After falling down the rabbit hole after a setback, first you triage yourself. It’s all about survival so that you don’t get mired in the muck. Yes, my dear, at first, you need to just do what you can to stop yourself from bleeding out or drowning. It’s an important step, but it’s also a stopgap.
It’s what comes next that will determine how likely you are to fall into the abyss again, or how you can use the experience of your tumble to grow into a stronger, better version of yourself.
Yes, I am a firm believer that we can use these tumble as a self-growth opportunity rather than allowing it to serve as a major setback.
Of course, you want to go back to life “as normal” as soon as possible. The thing is, if you rush it or simply bandage your life when you really need stitches, you’ll find yourself poised to plummet time and time again.
After experiencing this myself, more than once, I’ve come up with a game-plan that will help you survive the first few days after your tumble (shared here). Then, my dear, it’s time to make the choice to not just scale the walls and climb out of the hole, but emerge from the darkness feeling stronger than ever.
First, it’s time to go back to playing detective.
After a day (or two – not everything happens overnight), it’s time to be honest with yourself. Ask these questions, and answer them honestly. I find that pen and paper allows me to make sense of things, but if you’re feeling a little tender, or are leery of seeing your scariest moments in print, get a friend to help and talk it through as they take notes.
- What triggered you and led to falling down the rabbit hole? Was it one single thing or was it a series of things that caused you to stumble?
- What’s within your control and what’s not? Where do you need the help of a friend, your partner, or a professional?
- Where have you been lax in your own self-care?
- Are you ignoring your own minimum standards for living a life you love?
- Has there been a recent change in your life? Did you change jobs, move, or end (or begin) a relationship?
After you honestly answer these questions with yourself, it’s time to use your answers to build your ladder out of the rabbit hole.
By the way, try to complete steps one through six below within a fourteen day period.
1. Let’s Talk Goals
Look at the forest, the trees, and then the leaves. Look at the big picture of what you really want (hello forest). Get closer to that by saying what that would get you (the tree). Now look at some of the tiny things you can do to begin to shift towards your desires (leaves and branches).
When’s the last time you took a look at your goals and your progress towards them? Are your goals out of date? Commit your updated (or new goals) to paper.
2. What about routines?
Examine your routines and habits. Have you stopped meditating or writing morning pages? Have you stopped preparing your meals and have begun eating out more?
Start with your core routines: morning and bedtime. Go back to my “perfectly imperfect day” exercise (you’ll find the worksheet here) and go from the moment you rise to the moment you crawl into bed. Take note of the first hour of the day and the last and write down a routine to follow.
3. Make a plan for climbing out of the rabbit hole.
Create a plan with some loose yet specific guidelines: write one hour a day four times a week, exercise three days a week, eat 2 cups of vegetables a day, go to lunch with a girlfriend one day a week.
Don’t be afraid to write down tiniest of actions you need to take as breaking down a big goal into manageable steps will help ensure your plan is successful.
Also, when creating your plan, set at least one step that can be achieved in less than a week. This will allow you to have an early success and build your confidence.
4. Set yourself up for success.
Enlist some help. A coach or mentor. Your best friend. Yes, prayer counts.
Have an honest conversation. Tell your spouse (or any adult living with you that felt the effects of your tumble) that this is YOUR issue (spell it out) but that he can help you and follow up with a specific way. Be vulnerable and straightforward with a statement such as: “When you do X, it makes me feel Y. It’s not your fault that you do X, but I need you to know that it’s a huge trigger for me. Can we try Z next weekend to see if it helps?”
Clear the deck by clearing clutter. Yes, I know I suggested you clear a space right away, but you need to do more clearing. Clean your bedroom, your bathroom, your kitchen, your desk. Choose one space that is going to serve you in the coming month and put things away. Listen to a podcast or chat with a friend as you clear.
My secret 30-Day Solution: if the one space you need most to heal in is too cluttered, grab a bag or a laundry basket or a bin and shove everything inside in order to claim that space. Put it in a closet and then put a tickler on your calendar to go through that bag (or bin) next month.
Do a sacred cleaning. Whatever space you just cleared? Clean that space from top to bottom and claim it as yours. As you clean, focus on the thought that you are opening up space to heal, to climb out of the rabbit hole you’ve fallen down until you are back on higher ground. This is your sacred space now and treat it as such. Finish your cleaning by adding fresh flowers, lighting a candle, or some other sort of prayer.
5. Take note of your triggers.
When I was working in Quality Assurance, after any problem, we had to do an analysis of what happened and how to keep the same issue from rising again. All those questions you answered? It’s time to analyze them.
Did you pinpoint your triggers? What can you do to prevent those same things from triggering you into falling down the rabbit hole in the future? Play with both the logical and illogical. Especially note a series of triggers that leads to a fall (for example: a particular time of the month, after a stressful event, after several nights of insomnia, etc).
Noting your triggers allows you to recognize when you are on the edges of another fall.
6. Revisit your goals.
Remember those goals? That guideline? Those baby steps? Write it down – a pen in your hand and paper for the words to flow. Put it somewhere in that sacred space: on a desk, a bulletin board, taped to a wall, propped up against a picture frame.
Then, create a mantra or prayer. A sacred blessing. The reminder that love is your birthright and you are deserving. That you are worth feeling loved and safe. That you don’t have to be the walking wounded. That you have the right to heal.
Now, choose a date to begin your work. Don’t push yourself to begin tomorrow, yet don’t let yourself linger into next month. Mark it on your calendar, put a reminder in your phone, tell your best friend so they will help remind you.
7. Do the work.
Remember that the tumble down the rabbit hole doesn’t have to be a major set-back. However, you must be willing to do the work so that it becomes a part of your story of how you’ve become stronger.
When the date arrives for you to begin this next phase of the sacred work on healing and becoming who you most desire to be, become devoted to your goals and your plan.
If necessary, set up an accountability plan, whether it be with a coach, friend, or your partner. (My Become Besotted course provides a monthly check-in with yourself.)
Rabbit holes can be scary places. They’re dark, and dank, and full of thoughts and images we’d all prefer not to dwell upon. Climbing out of those mental and emotional holes can be challenging. There will be times when you slip a little way back in. But if you do the work, you can face each bit of uneven ground knowing that you have the strength and sure-footedness to recover from your fall.