How to Cope When Your Life is Falling Apart
You just lost your job. Your marriage is on the fritz. Your home is in foreclosure. Any one of these events can be quite traumatic and can make you feel like the world is collapsing around you. More than one occurring at a time can leave you with a real sense of hopelessness and despair. Combine these things with the common day to day stressors in life, and everything can begin to feel like one uncontrollable tailspin of a mess. Regardless of the situation you are in, there are concrete, actionable things you can do to help ease your burden.
Hurry Up and Slow Down
When you feel like your life is falling apart, it can send you into a panic. Quite often the first response to this is the speed up. Hurry up and come up with a plan. Fix it! Fix it! Fix it! Typically, this only serves to produce more panic and actually slows down productivity. When you move too fast you can miss important facts and solutions. You also increase the likelihood of making a crucial mistake. Instead, take a breath and slow down your thinking. It may sound counterproductive, but it is often necessary to slow down in order to speed up. In the case of problem solving, slowing down to mindfully determine goals and objectives will actually speed your time to a solution.
Fixing the Fixable
Despite how out of control you may feel right now, there are things that are completely within your control. It may involve doing something you don’t like. You may need to make a decision you don't want to or you may be in a situation that requires that you take a step back in order to move forward. Regardless, you are still the mastermind of several things in your life. Having to make tough decisions can fill you with anxiety and stress, but it is a necessary step in order to improve your life.
One key to identifying and then fixing the fixable is to stop big picture thinking. Big picture thinking can lead to feelings of overwhelm and feeling overwhelmed often stops productivity. Instead, break things down into smaller pieces, fixing one thing and then the next. Making one decision and then the next. This is the best way to get things done without being overrun by anxiety. It may help you to actually list each actionable step and cross them off as you complete them. This will provide you a sense of accomplishment and progress.
Another key to fixing the fixable is to learn to tune out the irrelevant. Prioritize the issues and you are sure to find things that are just not as important as other things. Focus on the most important. This is another area where listing things by literally writing them down can be very helpful. Try categorizing the problems in A, B, C order with A being the most critical and requiring immediate attention. B problems would be those you need to get too soon but not immediately. Finally, category C problems would be those that do not require your attention right now. You may find that the issues in category C are symptoms (or otherwise related) of category A and B problems. Often time concentrating on those critical problems will alleviate the minor issues with little to no additional effort.
Give Yourself a Break
There is only so much doing and decision making you can take before you need a break. Give yourself time to rest and clear your mind. Doing so will actually help your thinking. Get plenty of sleep as sleep deprivation can lead to serious damage to your ability to think and function properly. Rebuilding a life that is falling apart requires strength and endurance. This means you need to be careful to take care of yourself. In addition to getting plenty of rest, you should take time to eat and properly see to your health. Giving yourself a breather will allow you to start again refreshed and with purpose.
Finding Stress Reducers that Work
Deep breathing, yoga, exercise, meditation – these are all wonderful ways of reducing and managing stress. If they work for you great, if not then find stress reducers that do work for you. Managing your stress is essential at a time like this. Try journaling, stay connected to family and friends, or listen to calming music. There are many different stress reducers out there and once you find one that works for you make sure to spend some time every day engaging in that particular activity.
Also, make sure to take deep breaths throughout your day. Stress often brings about tension which leads to shallow breathing. Consciously changing the way you breathe can actually work to relieve this tension.
Accepting What Cannot be Changed
The fact of the matter is that stuff just happens. Life isn’t always fair, and this is true for everyone. There is a long list of things that are just beyond your control. Instead of exhausting energy on these things, learn to accept them and move on. Refocus your energy on the things that are within your power to change. As hard as it may be sometimes it is just necessary to work with what the world has given you.