Yesterday my husband and I faced another giant barrier on our journey to start a family and I was surprised by how hard it hit me. I guess no matter how prepared you feel for what comes, or how used to redefining your expectations you are, each setback hurts. Sometimes it seems like as soon as I begin to feel hopeful and like things are moving forward there is another disappointment and I am taken back to the grief of the day the doctor told my husband and I that we were infertile. I cried for hours yesterday, desperately wanting someone to rescue me from my sadness and anger.
However, in my work as a therapist I’ve had to accept the reality that there is no quick fix when painful things happen, and I was acutely aware that nobody could save me from what I was feeling. So, this morning when I woke up with puffy eyes, a pounding head, and an all-around grief hangover, I reflected on what actually helps when we are facing the feelings that come with life’s adversities.
1.Give yourself space to name and honour your feelings.
This is a hard one to practice. No one likes sitting with painful feelings and our gut reaction is to try to push them away or distract from them. I like to describe the futility of this by comparing it to trying to hold an inflatable beach ball underwater. Sure, you can hold it down for a while, but eventually it’s going to pop back up to the surface. Whether we acknowledge our feelings or not they are there and usually the fastest way to find relief is to move through them.
Additionally, our feelings can be a great source of information and spending some time with them can help us make sense of our experience. So, take some time to name your feeling. Are you sad? Mad? Worried? Let that feeling hang out for a bit. Get curious – what is that feeling telling you? Give it some space and know that whatever you’re feeling is okay.
2.Practice self compassion.
Hard feelings are hard, so now is a time to practice self-compassion. Self-compassion is the act of turning some loving kindness in towards oneself. Often being gentle with ourselves is difficult, even if we are great at showing compassion to others. Dr. Kristin Kneff (2018) does some fantastic work around self-compassion. Here is a link to an exercise on her website for an idea of where to start: http://self-compassion.org/exercise-2-self-compassion-break/
3.Don’t neglect your physical health.
I don’t know about you, but this is the first thing to go for me when hard times hit. My immediate reaction is to retreat to Netflix, carbs, and building a cocoon out of my blankets. Sometimes we might need to take a day or two of doing this, but when a week or two passes and this becomes our default mode, it can make hard times worse. Though difficult, when we are struggling we need to make sure we are taking care of our physical selves more than ever. Drink some water, eat some veggies, maintain a sleep schedule, and get some exercise.
4.Talk to someone.
Now that your physical body is looked after it’s time to take care of your mental well-being. You don’t have to carry this burden alone. Talk to a friend, your partner, your family, or a psychologist.
5.Engage in good self-care.
If you are able to do the above 4 things CONGRATULATIONS, you are already doing a darn good job of self-care. When things are going wrong taking care of oneself becomes soooo important. So, in addition to the above, do something nice for you. Maybe that’s having a bath, writing in a journal, snuggling a puppy, going to a movie with friends, listening to music reading a good book, or doing whatever else is your jam. You deserve it. Even if you are feeling so down that you aren’t excited about your usual hobbies try one anyway! Sometimes once we actually do it, the good feelings follow.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to leave my blanket cocoon to take care of me.
By Catherine Forth