Written by Elise Olmstead
“I feel like a nutcase,” I said after a small breakdown. I had jetted outside for some fresh air and the warmth of the sun, but still had tears in my eyes, over an interaction that was trivial but for some reason unreasonably difficult for me. “You’re not a nutcase. You’re just a person trying to get through life,” Taco said, and my shoulders suddenly relaxed in relief. He has always been able to give me a more realistic perspective when I’m feeling unreasonable. I may be completely overreacting, but I’m not a nutcase. It is a struggle for so many of us to just stay sane on any given day in this crazy world. We are just left trying to learn how to cope.
This past month many of my friends were experiencing huge life changes and emotional turbulence. I’m not sure if it was just the group of us collectively experiencing empathy and just picking up on the energy that flows between us, or maybe mercury is in retrograde again as it seems to always be. I don’t follow astrology but I ride the wave of collective thought and can’t help but connect to all of the emotions swirling around. While there has been much sadness and frustration, I can see the beautiful people in my life also reaching out, speaking truths, and holding each other tight. One time I asked Taco why he likes winter and he said “because it makes you appreciate the warmth.” I am proud of the warmth and unconditional love I have seen the people in my life extend to each other.
Maybe this is just my perspective and others have been having an amazing and successful couple of months recently (I very much hope that you have). I understand I am viewing things from my bubble, but I know that we all go through highs and lows, sometimes regardless of what is going on around us. Often we experience inner chaos and find ourselves trying everything in our power to calm it. When the chaos is too much we grasp for comfort, and it’s important to find what it is that is comforting to you, and most importantly making sure it is a healthy way to cope.
Since I was a teenager and the emotions flowed in overwhelming proportions, I have been collecting coping mechanisms to learn and practice. Mindfulness is often suggested by therapists, and has recently become more widely known as a healthy way to ease our mind and our souls. Mindfulness is as simple as recognizing and describing your surroundings and your senses. You can start with your sight, noticing everything you see and concentrating on what they look like in this moment. “The desk is black and has 2 drawers, the blanket is blue with white stripes, the nightstand is grey with gold knobs.” The descriptions of your surroundings should be literal and detailed as possible. Then move on to your sense of hearing, touch, smell. Think only of the present moment and let other thoughts flow past you like drifting clouds. You don’t have to worry about smacking the intruding thoughts out and squashing them down, just let them gently roll past as you refocus your gaze to the present.
If you have thoughts of self-harm or violence, it is okay to scream into a pillow or stomp around a room. You’ll regret breaking things of value so grab something meaningless, like a cardboard box that you rip into shreds. You can grasp ice cubes and throw them; a bathtub is the best place to throw them but it’s not going to hurt much if you throw it at the wall either. After a tantrum I like to go outside and just sit and be quiet. Listening to the birds and the bugs buzzing around reminds me that they will keep chirping despite my silly bad day, because the Earth keeps turning and the day starts again. The sun keeps shining and all the world’s creatures keep going–and so do you. Whether or not you are homeless, hurting, or alone, it’s comforting to know that it’s all going to keep going and this too shall pass. This moment will not last forever as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other. The Universe has granted you another hour to figure out, and another passing of time to help you make peace with the past, and there is plenty of time to figure this out. It’s never done, this project called life. Sometimes you just have to breathe until the moment passes, but know that it will pass.
In conclusion, know that the greatest coping skill is to remember that you are meaningful to this world, and you have a greater purpose. We all do, fitting like puzzle pieces into the picture. Everything is working out for you, because that is the path of least resistance—to fulfill our purpose and to forever move towards joy, the most pure state of being for us. You know this is true because of the piercing clarity you experience while feeling joy. Remember that this feeling is always inside of you, it’s the fire in your heart. As far away as we can feel from that inside, know that it is never far away. Keep fighting the good fight, we need you here.
Love Sincerely, Elise
If you are in need of immediate help call the crisis hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
What is mindfulness?
Meditation for stress and anxiety
99 Coping skills
15 Things to do instead of Self-Harm
Anxiety and Depression Association of America Online Resources