Surviving the Storm

We all have storms in our lives…whether catastrophic storms like Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina or a tornado…or personal storms in which a series of disruptive events knocks us off our feet. The upside of a catastrophic weather-related storm is that there are usually other people around you going through the same thing at the same time. While it may be true that misery loves company, the reason is probably the camaraderie and support that the company brings.

The emotional and psychological recovery from both weather-related storms and personal storms is quite similar. In both circumstances, there will be people who are overwhelmed by the stress and have great difficulty moving on while there are others in a similar “boat” who seem to miraculously be able to pick themselves back up, face the challenges, make a new plan, and implement the plan. My grandfather would say “you’ve got to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and keep going.” “No crying in baseball.”

My bounce-back go –to strategy? Here you go!:

  1. Depending on how bad the situation is, give yourself a little time to actually fall apart. If you have a choice, fall apart near someone who loves you. Otherwise, a pillow will do just fine. Cry, scream, or just wallow. A giant pity party in your head. Go for it. For 15 minutes. If it is really bad or you just need a whole day, take the day, but when you wake up in the morning, the pity party is over. No questions asked.
  2. Now that the falling apart phase has been completed, the assessment component kicks in. How bad is it? What has been affected? Does your house have a tree stuck in it? Did your heart get broken? Were you disappointed by being passed over for a promotion? What are your options? There are always options. You could choose to live with the tree sticking out of your house. That is an option, and it is up to you. This is not yet the time for making a new plan; this is the time for looking at the problem at hand from every different perspective that you can. The Jesuits who taught me at Holy Cross were excellent professors of perspective. The best solutions often come from looking at things from every angle before making a decision.
  3. Having looked at the tree, the broken heart, the disappointment from every angle, NOW you can formulate an action plan. The action plan does not include further wallowing. Do you need to contact your insurance agent? Update your resume? Take a class that you had been meaning to take anyway that will broaden your skill set? Write in your journal or make plans with friends? Make a list of actions that must be completed this week and get them on the calendar.
  4. Slightly longer term, what are the ramifications for the next 6 weeks? Are the additional actions that can be taken to move you from disaster-state to recovery-state? Write them down and get them on the calendar. There may be other experts that you need to call in during this 6 week period. Career counselor? Life coach? Therapist? Contractor? For every problem that you may encounter in your life, there is a sea of experts standing by waiting to help. It is their business to help. They can’t wait to help you. So, you see, you are not alone after all.
  5. The fun part!! Now think about the progress that can be made on this problem, this disaster that is derailing you, in the next 3-6 months. Imagine what new possibilities may be open to you because of what you have been through. If your house was damaged but you are ok, you can now pick new colors or furniture or something wonderful as the construction takes place and your life goes back together. Didn’t get the job you thought you wanted? Maybe this is the impetus to finally really look for something that will be satisfying and exciting for you…that will utilize your individual skill set and make you feel more engaged in your own life than you have ever felt before. Let down by a friend? Maybe it is time to broaden your social network and meet more people or to reconnect with people that make you laugh out loud until your face hurts. Imagine the possibilities. Write it down. Make it happen.

I don’t mean to trivialize some of the challenges that we will face in our lifetime. People we adore die. Relationships end. Cherished possessions are lost forever. It hurts. It is terribly painful. I can feel like dragging your heart across broken glass. But eventually we face the decision, do we stay lying down in the broken glass or do we get back up and see what can be done? Do we still go ahead and live our best possible life?

When we focus on the negative, we run the risk of getting stuck right there in Negative City. Things don’t flow right in our lives, partially because we keep calling more negativity towards us and in putting the challenges under the microscope, we miss the beautiful opportunities that are right in front of our eyes. When we kick the pity party out to the street and really put our energy and focus on what we can do right now, really soon, and relatively soon…our actions that can bring us closer to the solutions that we desire…it is amazing to see how smoothly everything can fall into place.

Sometimes we get sidetracked by some other problems. No worries. Rise back up, rinse, repeat. Get right back out there and climb over the rocks of distraction and negative thinkers and be King of the Mountain of Optimistic Expectations. It may sound hokey until you decide to try it and watch it work for you. Either way, bad things will happen. You can get through them worried and scowling or you can get through them leveraging experts, smiling, and believing in a brighter day. Guess which one I choose? Need help getting there? Let me know. I’m here, believing away and smiling, and I’m sending you love and good karma so you can make your action plan and get on your way to the best life ever.


Colleen Walsh