When life knocks us down or takes a turn in a direction we never imagined – it can be devastating.
This is especially true when you’ve invested a lot of time, energy, money, or love into whatever that has been derailed. I’ve experienced some significant setbacks in my life and endured some losses that decimated me for a time.
But one of my favorite quotes says, “It’s not what happens to us in life that defines us, but how we respond to it.” These are the three things that I have personally found to be the most helpful for those times when we’re at rock bottom – starring at the rubble and trying to figure out where and how to start rebuilding.
3 R’s to Go from Rock Bottom to Rebuilding:
Record Little Wins
During my traumatic and hostile thirteen-month-long divorce with three young children, I was so devastated and depressed that I could barely function and just getting out of bed was considered a big success. At some point in my grief filled fog, I stumbled across an article that mentioned the idea of “little wins.” It advised that no matter how seemingly small and insignificant an activity or action was if it positively contributed to your life moving forward, then write it down.
So, I got a journal and created “My Little Wins List” and let me tell you, it was pretty pathetic in the beginning. “Got mail out of the mailbox,” “Didn’t cry in front of the kids today,” my first list read. But as time went on, my lists grew longer and the items more impressive (relatively speaking). “Researched a school program,” “Made it to the gym,” “Cooked dinner and let the kids help.” I was starting to remember that I was a capable human being who was able to accomplish things. Now almost three years later I’m amazed at my lists and can’t believe what’s been possible just by learning to believe in myself again.
Recall Past Successes
When I was first started rebuilding my life, I was scared to try new things and terrified to commit to anything because I never knew if the waves of grief might rush over me that particular day and leave me unable to follow through. On the days the waves did hit, I was drowning in a negative mindset. I eventually found that one of the most powerful ways to break free from dramatic and depressive thinking is to connect with another person, especially one who has known you a long time and can remind you of your past successes. If you don’t have a person like this, seek out a trained professional who can help guide you through this process.
Soon, you will start remembering that not every attempt was rejected, not every hour wasted and not every relationship went down in flames. But to get to this place you must break free from the trance of negativity and fear. If you’re having a hard time coming up with any successes, start with the fact that you are alive and breathing today. Having the courage to face another day and continue fighting the good fight is a success in itself.
Rituals of Self Care
Feeling defeated and depressed is exhausting, and when you’re exhausted, it’s hard to get positive momentum going. One way to do this is by making an effort to care for you in an intentional and fully present way. Creating rituals is important because it gives us a sacred and safe space to honor our thoughts and emotions, which allows us to integrate our experiences and process life’s transitions healthily. Author Doctor Christiane Northrup says, “Some researchers believe that many of our culture’s physical and mental illnesses stem from our disconnection from ritual and community.” Furthermore, Dr. Mario Martinez, who has done extensive research on healthy centenarians all over the world, found that every one of them participates in daily rituals of pleasure.
Slowly savor your morning coffee while listening to relaxing music, light candles and take in the scent of your favorite essential oil or bath salts as you add them to warm water. Meditate, journal, dance, or hike. Have a smudging or fire ceremony to help facilitate cleansing or letting go. Serve yourself food and drinks in beautiful dishes that make you smile. Nurture yourself with simple pleasures and allow yourself to fully experience them free of outside distractions and judgments.
Hitting rock bottom is tough, but the blessing is that it is also an opportunity to create the life you always wanted.
By mindfully practicing responses to the process of rebuilding, we gain the peace and confidence to create a life that not only looks good on the outside but feels good on the inside as well.