General Life · Life Philosophy

The Only Way Out is Through

How I cope with uncertain times.

The last several years have been dramatic for and traumatic to many. Events on the global stage have caused sadness, fear, and have made many people feel extremely uncertain about the direction the world is heading.

On a personal level, I have also been dealing with a lot of stress. My last two grandparents died. I witnessed a lot of drama; have moved several times; and been uncertain what my career trajectory was going to look like.

I’m lucky that I have good friends and a loving family, and have had bosses who understand that sometimes being human means that you need to be away from work for a while. But even so, there are times when I feel a lot of feelings, and there is nothing I can do about it.

There’s a part of me that hates that. That resists it. But then I remind myself: The only way out is through. I’ve made it a mantra. I sing it to myself: The only way out is through. Sometimes this gives me strength to face the uncomfortable things I’m feeling; to bear with it until it has passed. One of the graces of aging is that you learn that time really does make most things bearable.

Once I have accepted that the feeling isn’t going away, I make myself sit down and take a breath. Maybe a few. And with a journal at hand, I follow these steps to work through what I’m feeling:

  1. I name the emotion.
  2. I sit with it, and ask:
    What does it feel like? Where is it hiding in my body? What does it feel like if I imagine “breathing” into that tense place?
  3. Ask: where is this emotion coming from? This is usually where the journal comes in handy. I can write all about it, get into the whys and wherefores, and ask if I’m being reasonable. It’s okay to be unreasonable! Sometimes doing it on paper makes me laugh and get over hard things quickly.
  4. Ask: is there anything I can do about this directly? Can I fix it, change it, choose to feel differently about this? If the answer is no, then I try to accept it. And then:
  5. Ask if there’s anything I can indirectly do to make things better. It might just be “taking a walk”. That heals many ills.

And that’s about it. I’ve written out the steps in case they are of use to anyone else. And, dear reader, if you have tools that you use to work through painful things, please feel free to share them here!

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