The Reality Of The Situation: A (Non-Exhaustive) List Of Things To Do When Life Feels Hard.
I’m not gonna lie: the last few weeks have felt really, really tough. The kind of tough that’s hard to explain to people. The kind of tough that makes it hard to motivate yourself to write. The kind of tough that puts off tasks and escews social plans because there’s a rager going on inside your head 24/7. The kind of tough that make you question…well, not everything, but a whole damn lot.
I don’t know if it’s because we’re nine months into the year and still dealing with SO much of the same BS (you know what I’m talking about.), or because it feels like I’ve been doing double duty looking after both others AND myself and the load has just felt really heavy lately, or because the seasons here in NYC are starting to shift a bit early and I’m caught off-guard by a change I wasn’t ready for, or because the brainspace that is usually reserved for “future growth” in both the personal and professional sense has been hijacked by wedding/marriage prep.
((Or maybe it’s just because I’ve been listening to the new Phantogram album on loop and it’s making me feel things that have probably been repressed for a really long time.))
In any case – I’m not a stranger to this feeling of heaviness and toughness, which is why I think I’m not too crazily overwhelmed by it. I know it well. I used to get really scared that it was my default state. That I was destined for a lifetime of being in conflict with the way I was inside vs the way I was perceived by others: glass-half-full to everyone else, is-that-glass-even-able-to-hold-that-much-water-without-tipping-over to myself inside my head. It wasn’t that I was overly optimistic and constantly disappointed, OR overly pessimistic and cynical about the world. I just felt feelings about everything. Hence the heaviness.
And then I dated someone who was like this way more often than I was. He was one of the most creative, intuitive, empathetic people I knew – and most emotional, besides myself. I saw his highest highs and lowest lows, and he always seemed to bounce back to neutral eventually.
How did he navigate his tough spots so gracefully?
With a catchphrase I soon adpoted as my own: The emotions of the situation are not the reality of the situation.
This doesn’t mean your emotions are wrong. It just means they’re not an accurate picture of what’s going on OUTSIDE your head. You are allowed to feel exactly how you feel, and feel it about exactly what you feel it about.
So while, say, these last few weeks have felt really heavy and really tough, I know now that this is my emotional response to a set of situations at hand. And emotions are ever in flux. This is just an ebb in my flow.
The solution, for me, is to just start do-ing.
To do one small, small thing that sets off a chain reaction in my head and heart that tells me I’m okay.
That I’m capable of moving forward even if I don’t feel like I am.
The one thing empowers me in an oh-so-small-but-oh-so-big way to do one other thing, and then another, and then another. It’s like picking loose change up off the ground…eventually you have enough coins to make a full dollar. And you have to pick up every single coin to get there. Sometimes you luck out and find a quarter. Sometimes you’re relegated to pennies. But both make you at least one cent richer than you were the second before.
Ever caught yourself saying, “Eh, it won’t matter anyway”…or, “It’s not enough”…or, “It’s too small to count”….??? Welp, one step is better than no step. And you can’t move anywhere if you don’t take one step after the other. Send the email. Return the call. Write the thing. Write a LINE in the thing. Get your shoes ON. Heck, make the bed!!! When the world seems the most overwhelming the best thing we can do is just take life choice to choice. No choice is too tiny. No change is too small. No decision is insignificant.
I’ve started to work through my feelings of heaviness by doing small acts at the very beginning (or middle, or end) of the day that make a HUGE difference. I’ve learned that when everything feels tough, nothing feels doable. I tend to procrastinate and tell myself I’ll get to things once I feel “better.”
But – and this is something I need to KEEP reminding myself over and over – once I start doing *A* thing, whether or not it’s *THE* thing, then I start to feel two percent accomplished and two percent more likely to do another thing, and another, and another, and then eventually everything feels a lot lighter and a lot more manageable. And eventually, I’m back to writing again. And it’s like the toughness never happened.
Except the body remembers.
And the body takes with it the good stuff if you let it.
So accomplishing one small thing after another in the midst of tough times helps develop resilience and PROOF that the toughness is not your default state. It’s one part of the amazing, multifaceted person you are.
And that’s the reality of the situation.
Need some ideas? Here are some things to do when literally just getting out the door seems like a feat in and of itself, your heart is feeling either understandibly or inexplicably heavy, and you don’t feel like doing anything:
- Make your bed.
- Exfoliate and/or put on a face mask.
- Brew yourself coffee.
- Send ONE email you’ve been meaning to send (this is my own personal go-to).
- Text a friend and tell them how much you love them.
- Clip your toenails.
- Read three pages of a book.
- Lace up whatever shoes you exercise in and tell yourself that if you still don’t want to work out after 10 minutes, you can stop.
- Blow dry your hair.
- Take 10 slow, long, loud breaths.
- Update your resumé, press kit, LinkedIn, or social media accounts.
- Do your laundry, then – plot twist! – fold your clothes after (instead of leaving them on the ottoman what do you mean i never do this…).
- Make or buy organizational tools for your drawers and closets so you know where things are when you need them – and then organize those things.
- Make or buy yourself a healthy meal – or pack your lunch for the next day.
- If you use a calendar app on your phone, set a reminder at a specific time (every day, if you’d like) to plan your next day or just to take a standing break.
- Drink a full glass of water – it’s amazing how much simple hydration can do.
- Hug someone. PS – a puppy is definitely “someone.”
- Make your bed.
Now I’d love to hear from you! What is something you do to help yourself get back on track when you don’t feel like doing anything? Leave a comment and tell me your go-to.
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