When Life Gets You Down – Learn to Move On

Let us not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it. ~ Vincent Van Gogh

One would think by now that I would get it. That I would recognize the signs immediately and take steps to defeat those negative emotions. One would think that I could learn to ‘roll with the punches’ so to speak.  Here’s what I’ve found …

  • Stress happens. Even when we tell ourselves we aren’t stressed.
  • Nervousness and uncertainty often cause an emotional nosedive.
  • People’s expectations (and sometimes, their personalities) can be a real downer.
  • And circumstances often contrive to keep us off balance and vaguely depressed.
  • Then there are times when we just don’t know what’s wrong, but we feel bad anyway.

If you’re like me you’ve got enough job issues, relatives, responsibilities and relationship challenges to keep you ‘in the dumps’ on a permanent basis. Also, if you’re like me, you can navigate around those emotional potholes most of the time.

But sometimes, life just gets you down. The overwhelm gets overwhelming, and you can’t seem to take control of those runaway emotions. Now what? Here are five tips to help you move on.

 1.  Will it matter next Tuesday? Most of life’s challenges resolve themselves. For instance, there’s that obligatory trip to visit a difficult relative, or a job assignment that you don’t want to do. Both of those situations are time-constrained. When they are done, you are free to continue on with life. You can handle anything when you know it’s temporary. You just have to remind yourself of that fact!

A few years ago, my husband and I were headed for vacation in Virginia Beach – in December. Usually the weather is mild to chill, but we don’t mind. However, on this particular trip, they got a freak snowstorm. Fourteen inches in a matter of hours! Did we quit and go home? NO. We drove slower, arrived later, laughed at the weather (after we were safely at the hotel) and enjoyed our time there anyway. Life is not about what happens; it’s about how you react to what happens.

 2.  Find yourself a map. In other words, make a plan. When (not if) something dire happens, don’t throw a hissy fit or bury yourself in self-pity. Your life is like driving a car. If you take your hands off the wheel, you’re going in a ditch. Instead, find a way past life’s attempted road block or traffic jam. Ask yourself how to get over it, around it, under it or past it. A plan creates positive energy.

I know a woman who’s particularly good at this. No matter what life throws at her (job loss, homelessness, failed marriage, to list a few), she finds a way to move forward. And she does it with a good attitude and positive expectation. She watches for blessings along her route while adjusting her plans to detour around the road blocks.

3.  Get moving. You can’t just park and stay put. That’s a sure road to depression. Instead, find something you like to do … and go do it. Sing, dance, or pull weeds in your garden. Play the piano. My mother scrubbed floors (I never understood that, but it worked for her!). Mow your yard. Do something – anything – that gets you moving and makes you feel good.

When your car breaks down, you can’t just park it and let it sit. You find a mechanic and get it running again. Music is a great mental and emotional mechanic. So, turn up the tunes! Soon, you’ll be ready to cruise down life’s highway again.

 4.  Ask for ‘roadside assistance’. Recently, on a multi-state trip, there was a nasty accident on the interstate. Traffic was at a standstill – for six miles or more. Luckily, we stopped at the Visitor Center – and they showed us an alternate route around the mess.

When your life comes to a screeching halt, it might be time to ask for assistance. Remember that poem, “No man is an island”? Other people can often see your situations with more clarity than you can. If you don’t have a mentor or confidant you can talk to, get a coach or counselor. Then listen to what they say.

5.  Take notes. Writing is not only therapeutic, it provides clarity. Whether paper or word doc, record your thoughts and feelings about the situation. List the positives and negatives. It will help you find the best way to navigate through your mess.

We are planning a trip through the Rockies. I’ve got some vague ideas about where to go and what to see, but we need more than that. So I’ve started collecting information. Obviously, we can’t ‘do it all’. By putting it on paper and re-arranging the data, we can clearly see what to include and what to pass by.

Your life requires long-range planning, also. A journal can help you find the best route forward … and remind you how far you’ve already come. I recommend it.

 Don’t forget to pack!

It’s OK to read this list and think, ‘yeah, that’ll work’. But if you don’t use these tips, you might end up by the side of the road somewhere, wondering what happened. Instead, put them on a 3×5 card and keep it handy. Then, when you break down, you will have the tools you need to get back on the road again. Life is a journey. Travel first class!



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