How to keep it together when your life is falling apart
My life falls apart on a regular basis. Sometimes, it only really constitutes a minor crisis (yesterday all four of my avocados ripened unexpectedly, like they were plotting a collective coup d’état, so I had to make emergency guacamole at 10.30pm). On other occasions, however, I have managed to get myself into the most nail-bitingly uncomfortable and impossible situations, with seemingly no way out or any real explanation for the fact that I am still, somehow, in one piece (I’m talking, stranded in a foreign country with no money to get back). The main thing that I can draw from this bank of disturbing and extremely questionable experiences is that I have become rather good at crisis management.
This isn’t to say that I completely disregard these experiences, don’t learn from them, and just accept that I am going to continue to get myself into the most picklesome situations. But drama does somehow have a way of finding me, and all that I can say is that it doesn’t even surprise me any more… When I found myself living in a hostel for a month, house-hunting, juggling three part-time jobs, a student newspaper position, a joint honours degree, a long distance relationship, a social life, and a website, I barely even blinked. This, it appears, is what the world wants for me (side-note, if you believe in Karma, please don’t also be Hindu. We have hundreds of gods that we could inadvertently anger. I am starting to grow increasingly suspicious of my own precedents).
Hindu gods aside, sometimes things really don’t go as planned. Whether that’s in your personal life, your job, or in business, things can go wrong. So what do you do when a crisis strikes? What happens when your business is tumbling? What happens when you’re the one who is tumbling?
Come hither and meet the crisis bible: my ten golden rules on how not to implode when life bitch slaps you in the face (like, how could they forget about that good deed I did yesterday? Is there really any justice in the world?)
Never, ever, give up on yourself.
If it helps, don’t think about what you’re about to do, how you got there, or the realistic chances of not making it out of the slump. But don’t give up. I have been in countless situations where I could have given up and left the fates to do their evil job. I have woken up in hospitals on d-day (departure from foreign country day) with no money, no strength, no friends present, and a drip in my arm. I once left five hours worth of work in Pisa only to find out my client hadn’t received any of it and I had no backup. Did I jump off a train, run back to the hostel, beg, borrow, and steal, and run back in time for my train to Florence? You bet I did.
Remember that things will get better. Brainwash yourself if you must.
When the going gets tough, tougher, and then eventually pretty grim: tell yourself constantly that it is going to get better. Do not, under any circumstances, dwell on how impossible it all feels. If you have to, lie to yourself. I promise, this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Over the summer last year, I was too poor to function (to heavily paraphrase Mean Girls) owed money to nearly everyone that I was close to, and feeling pretty disheartened as a result. But I recognised that it was just a phase, saw that things would change and started laying the foundations for this to happen, and eventually guess what happened? Things changed, as I (with a gleam of desperation in my eye) had said they would.
Ask for help.
Now I know that this is a difficult one. Particularly if you pride yourself on being independent and not asking for favours, it may feel a bit shameful to ask for help, whether that’s financial, moral, or general-life related. But it helps. It really does. Never, ever, ever, be too scared, too ashamed, too worried, or too proud to ask for help. If you keep suffering in silence, so will your life, job, or business. Communication is the key to unblocking a crisis. I should know.
Be kind to yourself but don’t feel sorry for yourself.
When things start going wrong, e.g. a new project fell through, your boss is being unpredictable and mean, or you have way too much work and too little time, please don’t feel sorry for yourself. When people feel sorry for themselves, they are looking for an excuse to indulge in bingey (you know what I mean) behaviour, to give themselves a sobering but overtly indulgent pat on the back and mull in unproductive sadness. This will do little to help your predicament, or the strength of your character. You are better than that. Don’t repeat your plights in the hope that they might jerk a tear from a passing stranger. Instead, recognise that you are in a bad way, and be kind to yourself in a way that might actually change your frame of mind. Take yourself out for a scone and some jam, have a bubble bath, get a bit of shopping done, watch that film you’ve been meaning to watch! Do something positive that will get your happy chemicals buzzing. Take care of yourself.
Rise to the occasion.
What’s a little obstacle for a powerhouse like you? Life crises are precisely the right moment to get your sass on. Beyoncé your way out of whatever rut you are in with a can-do attitude and a focused mind. Remember: this is all character building. I repeat this every time anything terrible happens to me and honestly, it does help a little.
Find out what’s necessary to keep you running.
Whether it’s your business that’s in need of TLC, your job, or your personal life, the common denominator is you. This means that, in order for you to manage any of the madness, you’re going to have to be in functioning order. I would suggest finding out what keeps you going in times of hardship. For me, I made the gym a compulsory part of my weekly activities (for more info on how to get yourself to the gym, read this). I thought that if I went to the gym at least three times a week, I would be getting a bunch of endorphins to help me through my days, and a great way of relieving stress. Gym was the antidote. Finding out which activities or habits restore you to zen-mode is a really important task in getting back in control of your life, so start thinking about the things that make you feel a teeny bit happier and make you feel more like you, and then start doing more of them.
Do what you have to do.
Even if it’s crazy, desperate, difficult and makes you feel like wrapping yourself up in a duvet cocoon and never coming out again, do the things you have to do. If you need to tell someone a potentially upsetting truth to do something that is necessary for your survival, then you may well have to grit your teeth and do it. If you have to get out there and ask people for help, you’re going to have to do that too. Don’t think about how you look, or what people think of you. Hustle your way back to happiness.
Look for small accomplishments
Times of crises are when you really need to celebrate small victories. Like meeting a person in a café, or talking to that person you had a feeling you would get on with. Or perhaps it was making a plan for the day and actually sticking to it. It may seem like you’re just giving yourself a gold star for the sake of it, but when your world is starting to look like a lop-sided pear, any success, however small, is a success. Defend your tiny accomplishments as though they are puppies. They are your puppies.
In the midst of juggling three and a half jobs, my degree, social life (for sanity purposes), long-distance relationship, and other aforementioned pursuits, I realised that some of the things I was doing were time saps. I am no quitter, but I also hate doing things half-heartedly. So there came a time when I had to weigh up these two, and decide which things to cut loose. I would strongly suggest this, as even though it isn’t pleasant to sign up to something and then back out, it is so, so important, to recognise when you aren’t doing something well, or when something isn’t worth the time and investment. It’s also better for everyone, as you can give way to people who have more time to offer. Don’t be afraid to call it a day. The moment I acted on these time-saps, I felt an immense weight removed from my shoulders, and suddenly things became more manageable again.
When you’re really at rock bottom, seek out the world.
When you start to feel like a bag of crushed wheetos, it’s time to bring out the big guns: your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to launch into a monologue of woes while they sit and listen. Just make sure you’re talking to someone and getting their input. When it feels like everything is against you being a normal, productive, healthy, happy human being, the thing you need the most is to talk to a fellow human being before your mind explodes from over-thinking, over-working, and general dread.
Good luck, fellow warriors!
Let us know if you have any tips of your own for overcoming life-squishing crises in the comments below. I, for one, would be glad to hear them.