Three times in the past week Ripenists have asked for some “tips to help get through a low patch”. Whether the ‘lows’ are brought on by the end of a relationship, struggles at work, wrestling with a decision that impacts others or a health concern, it’s highly likely that by midlife we’ve all experienced the flipside of joy, once or twice. For the most part, we know that these lows are temporary, but while we work through the gnarly issue, the weight of them can feel overwhelming, even scary.
The antidote to fear is to take action. In the act of doing something, even if it’s checking off a list, we immediately feel more in control. Here then are 6 actions to help lift your low:
Check in with your Values
How does the issue impact your Values? Could it be that’s why you are reacting the way you are? If it’s a lot, you may have a bigger, more courageous decision to make, because by midlife you have earned the right to live according to your Values, knowing that to do otherwise will become an integrity issue for you.
Alternately, if the issue doesn’t compromise your Values, then is it possible that your perspective is skewed? Even though it may hurt to consider this, you may find you’re making much ado about nothing. It can take courage to look yourself in the mirror and recognise your own contribution to the issue (be it your thoughts, actions or feelings). Of course this recognition offers its own opportunity: to get over ourselves, learn from the experience and move on.
Life is short after all.
Concern or Influence
Are the matters weighing you down concerns that are not yours to address or are they within your influence to remedy? For example, if someone else’s behaviour is contributing to or creating your low, will speaking to them about it make a difference to you? Can you have that conversation while maintaining, or even enhancing, both your own and their self esteem? If you believe you can, is now the time to do so or will a passage of time help? Might you be better to decide what you wish to say and how you wish to handle yourself now, but leave the actual conversation till a time when you feel less low?
Bottom line – decide what you can do something about and make a plan to do so. Or recognise that you are wasting time and energy ruminating on the concerns you can’t or choose not to engage with and do what you can to just let them go…
Examine your past learnings
Have you felt low before – even if not as low as you may be feeling now? Take some time to recall what helped lift you previously and try applying it again now.
Was it: Journaling? Talking with friends? Having some professional help e.g. Doctor, Counsellor, Coach, Church Leader, Alternative Practitioner? Moving your body? Allowing yourself a day or two under the duvet? Being in the presence of uplifting, encouraging people? Getting away – creating some distance, literally?
Tune in to what your mind, body and soul are craving most and gift it to yourself.
Measure your mood
Even the small act of identifying where progress is occurring can be helpful. What measurement could you use to track whether you are feeling better? This is not a To Do list but a ‘feelings barometer’ designed to have you pay attention to the depth and breadth of your low. You could create a scale, draw smiley faces, count how often you cry in a day, use a one word label – it’s your choice. But find a way to notice your mood in any given moment. It will help you recognise when further steps may need to be taken, such as seeing a Doctor or Therapist.
Change your state
This may seem harsh, but feeling low or going to the ‘glass half empty’ space, can become a default position – rather like a comfortable pair of slippers that our tootsies twitch for, as soon as we get home. It is said that ‘Misery loves company’. How much time are you spending with others also feeling low? If a lot, step away.
Change your physical or emotional state, even if temporarily. Go for a walk; read something escapist; stretch; dance like no-one’s watching; sing something perky; play with a dog; cuddle a child; watch or listen to something that makes you laugh out loud – just do something to break the physical and emotional lethargy which can come with feeling low. It will become easier and your spirit will lift accordingly.
Accept, Change or Leave
There are only ever three options to dealing with issues or situations – (i) you can accept it as it is; (ii) you can do your darndest to change it or (iii) you can leave – literally or figuratively.
If accepting the status quo is unpalatable to you, then you are down to two options. I recommend you never leave if you believe you would have regrets about not trying to change the factors contributing to the issue. Do everything you possibly can. But having done all you can to change the situation for the better, if the outcome is still not improved and therefore still unacceptable to you, you will leave with a clear conscience knowing you have done your best.
Again, taking action helps.
Additional reading: Overcoming Overwhelm
What else can you, dear Ripenists, offer up to lift the lows?