It won’t be easy at first. You’ll find yourself in a dark hole. No hope, light or chance of ever feeling happy again. That’s what the day is right now. People will tell you “Everything happens for a reason,” but you’re wiser than that. You know that some things happen for no reason at all. You’re wondering if you’ll ever feel that happy again. That wholeheartedly engaged in your future, without a care in the world. Although you may not believe it, you WILL get out of this mess eventually. You WILL feel like the once human version of yourself. Just hang in there and know that the path to redemption is right around the horizon. Here’s how to get there:
1. Allow yourself to feel the pain. Admitting that you’re in a bad place and going through a mess is the first step in moving forward. So many people waste their time convincing themselves that they can “fix” a certain problem, person or situation. Some things are not meant to be fixed. Acknowledging the awfulness that has surrounded your present gets you to ground zero. You’re there and it’s real. The band-aid is ripped off. It’s time to face the devil.
2. Make a list of all the reasons you’re upset, disillusioned, disappointed, broken down, angry and hopeless. Then make another list of all the things you wish to be. Recognize that the situation you’re currently in is not the end of the story. You’re really at the beginning of your own journey. Save this list and check in with it from time to time to see if anything has changed. It’s ok to feel these things when you’re in this state. Healing is a process.
3. Get your army together. Close family or friends that can help you build yourself back up. Keep you busy. Offer you an ear or support. If you have things that need to happen, let them lend a hand.
4. Get busy. Fill your day up with activity. Make short-term goals to get you through your day and week. Eliminate the stimuli around you that remind you of your downfall. Look for new hobbies, get back into your exercise routine, sign up for a 5K, a hiking club, a knitting circle, a book club – anything to keep your nights and weekends occupied with new people to interact with.
5. Make yourself the priority and treat yourself well. Understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will the rest of the happy life that you’re rebuilding.
6. If you’re working, bury yourself in assignments, take on extra projects and keep your mind engaged in the task at hand. If you’re in school, bury yourself in books, papers and being the teacher’s pet. If you’re unemployed, bury yourself in job searching, interviewing and landing a decent gig. Nothing bad ever came of applying yourself and keeping your mind focused on something other than your problems is a great habit.
7. Primp and Style. Retail therapy can work wonders for improving one’s self-image. Shop away as long as you can afford it. New cosmetics, new haircut and new shoes can also go a long way.
8. Be open to new opportunities around you. When a last minute invite comes your way to do something, say “Yes.” Be spontaneous to allow yourself to experience the unknown.
9. Acknowledge that there may be setbacks and don’t get too down on yourself when you hit one. You’re only human after all. Starting over is the greatest gift you can give yourself. You may not know it yet, but the day you decide to move forward and leave the past behind, it’ll be much easier and empowering than what you feared.
10. Accept the highs and the lows. You’ll have good moments and bad. More sad moments in the beginning, then less of them as the days go on. You may go out one night and have the best night EVER. Laughs and smiles will follow you for a series of hours and you’ll smugly think that you’ve got this. That the pain is done. Beware the crash that follows your first rebound of renewed jubilance. This is not a bad thing, though. It’s part of the process. The takeaway is that you’re capable of happiness again – and soon it’ll be a regular dish on your menu.
11. Get angry. When you feel the surge, you’ll know you’re on the right path. Channel the building blocks of confusion, resentment and worry that you’ve carried along for this ride. Remember them – they’ll keep you strong and make you wiser for the future. The anger is fierce because it’s the turning point at which you stop blaming yourself and start blaming “It” or “Him” or “Her.”
12. Feel moments of pure peace and calmness start to tip toe back in your life. Like when you see a little dog sticking its face out of the back seat of a car to feel the wind. Or a toddler licking ice cream from a cone in the summer. These sightings make you feel human again. You’ve at once forgotten what was bringing you down – even if just for a moment.
13. Recognize the remarkable path that you’ve journeyed, how you’ve battled to get where you are and will continue to fight. Maintain your focus, figure out what you want next and then make the changes in your life to get there. Your future awaits you.