A Surprising Strategy To Deal With Difficult Times

When difficult times become too much to bear, try this.

I’ll start off by saying this post goes against everything I talk about and believe in, like “the only way through grief is through it” and that the way to truly let go of our pain (whether sadness, anger, guilt, frustration or any other difficult feelings) is to first acknowledge and FEEL it.

However, this strategy—while in direct opposition to what I practice and preach—I know from personal experience can help. But it comes with a warning.

After losing my mom there were days I’d wake up and, before I’d even open my eyes, I was already crying. It’s like I didn’t even have a fighting chance to ever be happy again. I felt this dark cloud looming over me everyday. I remember hitting such a low point that for weeks when going to teach yoga classes at a local hotel I’d cross the street without looking for oncoming traffic. I secretly wished for a car to hit me and take me out of the unbearable pain I felt.

Enter: strategy. As important as it is for us to face our feelings head-on, it can be just as important to avoid our feelings entirely. Avoidance. It’s not in my nature to avoid things because I’ve learned how empowering and liberating it is when we face our triggers and traumas. I know that “the gold” lies on the other side of our pain when we’re willing to walk through it.

But sometimes, facing our feelings and doing the deep inner work required for growth can be too much. Sometimes we need a timeout. Even with life going on all around us (that was a disconcerting feeling when grieving my mom, the fact that life around me still went on while mine stood still), there are times when we need to have distraction.

With the challenges we’ve all been facing through this pandemic—and many of us are also grieving a loss at this time so the pandemic only adds another dimension of trauma to the grief—being compassionate with ourselves is key.

There will be up days and down days. Learning to ride the waves and be more lenient with ourselves along the way helps ease the path. When the emotions become too much to bear, distract yourself.

Some ways to do this:

  • Watch a “feel good” movie
  • Binge-watch a show you love
  • Get lost in a fascinating book
  • Engage in a hobby that fills you with joy
  • Get physical (work out, practice yoga, dance to your fave music in your living room, etc)
  • Take a nap
  • Pour yourself a glass of wine, light some candles and/or incense and take a sumptuous bubble bath
  • Change the scenery: take a walk around your neighborhood and appreciate things you’ve never noticed before
  • Focus on taking care of someone else (you can do this in person with anyone at home or, while still quarantined, on the phone by listening to and supporting a friend in need)

Since the quarantine started, every night before bed I watch a 5-min clip of standup comedy. It’s said that laughter is the best medicine. And it’s scientifically true. Laughter releases endorphins, relaxes your body, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and boosts your immune system. Here’s one of the many comedians I love. You’re welcome. 😉

Copyright: Getty Images

For immediate and quick distraction when you catch yourself feeling bad, try this:

  • The “snap out of it” technique: physically snap your fingers as you say out loud “snap out of it!” and physically take a step away from where you’re standing or sitting. It signals your mind to shift from negative thoughts.
  • Shift your attention and look at something beautiful. Maybe it’s a tree outside your window. Maybe it’s your favorite artwork on your wall. Take a few minutes to appreciate what you like about it and why.

And, last but not least, here’s the warning I promised you: Use avoidance and distraction in doses. Avoiding your feelings indefinitely is a surefire way for them to come back and hit you even harder down the road. When we stuff down our pain it can eventually manifest into physical injuries and illness (which is what I’ve seen with both myself and my clients over my years as a yoga therapist). Beneath every physical ailment lies an unexpressed emotion (we’ll save more about that for another post).

So, in a nutshell: Let yourself FEEL your feelings. Distract yourself when you need a break. Come back and trust that you’ve got this. This is called emotional self-regulation. And it’s the most powerful skill you can learn to help you through anything.

If you need additional support getting through difficult times, my (virtual) door is open to you. Send me an email: [email protected] Call me: 786-453-5888.

And if you want to go further, I offer live 1-on-1 coaching via phone & video and will soon offer a self-paced online course. You don’t have to go through this alone! I’ve got you. 💜

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