Sure, things go wrong, but sometimes it feels like everything keeps going wrong. It’s not even major things; it’s stuff like waking up late and hitting every red traffic light on your way to work, then remembering you left your sunglasses on the roof while shoving all your bags into the car.
As you mourn the loss of your sunglasses, you wonder how to make it stop!
Good news, you can not only make it stop but also make it less of an issue next time…
Personal Note: I am not a psychologist, and the tips I am listing below are what I have personally tried and found effective in my many years of dealing with my mental health issues. I fully advocate reaching out for help, whether it be a friend, a professional therapist or a support group in your area. Each of these has been invaluable in my journey.
1. You are not alone
There isn’t a human on earth that hasn’t experienced something like this. It happens, and we can bend our brains trying to figure out why.
Why me, why now, and why is this always happening? The reality is that it isn’t just you. At that very moment when you realise you have forever lost your favourite sunglasses, think about this…
There are likely thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people having a similar W.T.F moment. Take solace, and know you are one with your people. (FYI: I plan to run for president of the lost sunglasses club).
2. Acknowledge your feelings and self-talk
So, we can joke about it, but when you feel like you are stuck in a whirlpool of wrongness, it can be overwhelming and set the tone for a terrible day/week/month.
Anxiety levels can build to the point of a panic attack or trigger depression or worse. Those of you that have read my personal story will know that things going wrong was a genuine trigger for anxiety attacks which led to low energy, unreasonable thinking and ultimately, depression.
Take a minute and think about how you feel – angry, sad, frustrated, scared. Avoid trying to explain it away or justify your feelings. Quieten the self-talk and acknowledge your feelings without prejudice.
3. Step Away
The soonest moment you can step away, do so.
If it means you sit in a toilet cubicle for a few minutes, then so be it. The idea is that you are now away from what is going wrong and can take a moment to gather yourself. Too often, we think soldiering through and ignoring what is going on is the ‘strong’ way of dealing with problems.
All we do is build on the stress and put our bodies through more physical and mental stress. Giving yourself a breather provides you time to rethink and prioritise your situation.
4. This Too Shall Pass
I’ll credit Tom Hanks for this nugget. The phrase is found in many ancient biblical texts and used frequently by thought leaders throughout history, but for some reason, this snippet landed with me).
I recently watched a short video where he shared “this too shall pass” as one of his biggest life lessons.
Consider this: When things are going right, and you are everyone’s favourite person… this too shall pass. When things are going wrong, and you are at your lowest… this too shall pass. Everything has a season. Despite how you might feel right now, this too shall pass.
Things will go wrong, and things will go right; you can use a lot of energy trying to fight it or trying to control it. Modern ‘wisdom’, (and I use that term loosely), seems to suggest that there is a hack or shortcut for all things difficult. There isn’t.
Acceptance is about seeing the situation for what it is, not what it could be or whether it is right or wrong, just what it is.
When we resist the urge to superimpose things with coulda, shoulda and woulda, we are more objective and pragmatic. With acceptance comes a calm.
Mind, Body Green has an excellent article on the benefits of Acceptance
6. Your reaction is a choice.
This is a super tough one, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Honour your feeling of anger, sadness, overwhelm, dread, or whatever surges through you at that moment, but it does not have to determine how you react or what state you linger in. Also, don’t fall into the trap of making it your default state.
The guy in this image is probably going to get hit by all those people around him in the next scene, but it’s a good illustration…
7. It's not all or nothing
When things go wrong, we tend to brush our entire day and, if you’re feeling dramatic, your entire life with the same brush. We allow it to overshadow all the good and feel that wrong and right cannot exist simultaneously.
Yet, a time of sadness does not have to be completely void of happiness. We are complex beings that can experience opposite emotions without it meaning disrespect or invalidating the other.
According to this study, mixed emotions are common during hard times and not only help us cope but also reduce our stress levels.
8. Hardship comes with beautiful lessons
It took me the better part of 10 years for this nugget to really sink in. Some of the best works of poetry and prose were written from prison cells and by individuals who experienced unfathomable hardship.
We think differently and actively search for meaning and understanding when we are going through difficult times. Something about that change of mindset, acceptance and reframing allows us to explore, grow and discover things about ourselves that we usually would not do.
So, you just read this article, the phone rings, and the person on the other side delivers some gut-wrenching, I-forgot-how-to-breath news, and you look over points 1 – 8 and think, Dawn, you’re an idiot.
Your brain is in overdrive, your adrenaline is through the roof, and you either need a crater to open in the earth so you can dive in, or you must react… scream, shout, cry, aargh like a pirate, but staying calm and unplugging is not an option.
You would be correct, not about the idiot part, about not being able to do steps 1 – 8.
Doing these things takes practice; it’s a skill set you have yet to learn.
It would be best if you also took a small leap of faith. Like I said right at the top, try one thing and fully commit. It’s like trying on new clothing; you need to wear it a bit and figure out where it fits best and for what occasion; only then do you begin to get the full benefit.
10. Get Help
This is by no means last on the list because it’s the least important. If there is one takeaway from all of this, it’s do not be ashamed or feel you are being weak by reaching out for help.
When we try to figure things out on our own, it can be challenging to get out of our rut or way of thinking and doing.
Roping in support or getting professional help can be the catalyst or a stepping stone needed for the next stage. It can also provide a safe space for you to sort things out and deal.
Try these in an emergency
- Things going wrong is an inevitability – accept it.
- Having a bad day does not make you a bad person – be kind to yourself.
- Let go of that physical stress before you get a headache – breathe… slowly and deeply.
- Your facial expressions affect your mood and those around you – smile… even if it’s hard.
- Connect with your environment, smell, see, hear, touch, and taste – notice one thing for each sense.
These practices, alongside living with intention, having a personal philosophy and practising gratitude, are now so much a part of my life that I don’t even need to think about it.
It took Tom Hanks saying something I’d heard many times to have it really sink in. We often need to hear or see things differently for them to finally make sense.
To use the seed analogy: The first time we hear or see something, it’s like a seed is planted; we don’t need another seed; we need to feed that seed.
So, whenever we hear something related to that seed, we prepare for it to grow. Eventually, we get just the right amount of fodder or manure, e.g., when things go wrong – wink wink, for that seed to finally sprout.
We also respond to different mediums; some of us are visual, while others are more receptive to auditory input, but generally, we need a blend.
Exposing yourself to the same concept in different forms may seem repetitive or counterintuitive, but it is, in fact, best practice.
With that in mind, here are some resources that you can read, listen to or watch to help with some of the concepts discussed in this article. The final bit, putting it into practice, lies with you. The key word is practice, not chasing perfection because that doesn’t exist. Perfection is another way of saying – “you see, I can never get it done right”, rather focus on intention and progress – the secret sauce of success.
These are some resources I found particularly useful along the way:
- Biology of Belief [link to my book review] – Dr Bruce Lipton
- Dark Nights of the Soul – Thomas Moore
Don’t Quit - A Poem by Edgar A Guest Circa 1800’s
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low but the debts are high,
And you to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many failures turn about
When we might have won had we stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
You can never tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far:
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.