“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over it became a butterfly”
We all have gone through our share of tough times, haven’t we? Moments when we lost a loved one, a friend stopped talking, a relationship that didn’t work out, a lost job opportunity or a promotion that you didn’t get through. Sometimes it could be a travel plan that didn’t materialize as your manager didn’t approve your holiday.
What amuses me is right from childhood we’ve been taught to take care of our physical hygiene but when it comes to mental hygiene, we are still clueless about what to do. Our science textbooks gave detailed explanations of how to save ourselves during an earthquake or a fire and how to tie a sling in case of a fracture and the do’s and don’ts when it came to snake or dog bites. However no one ever spoke about heartbreak, disappointments, setbacks, bullying or the other ways our emotions play with us.
“Appa I feel so sad that after so much efforts I couldn’t win the first prize in elocution.” I said to my dad one day.
I remember his response, “It happens, no big deal.”
That moment I felt unheard and decided never to discuss my feelings with him.
We all have faced such moments when we expected a loved one or a friend, a teacher or a grandparent who made us feel that our feelings didn’t matter, haven’t we? Naturally we transitioned into adults who buried the pain in alcohol or immersed ourselves in work. Some of us stayed in the loop repeating patterns of blaming ourselves or the others. Some ended up in stop-gap relationships while others move towards contemplated suicide.
But what if there was a roadmap to recovery? What if I tell there are few ways which you can use to navigate through the tough times?
In my journey of recovery these tools have helped me immensely and I can vouch that though all the techniques may not work for all of you all the time, some of the tools will work for all of you, all he times.
So let’s get started
Acknowledge the pain, grief or loss:
Whatever you are feeling acknowledge it. When we try to put up a strong face and say I’m not affected or this doesn’t bother me, we are building resistance towards it. It’s like cleaning a dirty vessel. If you try to clean it immediately the stains will stay there, but when you soak it in liquid soap for a longer time the dirt loosens up and you can clean it easily. In the same way allow yourself to feel the pain and then feel the intensity reducing gradually.
What is it that you’re telling yourself, notice it. Become aware of the internal talk, because that is what shapes the way you feel. Here’s a post that speaks in detail on how to decode the inner narrative. Hope you find it useful to decode yours.
Go beyond the feeling
Usually whatever emotion we show is a mask and beyond that mask there are many layers of emotions hidden. Few weeks ago I asked a group of students, what made them angry. One boy said that when someone teases him he felt angry. Now I asked that boy what about the teasing made him angry. He said it wasn’t anger, it was hurt, disappointment and a feeling that he wasn’t adequate enough. That’s the pattern for most of us, so look out for the exact emotion what you’re feeling not the behaviour that you’re showing.
Change the physiology
Stand in front of the mirror, droop your shoulders and have a frown on your face. Now hold this position for at least 30 seconds. Observe the breathing pattern, the thoughts that are passing by and the way you’re feeling. Now try telling. “I am the happiest today” and look at your reflection in the mirror, do you look happy??? That’s it, your body and mind are interlinked. So the way to shift your thoughts is to shift your physiology. Move your body. Get up, stretch, dance, go for a walk and do anything that requires motion.
This is most important. There’s something so refreshing about sunlight. I know there were some days when I didn’t want to get out of bed. I loved the darkness so much that any light annoyed me. I remember my husband purposely opening the curtains and allowing the rays hit my face. Few days I found this annoying but then the warmth of the rays started doing magic to my body. I felt like getting up and moving out. Every day get up and open the curtains, windows and balcony doors. Allow the fresh air and warmth enter your being.
Start community work or help a stranger
Giving is a fabulous way to receive. It’s not necessary to be a millionaire to start giving. You can start by teaching a child who can’t afford tuitions or donating clothes, books, stationery, old utensils or toys to people in need. You can visit an orphanage or old age home. Again be aware of your self-talk. If you notice voices that tell you that ‘There are people who are so unfortunate and you are living a better life than them so why feel sad?’ Push or mute those voices. There is a certain sense of fulfilment and joy that you experience when you give selflessly to others.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”- Mahatma Gandhi
Spend time with a pet or street animals.
Every weekend I spent some time playing with the street dogs giving them food to eat and watching them wag their tail in happiness. This is the simplest way to boost your mood.
Enrol for a hobby class
When you feel lonely it is a sign that you must go ahead and connect with people. Sometimes connecting or speaking to loved one or friend maybe intimidating. You may feel that they may judge you. So joining a hobby class where there are strangers is a good way to begin. They don’t know your story and it’s your chance to start afresh.
Apart from this listening to music, dancing, reading biographies/memoirs and gardening also helps.
The other day my mobile phone kept hanging every few minutes while I was trying to click a selfie with my daughter. She immediately said, “Mumma, just delete unwanted files as memory maybe full and restart the phone, it will work faster.”
Our life too is like that, isn’t it? When you observe that you’re feeling stuck or low, delete those unwanted memories (files) and press restart, you’ll find the strength to empower yourself.
How do you deal with tough times? What is your strategy to navigate through a tough phase? I’d love to read your stories in the comments.
Stay strong and may the force be with you!
Love and Light,