When a sudden life crisis strikes, it catches you completely off guard. Something comes at you like a meteor crashing down from out of the stratosphere. It smashes into your world in a catastrophic way, you perhaps didn’t see coming at all. You might suddenly discover your partner is cheating or wants a divorce. Perhaps someone else close to you has betrayed you, or maybe you get dumped in a relationship you thought was going amazingly well.
In any scenario, it is usual at that moment that the meteor hits, to go into shock. It’s as if you are disconnected from reality, and you begin to feel yourself swirling, and whirring, and losing control.
Realise and accept that you are in shock
The first thing to do, in this horrid life crisis situation, is to realise and accept that you are in shock. The physical impact of the shock on your mind and body can create instant dizziness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. You may experience sensations of panic and extreme anxiety. Your body is on such a sudden high alert that you are wide awake throughout the entire night as if your eyes are held wide open on matchsticks.
Don’t fight these reactions. Allow them to be there. Take some slow and deep belly breaths, focusing on breathing out from your diaphragm. This will ease dizziness and stop you from hyperventilating.
Try to eat and drink sweet. A simple cup of tea and some toast and jam can really help. Due to the increased level of adrenaline, your blood sugar level can plummet quickly, so eating something sweet will help you to regulate this and ease symptoms of shock in a sudden life crisis.
It’s normal not to cry when you are in shock. It can take hours before the reality of the situation begins to kick in. With a sudden of immense sadness, tears will follow. When this happens, this is a sign that the symptoms of shock are subsiding. Get ready for a deluge of tears; enough to flood an ocean. Be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to cry. Accept that this is a normal reaction to the sudden loss and emotional pain you are feeling. Don’t hold it in.
Science shows that withdrawing from love is like coming off heroin
Take all the space you need. Tears will come in overpowering waves of emotion, with bouts of unexpected and uncontrollable sobbing. Keep faith that your body is doing what it needs to do, to find its way back to balance. It will usually subside within a couple of days and you will feel stronger for it.
So set yourself small clear tasks to focus on
As the tears begin to subside, the intensity of this life crisis will begin to ease, though your mind will still feel muddled and confused. Get busy. Write a ‘to-do list’ of positive things you can achieve. Keep it pro-active and realistic, so that you don’t get overwhelmed. It can be something as simple as cleaning and tidying a cupboard to getting fit, or to throwing yourself into a project you may have been putting off at home or for work.
Start with just one task at a time, and break it down into bite-sized chunks. Begin with the end in mind. You will still likely burst into tears, unprovoked, at the drop of a hat. However, bringing your focus gently back to something you want to achieve for yourself, will help you to ground yourself more quickly. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Tackle the task an hour at a time, and extend the time as and when you can.
Flood your mind with opportunities to make you laugh
Watch your favourite stand up comedian, immerse yourself in your most loved sit-com or series, on Netflix or DVD. Don’t underestimate the power of perspective you can achieve with a good belly laugh, out loud.
Listen to music with a strong and energetic beat
Don’t wallow in slow sad songs, or reminisce with your special, soppy playlist.
Set yourself a deadline on your suffering
Give yourself an initial framework along the lines of four to six weeks (or however much time seems acceptable to you). Make a pact with yourself that you will accept that a life crisis has crashed unexpectedly into your lap, so allow yourself to be sad for this amount of time. Promise yourself that during this time you will be aiming to strengthen every day a simple positive focus to move your life forward, such as getting fitter or eating more healthily, or doing one thing you enjoy to nurture yourself every day. Then, visualise for yourself at the end of the set time, that you will be ready to get on with your life feeling accomplished with your positive goal achieved.
Give it time
Believe me when I tell you that the emotional impact of the meteor will pass. After any sudden meteor strike, calm does eventually return and you will recover. You will reflect and you will still feel sad for the loss, but your grounding will return. It is useful to reflect on all those times in the past, when you have felt similar levels of stress, pain or anxiety, even if not to the same life crisis intensity. Remind yourself how you got through it then. You have recovered from difficulties, perhaps even tragedies, in the past. Even though things may seem overwhelming just now, trust that you will recover from this too. You just need to keep moving forward, one tiny step at a time, each day.
It has helped me at times to remember a favourite quote that is
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Wise words, from A.A. Milne in Winnie the Pooh.
If you need my support with your heartbreak, I’m right here.
Anxiety Expert – Anxiety Help Bournemouth & Christchurch, UK
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