Last week, I published the first part of this series. In Part I, I explored the fact that, sometimes in life, bad things happen–without cause, or reason, or fault. In Part I, I talked about some common emotional responses to life’s “random bad stuff.” Naming our emotional response, whether it is fear, anger, hurt, confusion, or all of the above, is the first step in coping. Finding a safe environment to process our emotions is the second step. Today’s post is dedicated to some of my favorite suggestions for how to cope when you find yourself in the middle of a random bad stuff storm.
Identify or create your emotional safe space. The most important thing to do in response to random bad stuff is to deal with your emotional response. Find a safe space to name and process your feelings (yes, I know that I said that before, but dealing with our emotional response to random bad stuff is the foundation of healthy coping, so it bears repeating). There are many possible safe spaces. You may rely on close friends and family (if necessary, refer them to my tips for compassionate listening). You may turn to a faith community. You may need some time entirely to yourself. There may be a support group, where others have faced similar challenges. You may connect online. Or, you may work with a therapist. I personally recommend a combination of as many of those support sources as possible.
Focus on what is under your control. Remember that one of the things that makes random bad stuff so hard to deal with is that it is totally out of your control. Give yourself permission to accept that and to focus on the things that are completely under your control. If you are dealing with multiple random bad things at once, you may need to start small. Choose to take several slow breaths. Choose to spend five minutes outside, or moving your body, or reading a favorite book. Be creative. We always retain the ability to control something, even if is only the way that we relate to our own thoughts. If you’re feeling stuck, use your support community to help with this.
Try to remember that everyone experiences random bad stuff. In general, I tend to avoid using words like “everyone,” but so far, the only people I know who have not had some random bad stuff in their lives are children–and only some children. We each face a measure of pain in our lives. Pain that we don’t cause or deserve or create (and some that we do–but that’s a story for another day). Several readers last week suggested Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” in which the author explores his observations as a prisoner in a concentration camp. Another resource that was given to me during some of my own random bad stuff is Harold Kushner’s “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” Knowing that you are not alone does not erase pain, but it can ease it.
Don’t disconnect from the rest of your life. When you are feeling hurt and betrayed by an experience with random bad stuff, it can be tempting to try to disconnect, as a way to shield yourself from further pain. Please don’t. Disconnecting won’t protect you from pain. It will simply reduce the chances that you have to experience the good things in life. Try to challenge yourself to engage, show up, and reach out. This can be tough when you are hurting. Be gentle with your expectations–just try to engage.
I hope that these suggestions bring you a bit closer to peace with your own random bad stuff. I’d love to hear more about how you cope–favorite strategies, resources, etc. Thanks in advance!
Image Credit: “Pain” by iProzac via Flickr