors. I reminded myself that all I had to do was get through the next 15 minutes, or hour, or day, reminding myself that I could do this, I could manage this one, small thing in front of me. By breaking my days down into increments, I managed to abate my feelings of despair and overwhelm. I got through it. In time, I reached a point where I could even express occasional gratitude and enjoy small pleasures like the warmth of the sun on my back or something equally innocuous. And slowly, like a pack animal working its way up a mountain, my capacity to rebuild my optimism for the future increased.

 

Now, a few years later, I can look back with a great deal more equanimity about what happened and recognize that so much of it was not about me. This sort of wisdom cannot be acquired any other way than walking through those fires. While it’s true that my problems are not all solved—and some continue to trigger a great deal of stress—I know now I can handle whatever comes. I didn’t know that before.

 

What about you? How do you tackle tough times? What is it you tell yourself to get through in a positive manner? And, what have you discovered about yourself in the meantime? How might you reassure a good friend who was suffering something similar? Where might they seek out some element of optimism? Because it’s there, too.

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