Not only does a change in season seem to bring about the desire for a fresh start, all those desires to start fresh can bring up our stuff.
And our minds, being the tricky little beasts they can be, can take one small little thing and begin to let it spiral until suddenly, you are a stressed out little ball of tension, and you’re quietly weeping and contemplating just having ice cream for dinner.
I call this going down the rabbit hole.
The thing is, no matter how “evolved” you’ve become – no matter how much self-growth work you’ve done – there will always be triggers that send you careening down into an abyss you thought you’d already escaped.
The occasional rabbit hole is an inevitable part of being human.
What I’ve learned from multiple experiences with my own rabbit holes is it’s often a sign that it’s time for us to learn a deeper level of a lesson or evolve into our next stage of being. Sometimes, we pick up on the signs and create our own plan from a place of ease. And sometimes, we aren’t picking up on the signs that a shift is coming.
So, yes, my dear, in my experience, that occasional rabbit hole is the push we need to come to grips with the fact that we’re due for a growth spurt, even if it’s without our express permission.
As we entered a new month and a new quarter of 2016, I realized that I’ve made very little progress on any of my big goals so far this year. Yes, I have high standards but none of my goals are unrealistic. I’ve known that I need to evolve my writing life, but I have yet to take any real action.
So, down the rabbit hole I went. I found myself doing just that on a recent weekend, feeling frustrated and eventually sitting on the couch next to JB sobbing on his shoulder.
Now, the thing about a rabbit hole is it’s easy to fall down there and get stuck. It’s tempting to just wallow around in all the muck and mud your mind brings up.
A rabbit hole can be a major set-back or a growth opportunity.
Fortunately, I’ve developed some personal tools for dealing with just these situations to always use the experience as a growth opportunity, even if it feels like a set-back.
Here are a dozen of my best tips I have for surviving the first few days after your descent down the rabbit hole:
1. Allow yourself to have a good cry.
I won’t lie, I hate to cry. But, crying is our body (and mind’s) way to deal with stress and improve our mood.
2. Do something physical.
If, after the cry, you’re still feeling a little angry, do something physical. Go for a brisk walk or go for a drive. Do some heavy cleaning. Weed the garden. Put on some loud music and jump around.
3. Write your way through.
Get all the gory details down on paper. Yes, write down every gory little thought (e.g. – I gained three pounds which proves that I m a fat slob and therefore no one will ever love me and I’ll never be happy again). When we are emotional, writing things down will help find the logic.
4. Become a detective.
Step back and see if you can pinpoint the trigger (or series of triggers). As if you were an amateur sleuth in your favorite mystery novel, look at all the places your thoughts went. Even when those thoughts are really illogical.
5. Be Columbus when it comes to the Unknown World of Emotions.
No matter how evolved we are, when we fall down the rabbit hole, we stop acknowledging how we really feel and go for the big emotions: angry or sad, rather than the real, more specific emotions lurking under the surface: frustrated, offended, shamed, disappointed, forlorn, discouraged, scared, worried, or belittled.
6. Go back to the page and record what the Detective and Columbus discovered for later reference.
7. Clear the decks.
Choose one room and clear it of every trace of clutter. Then clean it. Places to start are your desk, your bedroom, your kitchen…. Yes, my office is spotless after my most recent tumble…
8. Designate a space of refuge.
Be it a chair, a corner of the couch, a cozy place under the tree. Every time you are feeling out of control or as if you’ll go deeper down the hole, go to your space of refuge or that spotless room.
9. Bring in beauty and nature.
Buy some grocery store flowers or that little jade tree in the adorable pot.
10. Read an old friend.
Choose a book you’ve always loved and re-read it. Yes, even if it’s something you read when you were twelve. Reading can make you happier, especially fiction.
11. Go to the water.
Soak in the tub (with bubbles and maybe a book and an ice cold glass of water) or take an extra-long shower, caressing every tiny piece of your skin and staying in there until your fingers become pruney.
12. Be extra kind to yourself when it comes to food and drink.
Don’t stay on a strict diet and don’t overindulge on sweets or alcohol. Be loving and kind when it comes to what you put into your body – aka things you love to eat and drink.
Eating a cookie with a cup of coffee in the afternoon is loving. Having a glass of wine while you share stories of the day is nourishing.
Scarfing an entire package of Chips Ahoy! while sitting in front of the TV or downing an entire bottle of wine is not.
If you think these tips sound more like triage than a long-term plan, you’re not wrong.
The first days after your tumble down the rabbit hole are about damage control – keeping yourself from taking a second fall, or becoming so mired in confusion that you can’t find which way is up. This is key to using your tumble down the rabbit hole as a growth-opportunity and not a major set back.