In her first regular column on dealing with life’s challenges, life coach Karen Campbell gives us a few pointers on how to ride the waves in a crisis. Deep breath…
In times of uncertainty and disarray there’s no wonder we can all feel a bit wobbly, collectively and individually. I think we all agree that 2016 is going to go down as one of the all-time stinkers and instead of dozing off in a Quality Street/Baileys-infused haze watching the end of year round-ups, the majority of us will be shaking our heads in disbelief. Disbelief at the tragedies we’ve seen unfold, the heroes we’ve lost and the sea change in the political landscape that none of us even dare predict anymore. And it’s only July.
It’s not overly dramatic to say that some people have felt, and indeed still feel, in crisis and are genuinely lost and confused about what to do about feeling this way. How can you keep your head when all around you are losing theirs (or so it seems)?
I’m using this unprecedented year’s activities as an example here, as people can relate and share these feelings on a mass level, but people are going through crises all the time. Most of us will experience some level of high anxiety crisis once in our lives; I know I have and it can feel engulfing, like an out-of-body experience that is bigger than you.
This is where we have to remember the normal, the mundane and the routine as these are the things that will keep our head. When people are going through extreme stress, small things like keeping a schedule and sticking to it no matter how big or small, make a huge difference.
Remembering to take the bins out on a Wednesday or that you need to feed the cat are small, yes, but they keep a level of normality in a sea of chaos. Starting with these minor tasks gives us the foundation to add more things when the time is right and gives us order and meaning; something that in highly stressful times we may lack.
“Being with people, interacting and allowing the crisis not to be your focus will help you cope and understand how and why you’re feeling like you are, making you feel better.”
The majority of times, crises derive from loss: a break-up, lost job or opportunity, a bereavement etc. This can see us lose our footing and perspective, resulting in life as we know it going off-kilter. But going off-kilter is both expected and perfectly normal: our psyche is reacting and getting in place to eventually heal. It’s making sure you and the people around you can look after yourself in the best way possible during the haze.
• Accept what’s happened and what you’re feeling. Completely easier said than done, granted, but there is help to get you there and importantly, there is no time limit – take as long as you need.
It’s really common for people to initially shut out the raw feelings as it feels too overwhelming, but all that does is bury, not eliminate them, meaning in time they will resurface.
A good way to get those feelings out is by speaking about them (to a friend or professional if needed) and writing them down. Put how you’re feeling into actual words – seeing those words on a page entices a release. A great exercise is writing everything down and then just tearing the piece of paper up or throwing it on the fire; this symbolises the words being extracted from you and destroyed.
• Look after yourself. I always bang on about self-care but in times of flux, it is never more important. Have a routine, eat food regularly, exercise, don’t get pissed too much, get a good night’s sleep, unplug for at least an hour before bed, surround yourself with wholesome people (not the Dementors that zap all your emotional energy) and be kind to yourself. Remember, you’re pretty damn ace.
• Find a focus. When you’re feeling uncertain a good thing to do is find something positive to focus on, no matter how big or small. If you’re struggling with what to focus on, a good idea is to do a vision board: pick random pictures or words – anything that you’re drawn to – and get them stuck in a book or on a Pinterest board.
Take a step back and have a look at the commonality. Are there a lot of pictures of the great outdoors, which could indicate you spending more time in nature? Are there a lot of images of inspirational words and phrases indicating you may want to go and learn/take a night class?
Don’t labour over it – go with what words and pictures attract you and see what it comes back telling you. If you’re unsure what your vision board might be telling you, ask a friend to decipher it and tell you what they think; it may be very different to what you see.
• Get yourself out there. A pity party for one is no fun so try as much as you can to get out there with people. See friends/family, join a book/running/cooking group, have experiences, ask that guy/gal out for a drink. Being with people, interacting and allowing the crisis not to be your focus will help you cope and understand how and why you’re feeling like you are, making you feel better.
• Remember: storms don’t last forever. Even though that light at the end of the tunnel isn’t even in sight yet, it will be and soon you’ll be swanning through it with a spring in your step, wearing a fabulous outfit.
Karen presents the life-coaching workshop In Search of Lost Ambitions, at The School of Life on Thu 8 September. Click here for more details.
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Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.