Health Tip #4: 7 Tips on How to Dig Yourself out of an Emotional Pothole

October 17, 2007 at 1:35 pm (health, help)

Speaking from experience, tough things rarely happen in isolation. I find that I am tested with not one challenge, but several at the same time. Much can be learned from these periods of time, so I’d like to share with you what I’ve gathered.

1. Go by feel.

Do what feels good. Not what feels good at the time and will create sadness or guilt later, like swallowing an entire chocolate cake or watching 10 back-to-back movies. If you are honest with yourself, you’ll know what I mean as this is different for everyone. And, avoid what feels bad. Perhaps you bump into a person in the grocery store. By their mere conversation, you get “down” and feel uncomfortable by their questions. Perhaps you are not ready to talk about matters, and feel negativity emanating from them. Perhaps you can’t even figure out why, but you begin to feel better as you walk away from this person. Perhaps walking through a store brings back sad reminders. Avoid the store until you can handle it.

2. Good can come out of bad.

Spending the whole summer watching my grandfather slip downwards was a horrible, sad experience. But, during this time, family and friends came by to spend time with our family. My aunt and uncle stayed in the bedroom across the way like two peas in a pod, and we were brought back to times from all of our childhoods. And we recalled funny memories of my grandfather. So, the sad time brought us together. Sometimes the good is less tangible. Look for it because it is there.

3. It gets easier.

If you are choosing a path that is hard (i.e., changing a secure but stressful job, leaving a bad marriage) or the change is not one by choice (i.e., getting sick, getting fired), just know that as acutely painful as this time is, it will get better. Time has a weird way of healing, if you are open to the change that will come. Dig up a time in your past that was difficult. Are you still feeling that pain? Perhaps yes, but I bet you that it has dulled somewhat. Perhaps you lost someone you love. You may never forget the sadness of the loss, but you are able to get through your days or can smile instead of cry when thinking of this loved one. This is progress.

4. Get help if you need it.

Especially if you aren’t used to asking for help and consider yourself tough enough, ask for help. You may not pay attention to your needs and push through rough times, but everyone has a breaking point. If you find yourself unable to eat or eating everything in sight, are staying in bed for days on end, and are crying for weeks, this is a sign you need help. It is normal to feel sad when times get rough, but if you find that your sadness is causing the rest of your life to come crashing down, there is no shame in getting a hand. Perhaps you just need a hug or a phone call. But you might need even more than this. Go make an appointment with a doctor or therapist to talk about what is going on.

5. Don’t talk about anything you’re not ready to talk about.

Often when people ask you questions, inappropriate, nosy ones or even simple ones with no evil intent, you can feel that you are obligated to answer. Perhaps you want to avoid uncomfortable silences or not insult your asking party. Well, newsflash, just because they are asking does not mean you have to answer. Especially if answering would upset you and force you to go down an emotional road you are not ready to travel. They are invading YOUR space, and it is your job to actively protect your own boundaries. There will always be rude, nosy people in the world. That you can’t stop. But what you can do is to protect your privacy. How do you do this?

Well, once you look at invasions of your space as the aggressive action and not something you must comply with because you are supposed to…it will be far easier. The more control you have over your life, and the earlier you figure out that you can make changes, the happier you will be.

Then, you can either just say nothing and change the topic. (“yikes, I just remembered. I have an emergency appointment with my proctologist!” OR “You just reminded me. I think I left the iron on! Gotta go!”)

You could return with an equally invasive question. “So, how’s your weight loss going?” “Did you know your husband pinched my behind last year at the Christmas party?” Here is the possible expression of Nibby Nora.

You can do the old reject and deflect. Bernice Busybody: “So, I hear you dropped out of school. Are you going back to school anytime soon?” You: “That reminds me…I was thinking of asking you about your schooling. What did you study?” Following up with a question about the other person probably will flatter as well…

And finally, you can just say, “I appreciate you asking about my welfare, but I am actually not sure.”

5. Hang out with supportive people.

I find it interesting how people spend tons of time complaining about their so-called friends, only to continually make plans with them. Or they are irritated with their ugly wardrobe, but are not saving money or buying bargains. Perhaps people like to complain, or they just feel powerless over their lives. Think about what you are getting out of the complaining. Are people running to your aid? Does the attention feel good? Or are you too lazy to do anything and it’s habit complaining? Whatever it is, it’s not worth it. And, examine your life. They say an unexamined life is not worth living. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s hard to make changes if you don’t spend the time to look at what is going wrong. That includes what you are doing too, as it’s easier to change yourself than others. If you are know or live with someone who drives you mad, or needs help, you can only set a good example and make gentle reminders. But you will look like father time from the mere stress before this person chooses to see themselves in the mirror. In the meantime, do what you need to do, and you might inspire them along the way.

So, it is truly YOUR choice and well within your power to make your life happier. And one of the most important things you can do is to select supportive, positive people in your life. And there is no better way to find out than in hard times. The cream floats to the top.

6. Do healthy things.

The last thing in the world you might want to do is to get out of bed. But if you stay in bed all day, you know you will only feel worse. Ok, maybe you can do it a day or two, but eventually, you might create new problems, like getting canned from your job and now you have more to be depressed about. You may have no interest in going to the movies or listening to music. And maybe the first few times you go out with friends feels awful. But after a while, you will feel the positive effects. That goes for exercise, reaching out to friends and family, cooking a meal for yourself. Do the actions first and the feelings will follow later.

7. Do for others.

As odd as this sounds, doing good for other people is actually one of the MOST therapeutic ways of picking yourself up. Think about it. You feel like crap because you are spending all day thinking about your own problems. It’s like having a gerbil on crack running on a neverending little wheel. It gets old and you are going no where. Jump off the train to nowhere and start helping someone else out. Or write a card to some older relative you have who lives alone. Take someone out to dinner who rarely goes out. Whatever it is, you are not focusing on yourself, you are taking a break from figuring out your own things, and you are getting positive feelings from doing a good deed.

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Come one, Come all…

September 26, 2007 at 10:55 pm (doctor, help, medical, questions, relationships)


I am back from my hiatus and continue to reflect and be deeply saddened by the loss of my grandfather, however I feel it is necessary to push on with my blogging. I’d like to continue with my format, providing tips of all sorts in various categories, however I invite reader participation as well. As I am a medical doctor with psychiatry training, I’d enjoy posting the occasional Q and A. If you have a question regarding your medical health, are curious as to how to solve a difficult relationship problem, work crisis, or are at a crossroads, I’d like to help. In order to maintain anonymity, I would ask you email me your question, and I will post the answer without identification. You will know who you are, and others can hopefully learn as well.

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