There are times in our lives when we stray from our path and lose a sense of direction and purpose. It’s normal to question our decisions, especially if you’re like me and at times struggle with nearly paralyzing anxiety. It’s also OK to ask, “what’s next” without knowing a concrete answer. As conventional lifestyles begin to become a thing of the past, the certainty of our “next step” seems more vague and amorphous. Traditional structure doesn’t accommodate the romantic vision of many modern-day thinkers, artists, and seekers, so here’s a few ways to bring ourselves back when we can’t seem to tell up from down.
One of the quickest ways to reground ourselves when we’re feeling overwhelmed with indecision, or itching to escape the anxiety seemingly fused into our skin, is to simply breathe. Sometimes we just need those big, deep, belly breaths, even if it’s just a couple to remind ourselves that we’re safe here, in the moment. Breathing offers us the opportunity to hit the reset button when we’re entering full-fledged, OMG-everything-is-wrong mode. Sit or stand up straight, press your feet firmly into the floor, and take a couple long, deep breaths.
2. Validate Your Experience
Hey, you! It’s OK to feel lost and it’s okay to have days where we feel sad, inadequate, ashamed, disappointed, overwhelmed, and an entire book’s worth of other uncomfortable emotions. Contrary to popular belief, happiness is not a stagnant state that can be maintained indefinitely. We are unique in our ability to experience a vast spectrum of emotions and it’s normal to feel an ebb and flow. It’s important to acknowledge our discomfort before trying to push through something we haven’t yet accepted as being valid.
3. Write a List
I love lists. Lists and my ADHD have become the best of friends over the years and I’m not sure what my general productivity would look like without them. When we have too much mental chatter or a storming spiral of negative and self-defeating thoughts brewing, it can be helpful to clear out the clutter. This can look however you’d like and you’re free to go with what feels right for you. I tend to make two columns, one for fears, feverishly scrawling all of them, from the realest of reals – losing my health insurance, never making enough money, to the completely irrational, my parents thinking that I’m a failure because I didn’t study law. I then make another for hopes. I list activities that bring me joy, causes I feel passionately about, unfinished projects or ideas, and dreams I have for the future. They can be as simplistic as drinking a cup of tea in the morning, and as grandiose as becoming a full-time-travel-writer-adventure-queen-badass. Simply expressing what is residing in the rooms of our psyche can be cathartic and gives us a better sense of which fears seem almost laughable, and what we actual enjoy doing.
4. Create One Goal for the Day
One of the biggest things I notice when I’m feeling lost, is that I am lacking a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Accomplishing things, from the mundane tasks of paying bills and doing the dishes, to the magnificent triumphs of our wildest dreams, helps to solidify our self-esteem and makes us feel capable and independent. It reaffirms our ability to get things done and encourages our belief that we are gifted and talented in beautifully unique ways. So today, choose one thing that feels manageable in the midst of an overwhelming fog, perhaps something you’ve been avoiding, that would help you to feel accomplished. Each day, you can experiment with adding something else, or something more involved. Most of our lives are comprised of habits, so let’s practice building productive ones, little by little.
5. Try Something New
Have you always been interested in painting? Learning guitar? Gardening? Fitness? Well here’s your opportunity! We all have sacred fantasies about something we’ve always been curious about (or even enraptured by) yet never had the time, or courage, or resolve to get after it. Explore some local ads, ask around, or browse the internet for something that gets you excited. Channel your inner warrior for some extra support and courage when stepping outside of your comfort zone. You never know, that salsa class or cooking tutorial could be the catalyst to finding something more aligned with your passions and purpose.
6. Tell Someone
Confide in someone you trust. Sharing your fears and doubts with another person can be relieving and eliminate some of the tremendous weight that we carry when we’re feeling anxious and confused. Acknowledgement of our reality is typically what we’re looking for in the first place. When things are a mess, we sometimes just want someone to tell us that it’s OK, that we have permission to experience our humanness, and that its normal to not have our shit together. Remember that you’re not alone in your struggle and that being vulnerable with someone else can go a long way.
You’ve got this!