You know how it is. You’re flowing along in life’s stream when suddenly there’s a fork in the river and the current forces you into a direction that’s not exactly of your choosing. It’s moving so fast that all you can do is surrender and hold on for the ride. It’s a fact that Life may, at times, push you in a direction you had not expected or decidedly did not want to go. I know it’s happened to me many times before, and it’s happening to me once again.
So, how do you navigate the surprising and sudden turns in life course?
First, stay present with what’s happening.
As hard as it may be to stay in the present moment, it is essential when life throws you those big curve balls. The worst thing you can do is deny, avoid, or try to escape from what’s happening. Stay grounded in your body and be sure to mindfully (and heartfully) tend to your basic needs. It may sound obvious, but in times of heightened stress, it can be easy to forget or neglect proper nourishment, rest, and the tools that keep us in balance such as meditation and exercise. At times of increased anxiety, overwhelm, confusion, etc. these things become more essential than ever. A good practice is to take a deep breath, bring awareness into your body and ask yourself “What do I need right now?” Then listen and lovingly respond.
Next, allow yourself to feel, express, and release your emotions (in a healthy way, of course – no yelling at the neighbors or kicking computers, please.)
It’s essential that you honor your emotional state by simply letting yourself feel how you feel, without judging, analyzing, or fixing. If you feel numb from the shock of sudden events, it can help to talk to someone you trust and feel comfortable with, or ask them for a hug if you can’t find words. Sometimes hearing ourselves say something out loud, or feeling a loving embrace, can thaw frozen emotions. You can also use writing, art, movement, and sound to help you express and release emotions you may not yet have words for. The point is, do not stuff, numb, or push away your feelings. Doing so will increase the sense of pressure and may lead to inappropriate emotional outbursts or somatic complaints such as headaches. If you need help with this, don’t hesitate to find a professional to work with.
Don’t make any big decisions until you’ve clearly assessed your situation.
When we find ourselves at those uncomfortable and challenging crossroads, it’s easy to start acting from a place of urgency and even panic. When nerves get frayed, slow down, breathe, and do something to help you drop into the present moment. (Yep, presence again). Clear-headed assessment can only come after we’ve honestly looked at the situation from all possible sides, felt our feelings, and had time to digest what’s happened. If time is of the essence, and there’s not enough time to process and integrate, it’s essential to consult level-headed advisers who can help you steer the best path forward. Do what you can to get clear before taking actions and you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble in the long run.
Connection and community can be of tremendous value when we’re in the midst of an unexpected change.
Sometimes crises cause us to want to isolate, and that can be okay for a time. But it’s important to be able to share your thoughts and feelings in a safe relationship or environment. Call or visit a close friend or family member. Find a group or workshop where you can connect with others who can understand and support you. But remember, you’re the one who ultimately knows what’s best for you, so be sure to be able to filter the advice and opinions of others to find what is true and in alignment for you. It’s okay to ask folks to listen and let them know that, while you appreciate their intentions, you are not looking for advice, opinions, answers or solutions from your sharing.
While it’s not everything, attitude can and does make a difference.
Perspective greatly influences experience. It’s okay and natural to feel yucky when yucky things happen, but you don’t want to get stuck there. Release those emotions and then it will be easier to look for opportunities to minimize the negative effects and grow from the challenges the change is bringing. It’s no secret that challenges present us with some of the greatest opportunities for personal growth. Embracing this perspective can help bolster your strength, courage, and resilience.
Be gentle and kind to yourself and know that time does bring healing and clarity. And remember, the biggest and hardest challenges and changes life brings us often turn out to be defining moments that stretch us to become larger, wiser, more humble and loving versions of who we truly are.