When you’re going through a hard time, people often say “don’t worry, things will get better,” or “everything will fall into place.” But what if you’ve been waiting and things aren't getting any better?? I ask this question after several months of being unemployed. Last spring, I graduated from a prestigious university with a degree I worked my a** off to get, with lifelong stress caused by overly intense extracurriculars, pain I can’t seem to escape, friends I’d kill for – and no idea what I was doing next. Without knowing where to go or what to do, I continued working at the part-time job I’d acquired during my senior year. But I hated this job, and I hated everything about my life because of it. I hit a transition point where I could stay where I was and hate the world, or I could quit my job, move home and try to achieve my dreams. Even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I knew I couldn’t stay there. So, I quit.
I’m absolutely certain that quitting my job was the right decision. However, I had not realized how destructive unemployment would be on my psyche. When you’re told for four consecutive years that your career is everything, you can’t help but feel worthless when you aren’t working. The more I applied for jobs I didn’t get, the more I felt like I was falling. I was falling and falling with the ground nowhere in sight.
Months later, I often still feel crappy. When I interviewed last week for a job I can only describe as a role sent from the angels above, I was so nervous I could barely form coherent sentences. I’d started temping that same week (I gotta pay those student loans somehow) and didn’t have the time to obsess over everything I wanted to say. I finished that interview feeling like sh*t. I was devastated. That same day, Donald Trump swept the New York State primary after stirring up trouble at a rally in my town (Buffalo, NY) the night before. I felt hopeless, both for myself and for society.
These are the times when people say things will get better. I try to believe them. But hearing that often make me feel worse. I’ve spent almost a year feeling terrible – if things are supposed to get better, I’d love to know when. When I’m at my wits end, I remind myself of the suggestions I give to friends who are struggling. None of that “don’t worry” bulls*t – only the things I’ve read or seen that actually help me when I’m most upset.
If you’re feeling your worst, make an appointment with your therapist. Traditional therapy hasn’t done much for me in the past, but it does wonderful things for those who love their therapists. Plus, there’s more than traditional therapy: art therapy, yoga, meditation, music, dance and theatre can be amazing forms of therapy.
I can't tell you how many times I’ve read that exercise is the best for combating anxiety and depression. It’s often the last thing I want to do, but it almost always makes me feel better.
Make changes, big or small
Sometimes you just need a change, even if it’s small. I never make my bed, for example. Last week, I started making my bed every morning. I felt so much better knowing I could come home and snuggle in a clean and cozy bed.
Crying is a way to release frustrations and pain. Take a moment, a whole day if you can, to cry, mourn, think and reflect. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, but acknowledging your devastation by allowing yourself to feel is important.
If you’re an over-analyzer (like me), there’s no sense in trying to convince yourself to not over-analyze. You need to allow the obsessing to happen. Otherwise, you won’t be able to move on. Give yourself a limited amount of time to analyze every little detail of the thing you’re upset about. Type it out, write in your journal or make an audio recording. Do something to get those thoughts off your mind so you can leave them behind.
Talk to someone you love and trust who gets what you’re going through
I prefer not to talk about my struggles, particularly because well-meaning friends and family will give unwanted advice. But I will talk to certain people when I’m upset if I know they’ll get it. It’s nice to get things off your chest.
Find a hug and a laugh
We actually don’t get a whole lot of human touch when you think about it. We work during the day, go home, eat dinner and go to bed. Then we wake up and do it all again. Unless you’re blessed to have a partner or family close by, you aren’t getting to interact intimately with someone you care about. Getting a hug from and/or laughing with someone you love can do wonders for making you feel good.
Break your routine
Never been rock climbing? Do it! Have something on your bucket list you’ve always wanted to do? Schedule time to do it this week. Breaking out of your routine can help with breaking out of a negative mindset.
If all else fails, fake it till you make it
I know, it sounds awful. I’m sure you’re thinking “What is this crazy girl talking about? That doesn’t work!” But I must say, the morning after I was feeling extremely low last week, I had to go to my temp job and pretend to be in good spirits. By the end of the day, I actually felt a little better. Perhaps it was the distraction, perhaps it was all the smiling I did to look pleasant. Either way, it worked, and it’s worth giving a try. Remember, you are a smart, capable, accomplished human being who’s having a hard time. You are not worthless, you are wonderful. And you are not alone. Try your best to keep going, even when things seem grim. It will be worth it.