Is your husband enjoying the mother of all midlife crises? Has your wife received terrifying medical news? Is your teen experiencing extreme depression? Has your toddler just been diagnosed with a a condition you can’t pronounce?
Welcome to the shitshow. Many of us have been there, and most of us have made it through. Life’s traumas are crap, but they are navigate-able. Here are a few things that I’ve found to be especially helpful.
1) Panic. Seriously, just do it and get it over with. Because let’s face it, you’re going to freak out when these kinds of things happen. When the panic sets in, just go with it. Feel the sweaty palms, heart palpitations, and nausea. Throw up if you have to. Panic fully. Freak the fuck OUT. Then be done with it.
2) Breathe. Once the panic passes, take some time to just breathe. Breathing will remind you that you are, indeed, still standing – and can totally survive panic, you badass! This is a good thing. You will also be exhausted from losing it (see above) and will NEED to breathe. If you’re a meditator, take some time to do that. A quiet mind is better able to think and receive messages that might help you figure out next steps.
3) Extreme self-care. Ok, this is hard one for a lot of people, but it’s important when shit goes sideways. Sleep, eat, exercise, take your vitamins, drink your water. Listen to music you love. Read only what feeds your soul. Light the good candles. Take baths. Get a massage. Whatever makes you feel cared for? Do more of that.
4) Ask for help. Do not try to navigate sideways shit on your own. It’s much easier to have some supportive people in the know. Even if you’re mortified, embarrassed, and have always done everything yourself, reach out to family and friends. Tell them what’s happening, and then ASK THEM TO HELP YOU IN SPECIFIC WAYS. If you need your couch moved, ask. If you need little Keiran picked up from school, ask. If you need a kidney, ask. I promise you they will show up.
5) Face it head-on. Trials and tribulations suck, that’s for certain. But if you allow them to, they will teach you and help you grow. If you can stand in the middle of the storm and let it whip you up a little bit, you will gain perspective and probably a little courage. If you try to run from it, medicate it, hide it, or otherwise deny it’s happening, it’s still going to be there whenever you pull your head outta your butt and look around. Best to just deal with it as bravely as you can WHILE it’s happening, and get through it.
6) Remember your faith. If you have a religious belief system, or if you are a spiritual person, lean on this. Go to church, or temple, or the woods. Pull out your Bible, or Torah, or runes. Talk to your pastor, or rabbi, or spiritual guide. Run naked through the woods. Dance around a fire. Pray and then listen. Do whatever it is you do. There is comfort in ritual and faith.
7) Take each step as it comes. Sideways shit is blinding. You probably won’t be able to see a year from now, a month from now, or even an hour from now. That’s OK. Things won’t be clear. Just take each next step as it reveals itself to you. And each step will if you’re breathing and facing things as they come.
8) Pay attention. Be aware of what the Universe is bringing you. Even the worst pain will have some beauty within it if you look for it. You might notice the right person showing up at exactly the right time. Or the next right step reveals itself during prayer or meditation. Or a stranger smiles at you to remind you that no matter how alone you might feel, you’re not. Count your blessings, even if the only thing you can come up with is, “I made it through another day.”
9) Hugs. Whenever you can, wherever you are, give and receive hugs. There’s some scientific evidence out there (that I’m way too lazy to look up) that says something like 8 hugs a day improves our general outlook and sense of well-being. All I know is they feel good. So give hugs. Receive hugs. Revel in them and take them as evidence you’re not alone.
10) Find your others. Finally, find other sideways-shit survivors. Nobody will “get it” like the people who’ve been through it before you – or those currently experiencing it. When everyone else gets tired of listening, these are the people who will continue to nod in understanding and hand you a Kleenex. They will assure you you’re not crazy. They will have another 10 or 20 or 50 tips to pick & choose from. And they will remind you over and over that, no matter what, you’ve GOT this.