Life Not Going As Planned? Try These Healthy Ways To Cope

December 30, 2020

I committed to some fairly drastic life changes earlier this year. I knew I was unhappy in my career. My anxiety took a major toll on my health. So I decided that I could have whatever life I want. I decided to give myself permission to pursue happiness over money. And for me that meant pursuing more time with animals and a warmer climate.

Navigating these changes to my life entailed a lot of planning and goal setting. I researched animal behavior and positive reinforcement training programs and found one that I felt confident about, applied and was accepted. I built up my freelance gigs so that I could leave my job at the law firm. If left to my own devices, I totally could have pulled this off.

But the thing is, this isn’t just about me. My dog Nitro is my “partner” and this program required a lot of him, too. A few weeks in, I noticed him slowing down. He is tired. And then, I found a fatty tumor growing on his ribs. Chances are it is benign, and the vet will verify at the biopsy this week, but that doesn’t mean I’m not silently crying as I write this. It doesn’t mean that I’m not reckoning with my dog’s age at a time that I had imagined we would be enjoying each other, training, hiking, cuddling, and spending the winter living slowly together.

And hopefully we still will.

But my plans have changed accordingly. I had to defer out of the program because I don’t have access to another dog. I didn’t give my notice to leave the law firm. Sadly, I’m feeling like I’ve failed. And I’m terrified I won’t make any of the changes (career, move to warmer climate) I desperately want to make. As someone who goes to great lengths to avoid failure, this isn’t sitting well with me.

Life throws everyone a curve ball sometimes. I think the important thing is to know how to come back stronger.

Sit with your emotions

Feeling sad is unpleasant. I tend to avoid negative emotions if I can. But therapy has taught me that negative emotions are important. My therapist says that tears are “healing waters” and, well, I think that’s beautiful and profound. Indeed, sometimes crying is beneficial. Crying emotional tears releases higher levels of stress hormones than contained in basal or reflexive tears, such as when you have something in your eye.

Utilize self-care

Don’t reach for the bottle of booze or junk food when you’re feeling down. Research indicates it makes things way worse. Instead, try meditation, exercise, talking with a friend, taking a bubble bath, looking at pictures of baby animals, etc. That list is far from exhaustive. Find what works for you and set aside some time to pamper yourself. (And note, just because junk food is ill advised doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in some healthy comfort food recipes like the ones available here on PD).

Be realistic

The only reason anyone “fails” is they’re challenging themselves. Rather than take it personally, ask yourself what you can learn from it and how you can come back stronger.

As for me, my goals are still at the forefront of my mind. I know I can get there, my journey will just look a little different than I thought it would. I’m working to have peace with that. After all, that is what resilience is.

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Photo: Sam Burriss via Unsplash

 

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