What to do when bad stuff happens unexpectedly
A couple of weeks ago, I woke up to the sound of the front door closing just before 8:00 am. That’s odd, I thought. My husband was always on his way to work by now. Did he forget something?
He came into the bedroom looking calm but… outside of his body somehow. He sat down on the bed and said, “I was just let go from my job.” He took off his jacket, and we remained in shocked silence.
It was unexpected for both of us.
But in this surprising situation, there was something we didn’t do: panic. I’ve been let go before. So have many people I know. And when unexpected events like this happen, I feel oddly calm.
In life, sh!t is guaranteed to happen at some point. You might lose a job. You might get dumped. You might get bad news from the doctor. But you don’t need to fall apart. Here’s what to do when the unthinkable happens.
1. Foster some perspective
Whatever you are going through, ask yourself: Is it the end of the world? It’s rarely as bad as you may think in the moment you first receive the news.
What perspective can you bring to your current situation? Will it matter in one year, two years, five years?
My friend who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a few years ago explained it by saying, “It’s a bit of an inconvenience from time to time, but overall my life is pretty much the same.” How’s that for an attitude?
2. Believe you can figure it out (hey, you have before)
What else have you survived before the current sh!tstorm? I survived the death of my father and a divorce before I was 25. I always remember these experiences and others I’ve been through when a new struggle hits.
Let the past struggles you’ve overcome fuel your ability to conquer new bumps that appear in the road.
3. Know you are not alone – ever
I always find it comforting to know that no matter what I’m going through, there are people out there going through the same thing. The first thing I did the morning my husband came home was call two of my friends whose husbands were also laid off this year.
After talking to them, I had even greater perspective on the situation we were in. Immediately I exhaled – it was proof of how universal these circumstances are. It reminded me: It’s OK! The same can apply to breakups, betrayals, loss – anything.
You are not the first person to go through what you’re going through, and you certainly won’t be the last.
4. Ask for help (It’s OK)
There’s an old saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. Heck, we’re all human, and we’re all in this together. Calling my friends and telling them the news about my husband helped me stay relaxed.
Just sharing my surprise and sensing them nod over the phone (and even making me laugh!) took what could have become an even bigger weight off my shoulders. They gave me some great practical advice, and we continue to support each other week-to-week right now.
Side note: It’s a bonus if the people who you turn to for help have a good sense of humour. Find these people!
5. Get busy
Nothing, nothing, nothing replaces action in life. Did you offend a friend you love? Call and apologise. Did you find out it’s going to rain on your outdoor wedding day? Find cute umbrellas for the guests. Your S.O. broke up with you? Plan fun “you time” to centre yourself, and remember you are whole no matter what. Get laid off? Get out there and get busy networking!
In moments I need motivation to take action, I remember it’s my struggles that create my best stories and make me truly connected to other people. In the end, the fact that I can take action to overcome pretty much any obstacle gives me greater confidence than anything else.
Remember above all that being defeated is a temporary condition. Only giving up hurts us in the long run. And that is entirely up to you.
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