Yesterday my dog got hit by a car, while on leash, walking in the crosswalk, and having the right of way. A person turned and clipped him in the crosswalk, claiming to not have seen the giant white dog or the full-grown man walking him. Fortunately she did not hit the dog walker, but Edison, my dog, was hurt. Instead of the fun walk he was expecting, Edison wound up spending the day in the hospital in great pain, leaving with a bunch of stitches, road rash, a couple prescriptions and the “cone of shame”. After coming home Edison limped around the house in a drug-fueled haze, appearing very confused and upset, knocking things over like a white Godzilla. He’d lost his equilibrium.
It was a reminder of how you go along living your life and all of a sudden something unexpected happens, knocking you off-balance, possibly changing your life forever. Someone dies. You get laid off. You lose your lease. You have a serious health scare. Your partner leaves you. You get hit by a car. Suddenly, in a moment, everything changes.
When faced with unexpected bad news, how do you react? Some of us are a bit fatalistic, like something was bound to happen eventually. Some of us try to find meaning and reason to make sense of what happened. Some of us feel like a victim, and ask why me? Some of us get angry. Some of us look for the bright side.
After something knocks you down, it’s important to focus on restoring equilibrium. The bad things that happen in life help you build resilience, if you let them. Here are some things to think about for building your resilience and moving forward:
- Self Care: You’ve had a trauma, be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. Try to eat well and get rest. Take time to feel your emotions. Avoid things that are numbing but make you feel worse in the end, like excessive drinking or eating.
- Learn the Lesson: Many people believe that there’s a lesson in everything that happens. Ask yourself, what is the universe (or God, or whatever you believe) trying to tell me? For example a health scare or death of a loved one might be a wake-up call for you to take better care of yourself, or a car repair may remind you to engage in more preventative maintenance.
- Build Connection: Whatever you’re going through, someone else has had that experience too. Talking to people about your situation might help you find others who had that same experience, and they may be able to offer valuable suggestions for moving forward. For example, talking to others who’ve gone through a divorce can help you prepare for what’s to come and how to cope. And even if people have no clue what you’re going through, a kind empathetic listener can make all the difference.
- Let Go of Anger: We all need some time to vent from time to time, but holding onto anger isn’t healthy. The stress is bad for you physically and it impedes your ability to see clearly and move forward. Regardless of whether the thing that happened was preventable, it is what it is. I can be angry at the woman who hit my dog, but that doesn’t change my almost $800 vet bill, and it doesn’t help him recover any faster.
- Focus on possibilities and choice: Assess what choices you have and focus on what you can do to move forward. It might not have been your choice to have a heart attack, but it can be your choice to have another. You might be devastated to have lost your job, but look at the possibilities of new career options.
Is any of this easy? Of course not. But you can continue to rail against the situation, like Edison does with his cone of shame, or you can settle in and figure out a solution, like pulling on that cone until the velcro rips open and you’re free. The choice is yours.
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