Why You Should Quit the Toxic People in Your Life, Pronto

You’re only as good as the company you keep.

You’ve heard that before, I’m sure, and probably took it to mean what most people take it to mean: If you hang out with losers, you yourself are more likely to become a loser. If you hang out with winners, you’re more likely to become a winner. And etc. You know, the sort of stuff your parents told you when explaining why you could hang out with your straight-A-student friend as often as you liked, but your black-eyeliner-wearing, rumored-to-be-a-smoker friend was off-limits. (The joke was on them, because your straight-A-student friend was actually the one who got you into all sorts of shenanigans.)

But there’s a spinoff to the old cliche, and it’s one most people don’t always take into account, although they really ought to:

 

Your Life Is Only As Good As the People You Allow Into It

(Tweet!)

Surround yourself with amazing, supportive, loving people, and your life will be happier. You will feel inspired and encouraged. You’ll have fun doing nothing on a Saturday night just because you love the people you’re doing nothing with. When things get tough — as things will, from time to time — you’ll have a support system to lean on that will make everything a little less lonely and painful.

Surround yourself with downers, drama magnets and doomsdayers, and you’ll find yourself feeling resentful, anxious and irritable. Your energy will be sapped and your good vibes kiboshed. You’ll find yourself complaining more even when things are basically alright, and hard times will hit you twice as hard. Everything will just kinda suck more in general.

Negativity, just like positivity, has a tendency to seep throughout your world.

Most of us realize this, at least theoretically. We seek out and are drawn to the people who make us laugh, make us feel good about ourselves and make us glad to be around them. But sometimes we find ourselves stuck with the other sort of people, whether by chance (relatives, in-laws, coworkers), bad decisions or a moment of weakness when we thought we could “fix” someone and eventually realized we couldn’t.

The people in category A (those you’re stuck with by circumstance) you can’t always chuck, but you can limit your time with them and develop ways to mitigate their life-sucking abilities so they don’t harm you as much.

The people in category B (any and everyone who is in your life simply because you allow them to be), you can — and should — chuck, plain and simple. Here is why.

 

1. They Will Only Bring You Down

You may think you can bring them up with your injections of fresh perspective and invitations to optimism. You may naively think they just need a hug, or someone to give them a smile, or a kind gesture to erase their memories of being picked on in middle school (or whatever it was that turned them into a prickly forcefield).

And occasionally, once in a very great while, you can do this. I won’t tell you not to try, because it’s a brave and kind and generous thing to want to help other people, and because giving up on that would go against everything my spirit animal Anne Shirley stands for.

But once you’ve tried, and failed, innumerable times and they’re still just as impenetrably prickly, it’s time to accept you may not be the one who can bring them out of their funk. Often no one can but themselves. There’s a critical difference you need to understand when it comes to people who are just stuck in a gloomy mood and people who have lived so long in their negativity it’s become a part of who they are: negative-at-the-core people won’t change because of any effort you or anyone else makes on them.

That’s not to say they can’t change. They can, but only if the decision to change comes from within. Whatever it is that made them the way they are, they’ve been stewing and festering and entrenching themselves in it for so long it’s become a part of their very DNA. Nothing you can say or do will make a significant dent in that armor; it will just wear you out and expose you to more of their negativity rays than necessary.

Save yourself. You have better things to focus your energy on.

 

2. Sometimes People Just Suck

I’m reminded of a certain Popeye’s drive-thru incident in which the husband and I had a terrifying run-in with a person whose toxicity was so fierce and inexplicable I still to this day find myself idly musing over what life events must have led her to become someone who would act the way she did.

I muse on this not because I think there’s any answer to it — or at least not any answer I can ever get to the bottom of — but for the sake of my own mental exercise, the way you’d muse on the “one hand clapping” koan. It’s intriguing to imagine the different factors that may have gone into creating this person’s extreme reaction in this particularly un-extreme situation. Sometimes it helps me loosen up my synapses when I’m suffering a bout of writer’s block.

But the trouble with the run-ins we have with the toxic people in our lives is that we often feel we should be able to get to the bottom of them. We secretly wonder what we’ve done wrong to cause or exacerbate this person’s awfulness. And in the vast majority of cases, the answer is, “nothing.”

The simple truth — and I hate to say this because I do believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt and trying to see the good in everyone — is that sometimes, people just suck. Maybe, like the Tootsie Roll goodness at the center of a Tootsie Pop, there’s a heart in there somewhere that’s been shellacked over with layers and layers of unbreakable anger and resentment and hostility. And it’s incredibly sad to think of whatever must have caused that.

But you, yourself, are not responsible for the task of chipping away at that veneer for however many attempts it takes to get to the center. It’s a long, hard job to get there — sometimes one that takes a lifetime and the kind of professional experience that comes with a high billable hour rate — and, as aforementioned, the effort will only bring you down rather than them up.

Some people can’t be fixed by you, and some people can’t be fixed at all. It’s not your fault or your responsibility to fix them, especially not if all you get for your effort is pain and suffering. Be a good person. Be kind and patient. Then know you’ve done your best, and move on.

 

3. You Should Spend Your Awesomeness on the Things That Are Worth It

Your life is short, and your days on this planet are numbered. You have gifts and talents and love and awesomeness the world deserves to know about and benefit from, and wasting those things on people who only repay you with soul-sapping is not only a crying shame, but a slap in the face of the universe that gave you said gifts, talents, love and awesomeness.

If you’re kind and positive and forgiving and generous, it will radiate outward. It will affect those around you, whether you see it immediately or not. It may even affect people you’ll never meet, in ways you’d never imagine, including some of those toxic people you thought were beyond hope.

But only if you disengage from them so you can do you to the best of your ability.

Your mission on this earth is to be the most kickass version of yourself you can be, and you can’t be that person if you’re surrounded by people who consistently bring you down. It’s like trying to be a race car driver when your pit crew is quietly loosening your wheels and filling your tank with water every chance they get. Choose a crew that’s got your back. Be on the crew of people you admire. You’ll do a hell of a lot more good that way.

 

4. You Deserve Better

Is this one a selfish reason? I suppose so, and I have zero guilt over that. So should you.

For a society where selfie sticks are actually a thing and weddings have their own hashtags, we’re amazingly reluctant to allow ourselves to pursue the courses of action that will make us happy. Narcissism and navel-gazing are on fleek, yet we’re terrified of coming across as “selfish” for daring to make a life we love when the people around us insist on staying miserable.

But guess what? The shitty people in your life feel zero guilt about making your life shittier. They are black holes that get off on pulling everyone else into their vortex of suckiness, and if your good-faith efforts to reach out and help them are ignored or rebuffed, it is totally and absolutely within your right as a human being to rid them from your world.

Whoever declared it was virtuous to tolerate people who insist on acting like asshats was probably an asshat himself, trying to guilt-trip people into still hanging out with him after they decided they were finally fed up.

Fuck that noise, and fuck it hard.

You can still be a good person, and preternaturally kind to toxic people whenever they happen to cross your path, while also making a decided effort to keep them out of your path at all junctures possible.

It’s your life. It’s your energy. It’s your precious time on this planet. Don’t feel bad about standing up for that. Don’t feel bad for wanting to spend it on things that are worth the effort.

What toxic people do YOU need to evict from your life? 

Image:  JD Hancock / Flickr

35 More Inspirational Quotes on Happiness, Following Your Dreams & Generally Kicking Life’s Ass

From time to time, I share a quote on my Twitter or Facebook page I think will help make your day (slash-life) a little better. I’ve built up quite a collection of these quotes, so I like to drop them on you en masse occasionally — consider it my contribution to whatever goal you’re currently fighting for or obstacle you’re currently fighting against.

To make them easier to share with anyone you think could use a jolt of awesome, I’ve also included an easy click-to-tweet after each quote. (You’re welcome.)

 

Happiness

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” ~Margaret Lee Runbeck (Tweet!)

“I have decided to be happy because it’s good for my health.” ~Voltaire (Tweet!)

“If you want to be happy, be so.” ~Kozma Prutkov (Tweet!)

“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.” ~William Feather (Tweet!)

“Happiness is an inside job.” ~William Arthur Ward (Tweet!)

“Happiness is a choice.” ~Valerie Bertinelli (Tweet!)

“Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens.” ~Andy Rooney (Tweet!)

 

Blazing Your Own Trail

“I like things to happen, and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.” ~Winston Churchill (Tweet!)

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” ~Walt Disney (Tweet!)

“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” ~George Bernard Shaw (Tweet!)

“I’ve never heard a bird half sing, a hawk half cry. When ready, speak your truth with conviction.” ~Dave Ursillo (Tweet!)

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” ~Max Dupree (Tweet!)

“Be a voice, not an echo.” ~Albert Einstein (Tweet!)

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” ~Richard Branson (Tweet!)

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” ~Jim Rohn (Tweet!)

“When in doubt, yell, ‘CHARGE!’ and then MOVE. YOUR. ASS. AND. MAKE. IT. HAPPEN.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

 

Following Your Dreams

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” ~Zig Ziglar (Tweet!)

“Good things come to those who wait. Greater things come to those who get off their ass and do anything to make it happen.” ~@LifeCheating (Tweet!)

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~Thomas Edison (Tweet!)

“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes (Tweet!)

“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.” ~Tony Gaskins (Tweet!)

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” ~Paul Brandt (Tweet!)

“The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.” ~Seth Godin (Tweet!)

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~Wayne Gretzky (Tweet!)

 

Overcoming Adversity

“There are two things a person should never be angry at — what they can help, and what they cannot.” ~Plato (Tweet!)

“At the end of the day, no matter how many times the lawn is mowed, it doesn’t take it personally — it just keeps on growing.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get.” ~Ray Bradbury (Tweet!)

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” ~Jim Rohn (Tweet!)

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” ~Charles Swindoll (Tweet!)

“If it isn’t a little scary, it probably isn’t worth your time.” ~Ted Murphy (Tweet!)

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~Nelson Mandela (Tweet!)

“Fear is not a bad thing, it can keep you alive. The trick is to make sure it doesn’t stop you from living.” ~@RevolutionsClub (Tweet!)

“It’s not the person who dodges the most bullets who wins. It’s the person who finds something useful to do with the bullets, after the shots have been fired.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

“The darkest hour has only sixty minutes.” ~Morris Mandel (Tweet!)

“Learn to embrace fear, because it’s often the only thing that’s between you and what you want.” ~Paula Pant (Tweet!)

What are your favorite quotes? Share them with us in the comments!

Image:  Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

5 Signs You’re on the Way to Burnout City (and How to Escape If You’re Already There)

Midway from ennui to nervous breakdown, at the junction of “I Can Do This” road and “Are You Sure About That?” highway, lives a crappy little town I’ve spent way too much of my life in. (And you may have, too.)

It’s overpopulated, but no one really wants to be there.

Its souvenirs friggin’ suck. (You know those “all I got was this crappy shirt” shirts? Yeah, not even those.)

It’s been the ruin of many a poor hustler. And its name?

Is Burnout City.

Fortunately for all of us, there are plenty of telltale signs that let you know when you’re headed for it and give you the opportunity to turn tail. If you notice any of them creeping into your periphery, or several of them have accumulated already, take heed:

 

1. Everything Annoys the Crap Out of You

Hell hath no fury like me when I’m hangry. I carry a decorative tin of almonds in my purse at all times to escape the low blood sugar crazies, which usually tend to hit smack dab in the middle of a crowded Target shopping trip.

But when I’m burnt out? Hoo boy. It’s downright ugly.

I snap at my husband for the dumbest little things.

Everyone else on the road is a bleeping idiot.

Sidewalks rise up to trip me, toilet paper rolls run out precisely when I’m in the bathroom, and it feels like the entirely universe is conspiring to piss me off as much as possible.

When you’re totally and utterly burnt to a crisp, you have no buffer left to soften all the little annoyances and inconveniences you’d normally be able to shake off. You’re one big raw nerve, and everything grates on you. If you find yourself getting disproportionately annoyed at the stupidest little things, it could be a sign you’re heading to Burnout City.

 

2. The Things You Used to Love Now Seem Stupid

Your boyfriend. Your face. Your boyfriend’s face. That book you picked up droolingly from the bookstore three months ago but haven’t been able to turn a page of since.

You normally love going out with friends to grab a drink and unwind, but the idea of dressing up and being social for several hours seems so exhausting to you that just thinking about it makes you want to hide under the bed.

Your hobbies have all slid, you haven’t really felt excited about anything since you can’t remember when, and you’re having trouble mustering up effort for anything but the most essential daily activities.

Nothing is calling to you (except perhaps your bed, which you’d prefer to stay in for the rest of the foreseeable future). Eventually, you even stop caring about how little you care. You just can’t summon up the energy.

 

3. Your Standards Have Seriously Slipped

Once you lose the drive to pursue your passions and interests, the next thing you lose is your drive to maintain a basic standard of living as a civilized human being.

Takeout becomes your go-to because the thought of actually shopping for and then preparing a decent meal feels so overwhelming it’s just not worth it. Eventually, the thought of ordering, paying for and picking up takeout also seems like way too much effort. Meals become whatever you can cobble together from your quickly dwindling pantry. A handful of stale Cheerios and a slice of American cheese? Whatever. It’s food, kind of.

Things like making the bed and actually washing the dishes (rather than rinsing out that coffee mug you’ve used three times and calling it good enough) go out the window. You find yourself consuming a dinner of two stale bread-ends (from mismatched loaves) haphazardly smeared with crunchy peanut butter (which you spread with the back of a travel-sized spork, because it is literally the only utensil in your whole kitchen not waiting to be washed.)* *This has actually happened to me.

And don’t even get me started on showers. You’re just gonna get dirty again tomorrow, so what’s the point?

 

4. Your Demons and Gremlins Come Back to Haunt You

Your bad habits and old crutches start to revisit you. Caffeine? Alcohol? Nail-biting? All-weekend-Netflix binges in your increasingly grungy PJs?

Check, check and mate. You devolve into a previous version of yourself, before upgrades like “exercising more” and “going out in public once a day” ever took hold.

In a similar vein, your personal gremlins also stop by to say hey. If you tend to struggle with self-doubt, social anxiety, body issues, you name it, now’s the time they will show up unexpectedly on your doorstep with presumptuous plans of staying for a while. And, because you’re in a weakened state, you won’t have your usual ability to slam the door in their face. Instead, you’ll slump down in defeat as they saunter in and start unpacking in their old room.

 

5. Your Body Is Revolting

(As in, revolting against you, although I suppose your body being just plain revolting could also be a consequence.)

When I’m rounding the bend to Burnout City, my body lets me know in no uncertain terms that it does not approve.

Headaches. Stomach aches. Jaw pains from too much clenching. Shoulder and neck pains from too much hunching. Anxiety attacks. Often all within the same 24-hour cycle, for many days in a row.

Our body is pretty wise to what’s going on in our life. While we can trick and justify our mind around all sorts of unhealthy situations, it’s not so easy to fool our body. Physical ailments are its ways of letting us know we’re not taking care of ourselves properly. Listen to it. It’s trying to tell you something’s wrong.

 

6. You’re Always in Fight-or-Flight

You can try to check out of Burnout City, but as long as you stay within its radius, you can never truly leave. Everything feels like an emergency, and your mind and body are poised to react accordingly.

You may try to sit down with that book you’ve been meaning to read, but you won’t be able to focus.

You may be eating a lovely lunch outside at your favorite café, but your jaw is still clenched and your shoulders are still tight.

You feel fires around every corner and burn up all sorts of energy imagining the ways you’ll have to put them out, whether or not they ever actually materialize. It’s freakin’ exhausting. You’re simultaneously totally tapped out and so revved up you’re past the point of knowing how to turn it off.

 

How to Escape From Burnout City

So. You think you’re on the way to Burnout City—or you know for a fact you’ve been there for a while now. How do you get out?

The first step is to be extremely gentle with yourself. You’re in a breakable state right now, and you need to handle your mind, body and spirit the way you handle any fragile thing—with lots of love, care and patience.

Next, adhere to this escape plan:

 

1. Don’t Make Any Major Decisions

Life decisions, career decisions, relationship decisions… When you’re fried, it’s next to impossible to view sensitive topics objectively. And because you’re seeing things with a skewed perspective, now is not the time to take action on anything major.

As David Cain says in an awesome post on surviving bad moods, “Similar to ‘Don’t drink and drive’ is ‘Don’t fret and decide.’ Wait until you sober up. Sleep it off.”

 

2. Go Into Energy Saver Mode

When your computer’s overheating, you don’t try installing new programs and multitasking several windows. You step away, let it cool off, and come back when it can handle all that extra work.

Similarly, you need to give yourself a break and go into energy saver mode, performing only system-critical tasks and letting everything else slide. For more on how to do this, click here.

 

3. Give Yourself Time to Heal

Recently, I set aside the months of June – August to deal with my own burnout. And, sure as pumpkin spice lattes in September, when the beginning of August rolled around, I found myself itching to jump back in the game. I felt somewhat “better,” and that was enough for me to be raring to go.

But burnout needs time to heal, and if you push yourself back into action too soon, you could have a swift relapse. When you’re healing a broken ankle, you don’t start running marathons again the instant it no longer hurts to put weight on it. You ease yourself back in, making sure that ankle is strong and whole before you try exerting any real pressure on it. Your psyche operates the same way. You need to give it time to mend and re-gel before you try testing it again.

Once you hit that point where you begin to feel normalish again, when you can taste food and see colors and the thought of doing stuff no longer makes you want to curl up into the fetal position, that doesn’t mean you’re 100% recovered. It just means you’re recovering. Give yourself plenty of time to linger in that feeling of being o.k. again and assimilate it into your very core before you try pushing yourself again.

 

4. Learn From Your Stay

The best way to make sure you don’t find yourself in Burnout City again is to figure out what led you there to begin with. What were you taking on that you shouldn’t have been? What attitudes need adjusting? What people, places and things are hurting you more than they’re helping you?

Study the points that pushed you to the edge, and you’ll know how to adjust your roadmap for the future. Burnout is the result of something (or several somethings) being askew in your life, whether it’s taking on too many projects or not taking care of your health or trying to live up to unreal expectations. Don’t make your stay in Burnout City pointless. Learn from it so you can live better in the future. (Tweet, tweet!)

Fellow Burnout City citizens: Are you currently in Burnout City? Have you recently escaped? Share your stories—and your tips—in the comments!

Image: Flickr

It All Comes Down to You (Some Stories About Adversity)

This post is from way back in 2011 (remember those days?). I’m re-airing it because I very much need to hear it as I overcome my own challenges this month — namely, kicking my sorry tail into shape.

I have a feeling you could stand to read it, too, whatever challenges you’re currently facing.

So, sit back and listen up, kiddies. I’d like to tell you some stories about some people and the things they have done…

 

Helen Keller Was Deaf and Blind

She not only learned sign language, but earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, wrote 12 books and numerous articles, was a fundraiser for the blind, and campaigned for many liberal causes including women’s suffrage and workers’ rights. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

No one would have faulted her for living a quiet life of solitude, given her seemingly insurmountable disability. But she didn’t.

 

Beethoven Began to Lose His Hearing at the Height of His Career and Eventually Became Completely Deaf

He sawed the legs off his piano so he could set it on the floor and feel the vibrations as he played. His Symphony No. 9, of which he never heard a single note, is one of the best-known works of classical music.

He could have given in to the suicidal thoughts that overtook him at first and become just another poetic tragedy. But he didn’t.

 

Elie Weisel and Viktor Frankl Experienced the Unspeakable Horrors of the Nazi Concentration Camps

Weisel went on to spread a message of hope, atonement and peace, drawing from his own struggles to come to terms with the presence of evil in the world. He wrote over 40 books, including the acclaimed memoir Night, and is a political activist for human justice, tolerance and freedom the world over. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his crusades for human dignity.

He could have become disillusioned, bitter and withdrawn from the world. Few of us would have faulted him for that. But he didn’t.

From his own attempts to find a reason to keep living in the midst of meaningless suffering, Frankl developed a philosophy that even in the cruelest and most hopeless of situations, man has the ability to find internal meaning and purpose. He went on to teach that even when we are helpless to change our circumstances, we have within us the power to summon the will to live. He pioneered existential and humanist psychiatric systems and wrote more than 32 books, including his hallmark Man’s Search for Meaning.

He could have been broken and defeated by the horrors he experienced. Most of us probably would have, in his situation. But he didn’t.

 

Nelson Mandela Spent 27 Years as a Political Prisoner

He became a leader among his fellow inmates, fighting for better treatment, better food and study privileges, earning his B.A. while imprisoned through a correspondence course. He also became a symbol of hope and anti-apartheid resistance for his entire country. While behind bars, he continued to build his reputation as a political leader, refusing to compromise his beliefs to gain freedom, and upon his release, he led negotiations that resulted in the democracy he had always fought for.

He was elected president of South Africa and received more than 250 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. His funeral was a global event.

He could have decided to lie low, give in, and let those 27 years sap his motivation and his influence. It would have been easy enough. But he didn’t.

 

Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney and Winston Churchill Are All Said to Have Displayed Signs of Learning Disabilities Like Dyslexia

They did poorly in school. They were told they were stupid, talentless, unteachable, and that they would never amount to anything beyond “mediocre.” I think you know they all went on to do some fairly impressive things.

They could have believed the negative voices and been the smallest versions of themselves. But they didn’t.

 

Speaking of Thomas Edison…

In addition to failing about 10,000 times before landing on a successful design for the light bulb (“I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”), his factory burnt to the ground when he was 67, destroying countless lab records and millions of dollars of equipment. When he surveyed his losses, he remarked, “There is great value in disaster.  All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”

He could have thrown in the towel at any one of these setbacks. It certainly seemed like “fate” was trying to tell him to do so. But he didn’t.

 

J.K. Rowling Was a Divorced Single Mom Living on Welfare When She Had the Idea for the Harry Potter Books

She walked her baby in its stroller until it fell asleep, then rushed to the nearest café to get out as many pages as she could before the baby woke up. She is now the revered master creator of a beloved global franchise and one of the richest women in the world.

She could have dismissed her idea as silly or focused on something more “viable.” But she didn’t.

 

James Earl Jones Still Struggles With a Speech Impediment

When he was young, his stutter was so debilitating that at one point, he actually gave up speaking.

He could have stayed silent. But he didn’t.

 

Jackie Joyner-Kersee Was Diagnosed With Asthma When She Was 18

She is now a six-time Olympic medalist in track and field, is ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the women’s heptathlon, and was named by Sports Illustrated for Women as the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century.

She could have seen herself as defective or weak and given up on her dreams. But she didn’t.

 

Jean-Dominique Bauby Suffered a Massive Stroke That Resulted in “Locked-In Syndrome”

The well-known French journalist, author and editor was left paralyzed and speechless, his only thing method of communication being the ability to blink his left eyelid. He went on to write the book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, letter by letter, with this one good eyelid. A transcriber recited a modified alphabet to Bauby until he blinked his eye to indicate the letter he wanted.

An average word took around 2 minutes to “write” this way. The book was written in about 200,000 individual blinks, accomplished in 4-hour-a-day sessions over a span of 10 months.

If anyone ever had the right to claim “writer’s block,” it was him. But he didn’t.

 

The Moral of These Stories

Circumstances mean nothing.

Limitations mean nothing.

Obstacles mean nothing.

It all comes down to you. (Tweet, tweet!)

YOU decide how you react to circumstances. You decide who you are in those circumstances and what you can do in spite of them (or because of them).

YOU decide what you do with your limitations. You can see them as a challenge, a minor setback or a message from the universe that you’re just not “meant” to do something.

YOU decide to let obstacles stop you or keep blazing ahead.

You know what the above people did. What’s your choice?

 

Image:  Flickr

The Ripcord Excuse

You’ve done it before. We all have.

You resolved to do something, and you’ve been doing pretty good overall. Then you have one of those moments.

Maybe you forgot your resolution for a second; maybe you were tired and grumpy and just decided you didn’t feel like keeping it up. Either way, you have a momentary backslide.

You choose a goopy, greasy donut instead of a bowl of granola. You skip the gym in favor of an Orange is the New Black marathon. You snap at a coworker you’ve been trying to be show more patience.

And you feel awful.

In this moment, you have two choices: Hit “reset” and move on, or let it tank your whole day.

Which do you choose?

 

And Cordelia Replies…

I’ll be honest and tell you that this past week, I’ve been choosing the tank-your-day option. My much-needed decision to quit treating my body like poo (again) has not only been thoroughly neglected; it’s been deviously undermined at all steps. By me.

I’d miss my morning Zumba routine because I was buried with work, then figure the rest of the day was shot, so I might as well eat like crap for dinner.

Eating like crap for dinner gave me sub-par sleep that night, so the next morning, I had twice as much coffee and snacked too much to shake myself out of my grogginess. By Thursday, I’d clearly shot the whole week to hell, so I figured there was no point trying to right the ship on Friday. Might as well enjoy a weekend of gluttony and sloth and start over again on Monday…

But here’s the thing: Our habits don’t form because we perform them flawlessly, every day without fail. They form because we keep plugging away at them, on a regular basis, even when we mess up. (Especially when we mess up.)

But when the habit you’re trying to form is something that’s especially hard for you? When you’ve been struggling with it on and off for a while and feel especially terrible about that? It’s all too easy to turn a minor setback into a total snowball of negative decisions.

 

The Ripcord Excuse

I’ve come to think of this as the Ripcord Excuse.

Ripcords have a useful purpose. When your mission’s gone bust and the plane is going down in flames, it’s time to head for the escape hatch, pull the ripcord and abandon station. Sometimes, cutting your losses is the smartest thing you can do.

But if you keep your hand permanently on the ripcord, ready to pull it at the slightest sign of trouble or discomfort, it becomes the wrong kind of escape mechanism. It becomes any easy out for any time you make a mistake (or decide you don’t feel like trying anymore).

Believe me, I know. I hate physical Quits. There’s a reason this month’s Quit is a reboot and I still haven’t successfully given up the snooze button, three whole years after deciding I needed to. I have zero willpower when it comes to physical challenges.

If I’ve got an emotional or logical challenge in front of me, like quitting my day job even after we lost half our income unexpectedly, setbacks and obstacles don’t faze me. They actually make me perversely more determined. But if I’m trying to move my body more when it’s used to being sedentary, or get my lazy ass out of bed when I feel like sleeping in, I will happily call it quits on my Quit the instant I have the tiniest excuse to do so.

Bailing when things get tough just reinforces the belief that you never can, and never will, be able to accomplish these things. (Tweet, tweet!) I never even give myself a chance to prove myself wrong, because the instant I fail, I chuck the whole Quit into the garbage and give up.

 

Failure Is Inevitable. It’s How You Handle It That Matters.

So, this week, I am going into things knowing full well that I will fail.

I will punk out on my workout because I’m busy/I woke up late/I just plain don’t want to.

I will choose the healthier meal option, then gorge myself on that option because hey, the ingredients are better.

I will do all sorts of weak and dumb and shady things to avoid treating my body more kindly — then I will pick myself, shake myself off and face my next choice with fresh determination.

And I will continue doing this, each choice new again, until a better trend starts to develop.

No more hand on the ripcord. No more easy ways out.

What circumstances make you run for the ripcord? How can you learn to stay put and keep trying?

 

Image:  Flickr

How to Deal When Everything’s Not OK

Some people wear their smile like a disguise.

Those people who smile a lot, watch the eyes.

I know it ’cause I’m like that a lot.

You think everything’s OK, and it is —

’til it’s not.

~Ani Difranco, “Outta Me, Onto You”

 

That blast from the past (from the days when I wielded song lyrics like personal mottos) has been in my head since last week. Not because I wear my smile like a disguise anymore (these days, the optimism is annoyingly real), but because of that last, killer line:

“You think everything’s OK, and it is — ’til it’s not.”

Back in the day (when I was crazy but didn’t know it), that line comforted me in a “that’s how I feel but I didn’t know how to say it thank god someone else understands” kind of way. Because when I was on the bipolar roller coaster, that’s precisely how things were: OK (if not brilliantly freakin’ awesome), until suddenly they were very much not OK, not even close. Like a schizophrenically wired light switch, my world could flip just like that, at a moment’s notice.

These days, my emotions tend more on the normal-people side, meaning they’re affected by logical factors like how much sleep I’ve gotten or how things around me are going. And because of that, I’m usually able to keep myself on a fairly even keel, perspective-wise.

But this past week, I realized something: Just like in the gonzo days, that switch can still flip. Everything can be various levels of OK (“OK things are good” / “OK I’m holding down the fort” / “OK it’s a little shaky but fuck me I’m making this happen!”) — until suddenly, they’re not.

What I’ve been trying to puzzle out lately is what to do when that happens. Because it’s going to happen. There’s nothing any of us can do to avoid a sudden switch-up. There will be times, even in the most optimistic and dutifully designed lives, when things just really, really suck.

And if you’re trying to live optimistically and intentionally, it can be tough to know what to do with that.

 

A Confluence of Crap

Over the past week, a number of shit-meet-fan occurrences have happened in quick succession:

  • My husband’s initial disability claim was rejected. We knew this would happen, as this is how The Man works (or rather, doesn’t work). When we met with our attorney to begin the appeals process, we learned the next step was to wait for our hearing date — sometime around December 2014. We did not know this would happen. So, one full year of doing and hearing nothing before we can even attempt to get a second income back in the house.
  • My husband’s short-term disability benefits, which we thought we had for another month, were discontinued, resulting in a shortfall of several hundred dollars per month. (Been trying to find a stopgap client for a while; so far, no dice.)
  • One of my practically new clients dropped me due to financial issues of her own.
  • I was clobbered by a deadline pileup as several of my monthly posts were due the exact same weekend I was trying to dig out from a task backlog caused by meeting with said disability attorney, a bankruptcy hearing (did I mention the husband’s filing for bankruptcy? yeah, so there’s that), and a visit to the hospital for some tests for the husband.
  • I realized the debt I spent four years paying down (and had juuust freed myself from) is piling back up way too fast due to the loss of said second income.
  • I cursed myself for not being able to turn 15-hour workdays into all-nighters for fear of triggering the craziness and putting myself totally out of commission, at a time when in-commission is barely cutting it.
  • I had a panic attack. Interspersed with “Holy fuck, what if I have to go back to the 9-to-5?” moments, which only caused further panic attacks.
  • Realized I’m making as much now as I did in the 9-to-5, and the reason it’s not enough isn’t because I’m not hustling hard enough, but because I am only one person. (And The Man takes a hefty hunk out in self-employment taxes.) Maybe once the biz has had some time to grow, I can hope to bring in two people’s income with one person’s efforts, but for now, this is the best I can do. It still doesn’t feel like enough.
  • Realized once again that the best I can do still leaves us financially up a creek sans paddle. Attempted to crawl out from project backlog while getting less and less sleep and feeling more and more trapped.
  • Repeat panic attack. Sprinkle in creepings of despair. Insert car deciding to make awful, expensive-sounding noises and the prospect of an entire weekend working 24/7 to get myself back on track.
  • Cancel all plans. Go into catatonic state. Experience massive meltdown.

 

How to Deal When Everything’s Not OK

I am an optimistic person. Clinically so, at times. But even the most optimistic of people have days (or weeks, or months) when they can’t see the bright side of a dark situation. And that’s tough, especially when you’re used to pulling up your big girl pants, blazing ahead and refusing to be beaten by anything.

When your natural mode is conquer-the-world, feeling defeated and hopeless — even if it’s only temporary, even if the situation makes that understandable — can make you feel like everything up to that point has been a waste and a farce.

So, what do you do when your revolutionary side is immobilized by external badness, and all you want to do is curl up under a blanket and hope the world forgets you exist?

First, take a few long, deep breaths, hug the nearest huggable object, then try this:

 

1. Allow Yourself to Feel the Badness

My feelings of despair/panic/uselessness have been compounded by the fact that I felt guilty for feeling them.

I am not a complain-about-problems person; I’m a figure-out-how-to-beat-them person. I know some of the most wildly successful people have faced crap of their own, and I also know people IRL who’ve dealt with the ultimate in shitty situations and still managed to maintain an attitude that puts the rest of us to shame. So feeling defeated by our personal situation seemed horribly self-centered.

But here’s the thing: Your situation is the only one you’re living. You can’t play the “there are starving children in Africa” game with your feelings, because your reaction to a bad situation has nothing to do whatever other, worse situations are happening in the great big world around you. You can only live the life you’ve got, and when that life takes a bad turn, you’re allowed to feel bad about it.

While realizing you’ve still got it comparatively good can help you in the long run, you need to allow yourself time to grieve, kick and scream, and process your feelings before you try to move on from them. Just because “other people have it worse,” that doesn’t make your feelings any less legitimate.

And feeling bad for feeling bad certainly won’t do you any good.

Process the crap, let yourself feel how truly crappy it is, then move forward to trying to shift your perspective. Because you’ll never get past your emotions if you don’t allow yourself to go through them first. (Tweet, tweet!)

 

2. Phone a Friend

Or several. And your therapist. And your mom.

Because getting too stuck up inside your own head can give you tunnel vision that only makes a bad situation seem totally hopeless. You need some outside perspective to balance out your p.o.v., and you also need to hear from someone other than yourself, because we have a tendency to be much harder on ourselves than we’d ever be on a loved one.

The people closest to you will understand why a bad situation is hitting you hard, because they’ve followed your journey and they know what you’ve been through. They’ll be able to empathize with you (minus the “how dare you feel bad” guilt trip) and offer some words of encouragement (minus the “you don’t know what you’re talking about” critique) in a way you’ll never be able to do for yourself.

Not to mention the fact that just getting out and away from your circumstances, even if only for the time it takes to have a coffee, can do wonders for a mind that’s been stuck in crap-reaction mode.

 

3. Realize You Cannot Fix ALL THE THINGS

I fully believe that hustle + passion = results. But sometimes, you need to accept the fact that even your most passionate hustling will only go so far.

Sure, I can earn more by working more, but I can’t earn enough to replace an entire second income — at least not at this point in my game. Growth takes time, and I’m already putting in 24/7 weeks as it is. At some point, I need to realize that one person alone can’t save an entire sinking ship. I can help bail us out as we slowly go down, but I can’t let myself go down with the ship in the process. Some things are beyond your control or your ability to triage, and feeling bad for not being able to solve those things is pointless.

Similarly, an optimistic attitude can work wonders, but it can’t always fix what’s broken. Optimism can help you move through the shittier parts of life and deal when you’re in the midst of them. But it can’t necessarily make them better. Sometimes, things just suck, and all the optimism in the world won’t change that. The key is in realizing that optimism is mindset, not a magic wand.

Now that I’ve let myself kick and scream and etc., I can look at where we are and say, “Yes, this sucks, but here are the good things I can focus on.” I can begin to move on in spite of the crap, and feel some hope in the possibility of things eventually getting better.

What I still can’t do is say, “Here are the good things I can focus on,” and boop! everything’s better. I need to accept the fact that the situation we find ourselves in is less than ideal, and no matter how hard I try or how fiercely I look on the bright side, it will continue to be rough for some time.

It’s only by accepting this that optimism has any chance for a foothold. Real optimism isn’t about magically making a bad situation sunny; it’s about finding the rays of light in even the shittiest of situations, even while realizing full well how shitty they are.

“Acceptance” does not mean “acquiescence.” This is key.

 

4. Just Keep Swimming

Bad days and bad seasons will happen. And sometimes it will take a while for you to climb out on the other side of them. So in the meantime, be as patient and gentle with yourself as possible, try to find a little happiness where you can, and just keep moving, one step at a time.

Go to your job. Love your family. Pet a puppy. Laugh with friends. Enjoy the day-by-day (or minute-by-minute) happinesses wherever you can find them, knowing that this moment right in front of you is all you really have, anyway.

You may be surprised to find that can sometimes, that can be enough.

And when it’s not? Know that that’s OK, too.

How do you cope when things aren’t OK?

 

Image:  Flickr

Acceptance Does Not Mean Acquiescence

There’s a thing about the Zen mentality that makes it a bit tough to embrace for a thug-for-life revolutionary:

Being Zen seems to imply being “o.k.” with things that are, inherently, shitty.  A lost job, a bad diagnosis, a broken relationship…while feel-good happiness blogs will tell you that “accepting” these things will make them easier for you, will help you “come to peace” with them, will let you get on with your life, it can feel like they’re telling you to push the truth under the carpet.

And the truth is, these things do suck. If you have any get-up-and-go at all, you’re inclined to be pissed off about them.

Which is only reasonable.  No one in their right mind would say, “I’ve got cancer!  That’s awesome!  I’m looking forward to this!”  Yet amazing people every day manage to get through the shittiest of shit like that with a gracious spirit and a joyful attitude that puts the rest of our daily gripes to absolute shame.

Does that mean these are people weak, because they’ve accepted the fact that sometimes life sucks, hard?  Or does that mean they’re actually strong as hell, because it’s only the strong as hell that can take the things that would cripple most people and continue to focus on being as happy as they can in the moment?

 

My Tat, Almost a Beatles Song, and a Standard Happiness Trope

shoulder tattooI’ve been toying with the idea of a new tattoo for a while now, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted.  (We don’t have it in the budget anymore, but it was earmarked for my birthday gift before our own shit hit the fan.)  I started a board on Pinterest to gather some ideas, and they were nearing the mark, but they weren’t quite there.

I wanted something that wouldn’t be super-obvious to everyone who saw it.  Something classy, but also a little rockabilly.  And since I wanted it to be on my shoulder—my first visible “that’s right, I’m a tattoo person” tattoo after getting 4 others in easily hideable places—I wanted it to have a freakload of personal meaning.

I just didn’t know what that meaning was until recently.

If you’re an editing nerd like myself (and I know some of you out there are), then you’ll know what the word means.  “Stet” is a mark used by proofreaders and editors to signify that a change they’d previously marked (crossing out a word, adding punctuation, etc.) should be disregarded.  In Latin, it means “let it stand.”  To me, in this tattoo, it means “things are as they should be.”  There is a reason life unfolds the way it does.

Regardless of the changes I want to make—regardless even of the changes I’m trying desperately hard to make—things are as they are for a reason.  I can fight them—I can hate them, even—but I accept that the life I’m living right now is the only life I have, and that there is no sense in not trying to find as much happiness and freedom (i.e., the bluebird) as I possibly can in the midst of current circumstances.

Because “acceptance” does not have to equal “liking the way things are.”  In fact, it usually doesn’t.  If you find yourself needing to accept something, chances are it’s not something all that great.  (“Oh fine, I guess I’ll accept this $100 bill I found lying on the ground…”)

You can hate the everloving shit out of something and still accept it.  That’s not a contradiction.  It’s when you acquiesce to something you don’t like that you’re in trouble.

 

Accepting vs. Acquiescing (Hint: One Is For Zen; One Is For Punkasses)

Of the many definitions of acceptance (and yes, some are “to acknowledge something as favorable”), the one the happiness gurus are talking about is “a disposition to tolerate or accept people or situations.”

Note the word “tolerate.”  Not “love.”  Not “trick yourself into thinking it’s awesome when secretly you hate it.”  Just “tolerate.”

Tolerating implies that whatever it is you’re accepting is something you’re not thrilled about, but you’re taking the higher road.  For whatever reason—harmony in your relationships, your own peace of mind, the ability to get through the day—you’re learning to live with something that is less than ideal.  You’re learning to be happy in spite of the fact that it’s there, rather than boo-hooing your crappy luck and fixating on how unfair things are.

That’s not to say you can’t be trying to fix it in the meantime; you should be.  You just learn to not let it bring you down while you’re doing so.

Acquiescence, in contrast, means “passive assent or agreement without protest.”

I hope I don’t need to elaborate on why this is not a philosophy CCIQ would ever in a million years endorse.

Protest your little fucking hearts out, readers dear.  But don’t let it make you miserable.  Don’t give it that power.

 

In Practice…

The application of this dichotomy in my own life would read as follows:

I accept the fact that there’s been a bend in my road.

I accept the financial uncertainty this throws us into, the delay it  puts on my Quits dream, the fact that I will be tired and overextended and (yes, I’ll be real) disgruntled with certain things for a while longer now.

Because by doing that, by saying “stet” quietly over and over to myself as I work my way through the days, I find the patience and determination I need to keep on keepin’ on.  I find myself able to still smile at sunsets and laugh at the jokes on the sitcoms I watch with my husband.

It keeps me on the positive side of the line I’m walking.  Because who wants to walk the negative side?  Seriously—it’s your choice.  Why would you choose miserable?

But, will I acquiesce to this bend?  Will I let it convince me that my dreams are pipe dreams, persuade me to go back to The Way Things Are, grind me down into the sad, defeated little puddle I could become if I accepted it without protest?

Hell to the no.

That’s not what revolutionaries do.

 

Your Turn

What things in your life do you need to say “stet” to?  How can you accept without acquiescing?  Work it out with me in the comments, babies!

Image: Nickolai Kashirin / Flickr

My Misery Is Miserabler Than Your Misery

First off, infinite thanks for the incredible outpouring of love and support you all gave me on Monday’s post.  I knew you guys would be awesome about it, but I can’t begin to tell you how much all your kind words and encouragement mean to me.

I, lover of run-on sentences, TMI, and endless rambling, can’t find enough words to express my love for you all.  So you know it’s like way huge.  🙂

An update:  The husband and I are going to a counselor this week to discuss local support group options, and talking to his primary care physician about a potential fibro specialist who may be able to give us some better tips on coping. Plus we talked/cried/hugged it out, so things are on the path to getting better.

That all said, here’s today’s post:

Don’t Mind Me While I Momentarily Become an Annoying Tween…

Monday’s post had me entering the office Monday  morning with a particularly stormy outlook.  Having spent the weekend dwelling on a post that summed up weeks of anger and sadness and worry and stress, I’d finally begun to realize—really realize—that my husband wasn’t going to “get better” and this was going to be our life going forward.

Having this hit me left me like one big raw nerve.

I’ve gotten pretty good at laughing off my coworker’s Eeyore attitudes.  It’s the only way you can get through spending 8 hours a day with people without having their shoddy mindsets bring you down.

But this Monday, I wasn’t in the mood for any of it.  Oh, was I not in the mood for it…

So when my coworkers began their usual grumbling and groaning about all the petty hassles of being a downtrodden secretary (My printer isn’t working!  I’m only getting a 55-minute lunch break instead of my full hour!), something in my brain snapped.  Not just a little snap, but an Acme-fireworks-KERPLOOEY!, the mess of which wound up on mostly my personal Facebook page.

You know how much you hate it when people passive-aggressively type-vomit their frustrations on their FB pages as though you give a crap?  Yeah, even the most panda-hatted of us are subject to that in weak moments…

It wasn’t pretty.

Perhaps the clearest example of this was this lovely status update:

Dear shitty office workplace vibe: I’m rubber; you’re glue. Everything you bitch & moan about bounces off me and makes me want to say SHUT THE FUCK UP YOUR LIFE IS EASY PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTS. </rant>

Classy, huh?  The kind of thing you’d expect from someone fluent in personal branding, social media dos and don’ts, and the basics of being a 30-year-old grownup?

Yeah, I thought so.

The Truth About Troubles

Two Tylenol, two Aleve, three cups of coffee, two generous snifters of Buffalo Trace, and one very long call with my mommy (thanks, Mom!) later, I’ve come to I realize a few things about the way I need to approach this whole “my problems vs. your problems” mentality: It’s the totally wrong way to approach life.

Yes, it is frustrating to see the people around losing their heads over stapler jams when you’ve just come to realize your husband will always be sick.  But, turning into a resentful “my shit is shittier than your shit” judgment-a-holic won’t do anyone any good.  And it certainly isn’t very Cordelian.

So, in a calmer state of mind and rationality, I have come to realize the following:

You have no idea what the people around you are secretly dealing with.

Personally, I think many of the bitch-and-moan issues at my workplace are a matter largely of people needing to put on their big girl pants.  Some things are just so stupidly unimportant there’s no use getting yourself in a twist over them.  (See below.)

But, that said, who am I to judge?

I of all people know what it’s like to struggle with things (my husband’s illness, my own issues) in secret and put up an “everything is normal” front.  Maybe something else is going on behind the scenes.  Or maybe some people simply are just chronic whiners.  Either way, it’s not my place to say.  And it’s certainly pointless to get upset over it.

None of this petty shit matters.

Two days after my own personal meltdown, I can look at the silly hassles that normally make me a grumpypants (like, a-hem, complaining coworkers) and say “Seriously?  This is what I’ve been getting so upset over?  This is a negative on the scale of importance.”

I’ve noticed that the people I happen to know have the most on their plates (sick loved ones of their own, family problems, money trouble, overwhelming schedules) tend to be the ones that roll the best with whatever punches are thrown their way and laugh off stupid inconveniences with a sense of humor I can only envy.  I need to learn to be more like them.  I can’t get mad over someone taking small things out of proportion, because that in itself is taking a small thing out of proportion.

No one can say their shit is shittier than someone else’s.

Because no one is living anyone else’s life.  We’ve all got things that are weighing on our minds.  There are always going to be people much worse off and much better off than we are.

All we can do is live this one life we’ve been given, with as much grace and humor as possible, and leave other people to do the same with theirs.

(Holy mother, I’ve been deep and solemn the past couple days.  Back to your usually-scheduled Railing Against the System shortly…)

 

Image: Flickr

Coping with the Stabby Days

It happens to all of us sometimes.

You’re having a regular old day, nothing especially difficult or horrible has happened to you, but you can’t help feeling that everything and everyone around you is Incredibly Stupid and Frustrating. Like, incredibly. W. T. F.

Drivers who cut you off. Inanimate objects that don’t work the way they’re supposed to. The sky. Your normally beloved significant other. Doorways. Breathing.

Things that might irritate you normally, but you get over them. Things that aren’t even frustrating. Things you’d typically just laugh at.

But this isn’t a typical day. This is a stabby day. And everyone else better get the hell out of your way, because shit’s gonna be on if they don’t…

 

Stabbiness Happens

I’ve discussed before the importance of realizing that you are not your moods. Your world is also not necessarily the world you see through the lens of your moods.

It’s too easy when we’re feeling grumpy to think the world sucks, the people around us suck, we suck for feeling so hostile and mean. But negative emotions are just like colds or headaches — they are things that happen to us, and they may ruin our day, but they pass. They affect us, but they don’t have to define us. (Tweet, tweet!)

Coping with negative emotions calls for the same sort of strategy you’d use for a physical ailment like a headache. You may not be able to shake a stabby mood. You may not even be able to mitigate it. Sometimes you just have to ride it out, doing your best to get through the day and not letting it ruin things any more than can be avoided.

 

Coping With a Stabby Day

Feeling especially stabby a little while ago, I polled my social media peeps on how they deal with particularly black moods. And (as always) I got some great responses:

I’ll let you know after I make it through today at work…  ~Abby Has Issues

1. Write a gratitude list—the longer, the better!  2. Go for a walk.  3. Take a deep breath and observe what I’m feeling without attaching to it.  4. Write a letter to my stabby feelings. ~Chrysta Bairre

Breathe, and remember that you too work in a circus 🙂  It helps to know that you’re not the only one in the same situation.  ~Danielle Pekalski

I like to build safe rooms for the angry parts of myself in which they get to break lots of glass, throw things, punch things and otherwise wreak all the havoc I cannot inflict on the actual physical world. Safe rooms are a The Fluent Self technique… the aggression is all my own.  ~Sarah Goshman  [Cordelia note:  check out The Fluent Self when you get a chance.  Good stuff.]

Go for a 25 mile bike ride or run 5 miles as fast as you can.  ~Jen Norden

When I feel this way, I journal, yell at the walls, and generally keep to myself as much as possible.  Then again if how you feel is justified maybe you should talk about it with someone you trust!!!  ~Carolyn Wolfe

I walk hard and fast and mutter to myself when I think no one is looking.  Then I vent to a good friend who has been forewarned and is properly braced!  ~Susan Holland

Go to the gym, or hold it all in, write down everything you want to say then _carefully_ delete it.  ~@HungryandFrozen

Here are a few more tips I’d add from own personal grump-day arsenal:

 

1. Count to 10

When you’re irritable, your gut reactions are probably not the wisest reactions. Before you snap at someone or slam a door, pause for several seconds and make sure what you’re about to say or do isn’t just your bad mood talking.

Regardless of how justified it feels at the moment, reign it in if you know it’s something you’ll regret in a cooler state of mind.

 

2. Find Something to Smash

I love Sarah’s suggestion above. Whether you jab your fist into a pillow, write a profanity-filled journal entry, roll up the windows in your car and let out a good scream, or just visualize yourself in a room full of glass smashing the living daylights out of everything, allow yourself an avenue to let out the frustration. 

Find a safe way to acknowledge and express it so you don’t wind up taking it out on the wrong things.

 

3. Work Out Your Anger

There’s nothing like running till you’re exhausted or punching the shit out of a punching bag (see above re: smashing things) to help you get out your anger. Not only is it a healthy, constructive way to vent your awful feelings; it has the added benefit of wearing you out so much you usually don’t have the energy to be as raging mad as you were before.

 

4. Pump Up the Jams

Remember when you were in high school and your parents did something so incredibly unfair you just had to run up to your room and crank up [whatever loud, angry band you loved] as loud as you possibly could without it getting you in trouble? (My personal go-to’s were The Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine.) Remember how incredibly therapeutic that felt?

If your job is pissing you off, put on your earbuds and crank up some good scream-o tunes to secretly express how unfair the world around you feels right now. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, do some quality death metal head banging instead of honking like a jerk at everyone else who’s just as stuck as you are. For some people, listening to angry music when they’re already angry might just be fanning the flames, but for me (and maybe for you)?  There’s nothing like a good regressive wallow in your own pissed-off-edness to help you get over yourself.

 

5. Give Yourself a Time Out

Sometimes you know you’re not in a state that’s fit for polite society. When possible, I try to hole myself up in a big bundle of blankets and puppies to prevent myself from releasing my wrath upon the rest of the world when I get like this. Maybe that grocery run can wait till tomorrow, when I’m not 99% likely to ram into someone’s shins with my shopping cart.

If I can’t avoid going into society (I have to go to work, for instance), I still try to hold myself under a modified gag order. I avoid walking by the receptionist who is probably going to try to chat me up against my will. I stay away from the copier area, which is a hotbed for coworker frustration and hostility. I keep to my desk, focus on my work, and try to release as little of my foul vibes into the atmosphere as I can.

 

Bonus Points

Remember how you feel in moods like this for those times you’re faced with someone who seems to be in a stabby place themself. It can be easier to deal with angry people if you remind yourself how you feel when you’re like that.

And for more tips on dealing with people in hostile moods, check out my post over at Brazen Life today, How to Deal with Angry People (or Wisdom from the Customer Service Industry).

How do YOU handle stabby days?

Image: Flickr

Coping with the Poo Days

Yesterday, I was sad. Blue, if you prefer. It was what I like to call, in my ever-so-sophisticated vernacular, a “poo day.” Because I felt like poo, and everything looked like poo, and the whole day was pretty much shot to poo as a result of it.

There was no reason why. I had a wonderful holiday. My office is gorgeously quietly this week with pretty much everyone gone on a mass vacation spree. Yesterday, I spent the majority of the day rocking out to my Florence + The Machine Pandora station while catching up on both my filing pile and my Twitter backlog (shhh, don’t tell!).

But poo days don’t have reasons for being. They just descend like a cartoon cloud and follow you around, shrouding you in your own personal rainstorm and making you feel drained and discouraged.

And even if you’re perfectly aware it’s just a stupid cartoon gloom and nothing is seriously wrong, that doesn’t make you feel any less crappy. It just makes you feel like a moron for not being able to shake it.

 

Poo Happens

There were plenty of logical explanations for why I might have been feeling blah yesterday:

  • I could have been going through a crazy dip. (It doesn’t happen often anymore, but it still can);
  • I live in cold, gray, drizzly Buffalo;
  • I’m SAD-prone and have been watching the sunlight disappear shortly after lunchtime for weeks now;
  • I’m in what I call my “squiggly line week” (a.k.a. the week I mark on the calendar with a discrete squiggly line to let the husband know it’s “that time,” so watch out); and/or
  • I’m a side hustler who’s temporarily all hustled out.

But I know how to deal with all of these things. I have one or more of them going on most of the time, and they rarely faze me. Or if they do, the funks they cause are prolonged and I can sense them coming before they hit. (I’m a maverick at reading my emotional swings, due to the craziness.)

No, the reason for yesterday’s cloud was something very mundane:

  • I am human; and
  • Poo days sometimes happen.

There doesn’t have to be a reason, and you don’t have to feel bad if you can’t shake yourself out of it. You just have to take care of yourself as best you can while you’re in it. Here’s how:

 

Coping With a Gray Day

As a recovering crazy, I have a special appreciation for the fact that we are not our moods. It took a long, hard time for me to realize and truly understand this, but now I’ve become adept at letting all sorts of moods and emotions pass through me without letting them define my day or myself.

Sometimes you’re just “off.” Some days are a wash. It’s o.k. The cloud will lift. Just focus on getting through the day.

I asked my lovely readers to tell me how they get through the blahs, and I got some great feedback:

 

From Facebook:

I have recently taken to doing silly things that get me out of my funk… like skipping down the street or riding shopping carts in a parking lot. This is probably not appropriate for people who care what others think however. When all else fails, there’s always alcohol. –  Sarah Goshman

Writing always helps me and of course belting out to pandora in my office [Cordelia note: a lady after my own heart!], sometime I get crazy stares since I am tone def but I don’t care! – Tracy Schwartz

I can’t really control what happens at work, but after I get out, it’s a quick workout, a cup of my tea and my computer (either reading or writing.) That’s basically what I do every day in the winter. In the summer, a nice long walk…then tea and my computer 😉Abby Has Issues

It’s okay to laugh when I tell you I wear sparkly things when I am having a blah day. I can’t be blah and sparkly! But that’s probably not the kind of thing you’re going for. – Chrysta Bairre  [Chrysta, it so totally is.  I love this idea!]

Go look in the mirror…smile (a real one) and truly tell yourself you love you! Makes me feel better, people forget how important it is to refuel your heart from you! ♥ – Sonya Contino

 

From Twitter:

A walk and some fresh air does the trick most of the time.@Lori_AnnKruse

Accept it. breathe. drink something warm. journal. paint. read in my favorite coffee shop.@jdartagnanlove

Awesome advice, all!  In addition, hare some of the ways I’ve learned to get through a poo day:

 

1. Look At It From the Outside

Seriously, picture the cartoon cloud. Remind yourself this is a temporary state you find yourself in — nothing is really wrong, nothing is wrong with you, certainly — it just is what it is.

It’s like having a cold or a headache — it sucks, and you’ll have to make some adjustments to accommodate it, but you’ll get over it.

 

2. Go Easy on Yourself

Don’t beat yourself up for not being on your game or try to force yourself to do things you’re not up to. Just shrug, keep moving and be patient with yourself.

 

3. Tackle the Little Things

Let the big life goals and major projects be for a day. Focus on folding the laundry or typing that report or taking the trash to the curb. Do what you can, and let yourself be o.k. with that.

 

4. Tackle Only What You Have To

When I’m in the midst of a funk, I tend to go into energy saver mode. I only do the things that are strictly necessary to get through the day, and I don’t push myself to do them with the usual flair and aplomb I normally invest.

Being forced to do this drives me crazy, because I’m all about living with awesomeness in every little detail, but some days, ya just can’t do it. Recognize that and let yourself let some things slide.

 

5. Pile on the Goodness

I fiercely combat poo days with everything I can think of that makes me happy:  PJs, cuddles with puppies, fancy coffee drinks, naps when I can fit them in, guilty-pleasure reality shows.

Think of the things you’d do to cheer up a friend who was in a funk — or the things you wish your friends would do for you — then do them for yourself. Take good care of you.

 

6. Remind Yourself It’s a Mood, Not a Commentary on Your Life as a Whole

Yesterday, I didn’t feel like being cheery or ambitious or awesome. I really just wanted to crawl back into bed and stay there. But that didn’t mean I’d suddenly lost all ability to ever create anything again. It didn’t mean I’m secretly unhappy with my life or my goals are all wrong or I don’t have it in me to make them happen.

It just meant that, for that day, I was gloomy.

Resist the urge to place too much value on the poo days. They will pass. (Tweet, tweet!) Treat yourself kindly when you’re in them, and you’ll go back to feeling like yourself again in no time. I promise.

How do YOU handle poo days?

Image: Flickr