The past few months have served as a reminder that life can throw a lot of difficult situations your way at once.
In the past, this deluge of disasters would have overwhelmed me.
But now, I know I have the tools to deal with each challenge.
Note: This post mentions the loss of loved ones and suicide.
It felt like a hurricane passed through my life
First, I know I’m not the only person dealing with difficult situations. Between the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine, the world has been turned upside down.
But the past few months have been a rollercoaster for my family. We experienced so many life-changing events — one right after another — it was difficult to catch my breath.
Professionally, I accepted the role of CEO at UCARI. It was an exciting opportunity. But it was also a lot of work. The company was going through multiple transitions that kept me on my toes for months.
The stress made my Sjögren’s syndrome flare up. My mouth, skin, everything was so dry. It took about three weeks to feel like a human again, which felt like forever.
And then my family’s life turned upside down.
My ex-husband, the father of my daughter and son, died by suicide.
After the initial shock, I never knew what emotion would pop up. Some days I’d find myself playing the role of the helper, planning his memorial or comforting my children.
Other days I’d feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. My mind was riddled with what-ifs.
Then, the same week of my ex-husband’s death, my aunt also passed away unexpectedly.
To top everything off, my husband caught COVID and omicron swept through our law office.
During all of this, a family member asked how I was doing.
I realized that I was in robot mode, just going through the motions as I tried to get myself, my family and my business through each day.
That moment was a turning point for me. I realized I needed to remember to pause, feel my emotions and find a way to take care of myself.
Building a toolbox of self-help resources
Once I allowed myself to pause, I was able to finally start acknowledging and processing my feelings.
I decided that I wasn’t going to live in survival mode any longer. I had to dig myself out of this hole. And come out stronger.
That’s when I started building what I call my “self-help toolbox.” I knew I had the tools I needed to get through this. I just had to use them.
Here are the rituals and “tools” that got me through those stressful months. They helped me deal with the actual trauma, as well as the repercussions that continue to rock my family to this day.
Recognizing my needs
I realized I needed to make time to work through my emotions and allow myself to grieve. It would be okay if there were days I needed to spend at home mourning.
For the perfectionist go-getter in me, this was a major shift. Normally, I respond to stress by burying myself in work or some other distracting activity.
But this time, I allowed myself to feel the pain and sorrow of losing my ex-husband. Doing this helped me grieve. It also helped me recognize my needs and seek out help from others.
No more people-pleasing
I tend to say yes to everything anyone asks of me. But those months showed me it’s okay to put my needs first. I can’t make everyone happy all of the time.
This lesson hit home after my aunt died. I wanted to be there with my family more than anything, but sometimes I just didn’t have the emotional space to attend certain events or help with the arrangements. Especially while I was still helping my kids cope with the loss of their father.
Delegating and letting go
Professionally, I realized I had to master the art of delegating, trusting others and letting go, which echoed what I learned at a recent Ayahuasca retreat.
Pre-Ayahuasca, I was very controlling. I thought that if I needed something done right, I had to do it myself.
But Ayahuasca showed me that that’s not sustainable or healthy.
Now, I’m more open to delegating and trusting that others will get things done. I’m building cohesive teams and seeing more engagement and progress.
For me, meditating is a spiritual experience. It helps me connect with my softer, more compassionate side. It’s the first thing I do every morning.
I keep my phone and headphones next to my bed. When I wake up, I listen to relaxing music for 30 minutes to an hour. I also write in my journal to capture the thoughts and feelings that bubble up during each session.
Regular exercise has helped me physically and emotionally. Whether walking outside or working out on our Tonal, the activity helps me be more present and focus on my body.
Making healthier food choices
I’ve realized that the better I eat, the better I feel. For example, going gluten-free has made my celiac symptoms disappear. I didn’t know it was possible to feel this good.
But I don’t want to deprive myself of the foods I enjoy. Take chocolate, for instance. In the past, I might have emptied a bag of peanut M&Ms. Now, I’ll drink a chocolate smoothie with greens for breakfast or have a little bite of dark chocolate with my lunch.
This allows me to satisfy my sweet tooth in the most healthful manner.
Creating healthy habits that help me thrive
My self-help journey hasn’t been a quick fix. It’s steady work.
But I’m cultivating the tools and strategies to get me where I need to go in my personal and professional life.
This helps me better manage the difficult situations that life will continue to throw our way. It also helps me find and respect my boundaries and let go of the need to control everything and everyone.
Thanks to my self-help toolbox, I can respond and adapt as needed. I know I have the resources to manage stress in a healthier manner.
Making myself emotionally and physically stronger
I’m grateful that the hurricane that passed through my life these past few months didn’t leave only a trail of destruction. Instead, I feel like I’ve been given a fresh start. There’s a sense of vulnerability that feels like the beginning of a new chapter.
And truthfully, I’m thriving.
I can peacefully let go of the past because I’m now in a healthier, better place — and it’s all thanks to my toolbox of self-help resources.