How To Get Through Damn Near Anything
Ever have one of those tough-as-hell weeks where it feels like the world is unloading both barrels at you – where things fly at you at such a vicious, unrelenting speed that you feel like life is pushing your limits simply to see where your breaking point is? Where the pressure is on, the sleep is never restful, and you find yourself bubbling up with frustration about your job, your endurance, your attitude … and it seems like at any moment that life is about to break you?
I recently had a week of exactly that. It was curious. And by “curious” I mean fricking hell.
So, How Do You Cope With “Hell Week” (or Month, Or Year …)?
There are only three ways of coping with a sudden trip into unrelenting hell:
Go numb. Stay numb.
Get through it, and get stronger.
Obviously, the first option isn’t one you want to take. Lots of lawyers and dry cleaning involved. The second option isn’t much better – I’ve done it many times, and in the long run, it’s not a much better option than the first one. But there’s a third option, one where you decide you’re not going to settle for anything less than getting through this ordeal a stronger person. That’s where you want to be.
Yeah, I know. It’s not easy. But it doesn’t have to be as insanely difficult as we make it out to be.
What To Do When You’re Stuck In A Rut
You’re going to have times when you feel like your emotions are out of control. You’re horrifically depressed. Uncontrollably angry. Unreasonably scared. Stuck in a rut. Entering the downward spiral. Locked into a pattern of frustrating, paralyzing, you-don’t-wan’t-this-but-can’t-change-it emotion that makes you hate your life and where you are.
And the worst part of it is, no one is coming to your rescue. No wave of a magic wand will help you feel better, and no cheery “You can do it!” advice is going to break the hold of how you feel. And to make matters worse, Dave is going on and on about how bad you feel and still hasn’t gotten to the part where you can start feeling better.
This Is The Part Where You Can Start Feeling Better
Throughout my week, I’ve had to deal with enormous frustration and bouts of near-depression about things that seemed to be controlling my life in ways that I didn’t like. It was rough as hell, but the only thing that kept me from snapping messily was focusing on one simple phrase that helped me break the pattern of pain and move on with my day:
“I don’t have to feel this way.”
These seven words may not sound like much of a solution, but stop and think about it: When you’re locked into an emotion that’s controlling your attitude, you tend to feel powerless to change it. Powerless. And that’s precisely why that emotion has a hold on you the way it does – you feel like there’s no way out, no matter how hard you try.
And in a way, you’re right. “Trying” doesn’t seem to work most of the time. You’re feeling defeated and drained, and you’re not in a good position to put up a fight against an unusually strong emotion.
So don’t fight it. Accept what you’re feeling in the moment, and realize that your feeling is driven by what you’re focusing on in the moment (namely, all the stuff that sucks so horribly). Take ownership and admit that you are feeding this feeling by focusing on all the things you don’t like about your situation.
And don’t feel bad about it. Don’t beat yourself up about it (because that only feeds that feeling further). Simply accept that this is a cause-and-effect thing, and that it’s part of being human, and that even the person you think is the most stable, “can-do” person you want to strangle has crap days just like you do.
And then repeat to yourself,
“I don’t have to feel this way.”
Things Change When You Take Responsibility For Your Feelings
You see, we feel like crap because we imagine that life does things to us, that bad situations make us feel bad. But you know from your own experience that it doesn’t have to be that way – you’ve been in plenty of situations that sucked where you’ve been the voice of reason – the one who was able to stay in a constructive mood even when other people didn’t.
How did you do it? It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t willpower. And it wasn’t positive thinking – it was realistic thinking. Somewhere along the line, you realized that feeding yourself depressing thoughts was going to depress you, and you didn’t want to settle for that. You wanted more. And you told yourself that you didn’t have to feel this way. You focused on something good, or you just focused on the fact you’d get through this in one piece and that if you ripped the band-aid off fast enough, the pain would only be temporary.
In other words, you refused to let the world play you for a sucker and drive your feelings, and you put both hands on the wheel and refused to let go. All you have to do now is remember you’re the one in the driver’s seat.
Breaking The Pattern = Hope (A Much Stronger Position)
When you’re mired in a strong emotion, it’s easy to feel that it’s hopeless to fight it. But when you focus on your own ability to choose things instead, you put yourself in a stronger position, one where you can make a difference. You recognize that emotions don’t control you – you control emotions, and that makes all the difference in the world.
When you tell yourself, “I wish I felt better,” you feel powerless. There’s not much hope for change there. But when you tell yourself, “I don’t have to feel this way,” you’re giving yourself the option not to feel this way, and that’s an option you didn’t have before when you were focusing on the big scary emotion. You’re reminding yourself to be reasonable about the whole thing. You’re reminding yourself that you’re stronger than you’re currently giving yourself credit for.
And stronger is a good place to be.
How To Break Your Pattern And Start Feeling Better
When you feel like crap and there doesn’t seem to be a way out, simply say to yourself, “I don’t have to feel this way.” If that doesn’t immediately help, repeat to yourself “I don’t have to feel this way.” If it still doesn’t help, repeat it again: I don’t have to feel this way.” And again. And again. And again. And AGAIN.
Focus on opening up new options for yourself. Take it to the next level and ask yourself what you could do to feel differently: “I don’t have to feel depressed about my job. If I wanted to feel better, I’d focus on <insert something I’m taking for granted>. If I wanted to feel better, I’d remind myself that <insert something that gives you perspective on something good in your life>.”
Remember, your emotions run on a cause-and-effect pattern. Use that (instead of being used by that).
The key to this is repetition. On some level you’re going to resist feeling like you should have that much control over your feelings, because the part of you that wants the easy way out (or is simply intimidated by the strong emotion) is going to tell you there’s no point in trying. Don’t listen to that voice.
Listen to reason instead. Listen to hope. Listen to what’s going to pull you out of this mess.
You have the power to change things – to stop feeding the draining feelings you don’t want and to start feeding the feelings that will help you rock your day and get out of that rut, so you can be the person you know you’re capable of being.
Feed the right feelings. And come back for seconds. You’ll thank yourself for it.
2 Things You Can Do Now To Make This Message Stick
Ok, so how do we get the ball rolling on this? Two simple steps:
- First, think of one specific emotional pattern you’re currently stuck in and decide that you’re going to use this phrase to start breaking this pattern all to hell. Just pick one so you can focus & consistently attack it this week.
- Finally, write about the emotional pattern you’re declaring war on this week in the comments. If you’re worried about giving personal details, put “Ass Kicker” in the Name field below, that’s good enough for me.
- The more of you who leave this kind of comment on this post, the more people you’ll inspire to take action.