From the blog:Challenging Season: How to Ensure You Survive It So, you’re having a bad day. Or maybe a crappy week. Or maybe experiencing a series of days upon days of a funky blue feeling you just can’t shake. And you’re tired of it, so tired of your heart hurting and general malaise. So tired of that sense of ennui and melancholy hanging around you. What you’re experiencing, my darling, is a challenging season.
Unfortunately, one of many you’ll likely go through in your time on this earth. It’s a part of the human experience. We go through a myriad of seasons and stages in our life.
As I’ve been talking to friends, sometimes a rough day bleeds into these seasons that are just harder. A challenging winter or journeying through the valleys of grief. For most of us, we also have long seasons of happier times when simply existing feels like balm to the soul. When life feels easier and we aren’t floundering. And we can make solid progress towards goals and a life that feels nourishing.
But damn, when one of the challenging seasons arrive, how do you traverse the challenging season without losing yourself? How do you find a way to feel just a little better or heal a smidgen? How do you take a challenging season and allow it to make your life better?
I wish I could tell you that I have a magic wand to wave or a special way of standing on one leg while chanting mantras that instantly took the pain away. My darling, there’s nothing that fixes it all. Yet, there are ways to ferry yourself to the other side of this season to ease the pressure on your heart and ease your soul in small yet tender ways.
Here are nineteen ways to make a challenging season feel a little less intense.
Be Honest with Yourself
You can keep trying to pretend you’re doing just fine, but pretending doesn’t always work. Sure, faking it until you make it might help a little, but it also can feel like denial. Instead, just be honest with yourself: I’m going through a challenging season.
Feel Your Feelings (But Don’t Wallow)
The only way forward is through, so you must allow yourself to feel your feelings. Allow yourself to feel sad and have a little cry. Be angry and throw an old plate against the concrete to move through your rage. FEEL all the feelings, and then choose yourself to feel the next emotion, which is usually relief. Feel it, move forward. Play this game as often as you need to. But don’t be an emotional cutter. Don’t purposely wallow in it and focus only on the challenging parts. Let the raw emotion go through you and burn away the pain. Then, move on, darling.
Allow Yourself to Be Comforted
The folks that love us? They want us to be happy. Maybe no one can fix a challenging season, but do allow others to comfort you. Allow long hugs. Have more sex. Let your friend take you to lunch. Go for a weekend away with your partner. Allowing yourself to feel comforted by others reminds you that no matter what you’ve experienced, there are good things in your world.
Don’t Allow Your Inner Bully to Surface
One of the biggest obstacles to getting through the other side of a challenging season is the ways in which we speak to ourselves. Oh, that Inner Bully who says “snap out of it” or “you should not better” or “you have nothing to be sad about” or “get over it already” makes us feel even worse. Because, yes, I have a wonderful life with so many blessings, I should get over a bad day or a rough week because yes, there are those out there suffering more than I am. But that doesn’t make my feelings invalid. So, tune out that Inner Bully of yours. Remind yourself that your feelings are valid no matter
Move Your Body
Sometimes, the mere act of moving your body allows your mind to clear out what’s making you feel blue. Take a walk. Rake some leaves. Mop the floor. Physical activity pushes good-feeling endorphins through your body. It helps, even when lacing up your shoes seems like more effort than sitting on the couch.
Get Out of Your Own Story
Maybe staying on the couch can be a good choice, too. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what a crappy day or rough month keeps us stuck inside that story. So, try the stories of others: movies, books, television series. Maybe, just curling up on the couch with a trash romance novel or settling in for a Netflix Marathon is just the right prescription for the day. You can’t escape your life forever, but you can escape a crappy day for an hour or two.
There’s a reason why art therapy works: it allows you to use your body and brain together to create something. Make a cake. Make a video or a quick Instagram Story. Write a story or a poem. Color in one of those adult coloring books (or a kid one). Making things with your hand and heart and soul and mind will heal you.
Try Positive Daydreaming
Did you know that subconscious mind does not differentiate between what is happening in reality and what is imagined? This is why so many studies show that mediation works. When you imagine that wonderful things are happening in your life – from meeting a soulmate to driving a new car to laying on your favorite beach – your brain makes a chemical cocktail of in response to the feelings those daydreams create. Just like a gratitude practice creates new neural pathways in your brain, positive daydreaming also fires and wires new synaptic connections. Win. Win.
Feeling rotten on the inside? Then, darling, pretty up the outside. Go the salon for a haircut or just a blow out. Get your nails done. Buy a new lipstick or allow the make-up counter lady to give you a make-over. Not only are you allowing yourself to be cared for by someone else, you’re boosting how your feel (studies show that those who put on lipstick before a test scored better).
Treat Yourself Like a China Doll
Maybe you just need a little tenderness. Spend the day or an hour or even five minutes treating yourself like you are a china doll and just might break without gentleness. Take a longer shower and lovingly tend your body. Spend an inordinate amount of time applying your make-up. Leisurely have breakfast at the table instead of eating in the car on the way to work. Notice the key words here: tenderness, gentleness, and tending.
Take Yourself to Lunch
Speaking of eating breakfast at the table instead of on the way to work, when’s the last time you went to lunch? As in: go to a restaurant where you can order from a menu, have a waiter bring you a nice meal while regularly refilling your water glass, and sit and breathe. You can use this time to read a book or people watch. No fast food, no drive throughs, no sad desk lunches. You, at a table, in a favorite place to eat. A way to be around people without having to BE social.
This is one of my go-to’s for a challenging season: a weekly lunch date with me, myself, and I!
But Don’t Eat Your Feelings
It can be oh so tempting to eat that pint of Hagen Daas. Or that cheeseburger. Or a box of Thin Mints you stashed in the freezer. And here’s the deal: you’ll feel crappy afterwards. Instead, mindfully go for that treat. Put ice cream in a dish and savor it. Go for that cheeseburger, but make it a good one (at a table in a restaurant and not while in your car. Yes, eat those Thin Mints you’re craving, but put them on a plate and have them with a cup of coffee or tea.
The trick is to do it mindfully. Tell yourself: I know this ice cream isn’t going to fix things, but I can enjoy the experience of eating this creamy treat and allowing myself to enjoy it. That’s how you use eating as a way to experience a desired feeling rather than numb it.
Retail Therapy: in Moderation.
I would never suggest that you spend money you don’t have or fill your home with things you don’t need, but sometimes you just need a little retail therapy. Choose a talisman to represent your survival of this challenging season – a new purse, a new lipstick, a pair of sunglasses, a charm for your bracelet. Indulge yourself with that book you’ve been wanting to read – in hard cover. Buy the pretty candle. Just do it in a mindful way, just like the eating thing.
Unplug. Yes, Put Your Phone Down.
Do you ever find yourself in a funky mood after scrolling through your social media feed? If so, a tech detox might be just the thing to cure what ails you. That nagging sense of negativity often comes out when we’re playing the comparison game – and we can all fall prey when our social media feeds are bombarding us with beautiful people going to fabulous places wearing ridiculously good outfits. Disconnect, put away your phone, and go do something that feeds your soul.
I remember my granny sending us outside to play and it always helped. Jump some rope. Play a board game. Go out to the movies in the middle of the week. Do something fun and joyful. A challenging season doesn’t have to be full of somberness all the time. Play helps you reconnect to your own inner light.
While you’re out and about, choose to connect to others. I know, it’s the last thing you feel like doing when you’re experiencing a rough day, let alone a challenging season. But trust me, it helps. All those things you want to experience? Happiness, kindness, tenderness, and gentleness? Be that person when you go out in the world. Smile at the stranger at Starbucks. Banter with the cashier. Listen to the lady behind you at the post office, really listen and allow her to know she is seen. This is such a simple act, yet it’s probably the #1 quickest way to get out of a funk. Get outside yourself and focus your attention on others.
Share with a Trusted Friend
Sometimes, you have to say things out loud to figure out how you’re really feeling. Or what might be triggering you to feel out of sorts. And sure, you can talk to yourself, but that’s not the same as being heard by someone who can be a good listener, be empathetic, and can help you identify what’s happening inside your head. Usually, that helps me shift what’s happening to a more positive light or simply acts as medicine for my soul. Take ‘em out and do this over lunch or coffee or happy hour.
A few notes about this choice. Don’t choose someone that doesn’t listen well. Don’t choose that person that always turns every conversation back to them. Don’t choose that person who will remind you how “lucky and blessed” you are. And don’t over-abuse the person’s ability to listen (aka tell the same person the same sad story over and over again). It works best with someone that can be there for you today – and then you can be there for them when they’re having a crappy week.
There’s an App for That
But what if you don’t have that trusted friend available for coffee or lunch? One of the things that is saving me right now is using the app Voxer. I have a trusted circle of friends with Voxer and instead of getting together for coffee, we talk it out on the app while we’re making dinner or taking a walk. Then, the other person can listen at their convenience, catch the story for me, and then reply back with their wisdom and advice. Seriously, a total lifesaver when my Dad died.
Write it Out
Kind of like the trusted friend solution above, writing down your feelings in a journal can help you process what’s really going on. Complete honesty is a must here, so go ahead and purge your feelings onto the page, even if they seem stupid or irrational. Something about the process of words on paper often dovetails with solutions presenting themselves on paper. Writing things out in an emotional way also allows you to distance yourself from the emotion and see your way to logic. That’s good heart medicine, marrying your heart and brain.
Remember: you are human. Not superhuman. Not a robot. A flesh and blood human. And that means that inevitably,you will experience challenging seasons. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to ease your suffering.
Each season of our life adds to the rich fabric of our human experience. We get to decide what we’re going to make that mean and the best way I know to ensure you survive it and get to the other side – intact with the knowledge of who you are – means that you’ll have to care for yourself in lots of deep ways.
Even when a season is more challenging than beautiful, that doesn’t mean you can’t get through it with tenderness and grace.
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