How to Cope When the Wheels Fall Off
Wouldn’t it be lovely if life were a smooth-sailing journey towards self-actualization, filled with pink, fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows all along the way?
Unfortunately, this is not the way life rolls. Because we are human, we make mistakes and our lives periodically become messy.
We each have a baseline level of functioning that is determined by our usual levels of stability versus stress. When we hit a bump in the road, the increased stressors can disturb the homeostasis. It feels like the wheels have fallen off and we are veering wildly off course, at least temporarily.
For me, this tends to happen when I take on too much, am not practicing adequate self-care, or when it is absolutely least convenient. The straw that breaks the camel’s back might be a conflict in an important relationship, a challenge with my business, or an epic parenting fail that leaves me feeling like my husband, kids and I belong on an episode of Jerry Springer.
When the wheels pop off, we feel off balance, out of control, anxious, irritable, afraid and inadequate. Our inner critic spews negative thoughts such as if we were somehow better, things would be better. This negative voice in our head can exacerbate shame and impair the coping skills needed to get back on track.
After nearly 20 years of counseling clients, I recommend the following when feeling unglued:
- Pause and get grounded. Slow down. Breathe. Meditate. Practice self-care (even a 10 minute walk can clear the cobwebs.) Sometimes taking a break from trying to fix something is exactly what needs to happen to find the clarity to discover the solution.
- Cut yourself some slack. You are human. Nobody is perfect. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides—we all have our stuff! Practice a normalizing and forgiving mantra, such as, “I am only human and I am doing the best that I can.”
- Zoom out and gain perspective. Is the situation you are dealing with truly the end of the world? Understand the present moment is only a small blip in time. Know, “This too, shall pass.”
- Practice gratitude. Train your brain to look at the good parts to increase resilience and positivity.
- Consider a “reboot.” My colleague, Ross Rosenberg, recommends a mental rebooting if your personal operating system has gone haywire. This involves letting go of any mental energy that is keeping you fixated on a problem. In a moment of quiet reflection, imagine you are hitting the “refresh” button on your psychological browser and see your situation with renewed perspective and energy.
- Detach from ego. Let go of the need to be perfect, the need to be right, and basically get over yourself.
- Get support. Talk to friends, family, your therapist, support group, etc. Ask for what you need to recalibrate.
- Practice self-care until your cup is full again. You can only get your life back on track if you are well. Get proper rest, nutrition and exercise to be at your best.
- Appreciate that hardships are opportunities for growth. Eckhart Tolle said, “Life will give you whatever experience is necessary for the evolution of your consciousness.”
Real life and real relationships are sometimes not neat and pretty. Understand this is okay, all things happen for a reason and everything is exactly as it should be. Sometimes things fall apart so we can put them back together—better.
“If you upset the apple cart, put them back in, redistribute them & carry on with your life. It is likely that the cart will move more easily.”
~Ross Rosenberg, Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome
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Marter, J. (2013). How to Cope When the Wheels Fall Off. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 29, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/success/2013/11/how-to-cope-when-the-wheels-fall-off/