Lately many of my female friends have been going through massive changes in their lives, careers, and/or relationships. Their lives took a major turn from the path they’d envisioned for themselves and they were left flailing, unsure of which direction to swim or how to avoid sinking altogether.
We all encounter times in our lives when we feel stuck, directionless, overwhelmed, confused lost, unsupported, unloved, fill-in-the-blank by too many possibilities. If we don’t stop to rebalance ourselves during these times, then we will only spiral, and be stuck suffering.
I seem to experience this feeling at least once a year. Sometimes it’s a tiny, positive occurrence which develops when I’m presented with a potential new job and forced to assess my life’s direction. Sometimes it’s a major life shift which leaves me in a panic. Either way, I have a few methods for coping with these feelings, finding my direction again and floating to the surface. The more chaotic the time, the more methods I employ.
If you do nothing else on this list, at least read this powerful article by Julie JC Peters entitled “Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea.” Julie tells the story of The Goddess of Never Not Broken, a Hindu Goddess who is always broken, always imperfect – and all the more powerful for it. Julie states that when you are broken “You are in flux, you are changing, you are flowing in a new way, and this is an incredibly powerful opportunity to become new again: to choose how you want to put yourself back together.”
Secondly, get out by yourself, into nature. The alone part is very important as it allows you to sit with your own thoughts and analyze where you are, where you want to be, what you can and can’t change, and what to do next. One year I took a nine-hour scenic train ride from LA to San Francisco. I starred out the window at the stunning California coastline all day. Another time I took an all-day hike in the redwood forest on a misty, cool, weekday, when the crowds were sparse and I felt like the only person on the earth. So go rent a cabin in the woods, take a long, scenic road trip, sit on a secluded beach all day. Nature is proven to have a calming effect and to enhance our creative thinking abilities, thereby enabling us to see our situation more clearly and identify potential paths we’ve never thought of before.
Finally, read “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, or “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mays. These memoirs tell stories of real women, who went out to find themselves, their strength and their direction when their lives were upended. They will inspire you, remind you of your own strength, and feel like a warm friend accompanying you on your journey. Not a reader? Download the audiobook or at the very, very least rent the film. If you can combine the read with your trip into nature, all the better!
Let your thoughts gather over a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months. If you need some humor during this time then read or listen to Amy Poehler’s book “Yes, Please” or Tina Fey’s “Bossy Pants.” They too are supportive, strong female role models who aren’t afraid to show their imperfections and share their life’s lessons, but they do it with hilarious style.
If your woes revolve around career or money, I recommend reading (or at least skimming) “Overcoming Underearning” by Barbara Stanney. She will help you realize your worth – and you’re net worth – while empowering you to go out and get what you need and deserve, and to thrive financially.
Hopefully, the waves will then seem less daunting, and you won’t be dragged down so relentlessly by your dismay. That’s when it’s time to pick a direction and start swimming. The world needs you. Cracks, confusion, imperfections and all. You are stronger than you know, and it’s all going to be okay.