When you’re on the edge – just breathe

at the edge

Sometimes we are so used to running on fumes that we never quite realise how empty we are until the car rolls to a stop.

Life is a lot like that. I had to take stock of my life and my very inadequate coping mechanisms earlier this year. Two weeks into my new job in a new city, I found out that my ex-husband had had a stroke and a heart attack. My 20-year-old son had to assume the new role as a caregiver, work, study, and pay the bills. Then a few weeks later a close relative was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. It was stressful being so far from them and offering little more than emotional support over the telephone. It all became a bit too much for me and I struggled to cope.

I knew enough about panic attacks to recognise the signs: I knew that the heart palpitations were telling me to change what I was doing. The ringing in my ears was another sign. The constant tears confirmed it. Yet I ignored all the warnings. It was in the midst of this emotional tornado that I filled in the Wheel of Life from BizPreneur.

It was a turning point for me. I hadn’t realised I was so unhappy in so many areas of my life. I was lurching from one crisis to another without unpacking in between. So, I stopped what I was doing and committed to taking actionable steps in the areas in which I was most dissatisfied. This is what I did to recalibrate:

  1. Admit you are in a crisis. You cannot conquer what you cannot confront.
  2. Set the pace for your life. A lot of our anxiety comes from following the pace set by someone else.  Get off that hamster wheel and become your own pace-setter.
  3. Meditate. I practised Biblical meditation and I loved this process of quietening my mind and refocusing. When life becomes hectic, the first thing we sacrifice is our quiet time. Don’t. This time allows us to recharge and gives us the energy we need for other areas of our lives.
  4. Make time for what brings you joy. A child’s smile. Hiking up a mountain to see the sunset. Spending time with family. These are things that make life meaningful.
  5. Start a gratitude journal and write down something that you are grateful for every day. It can be a good cuppa joe or that you have air in your lungs today. If you are always waiting for the big signs, you will miss the little things that matter.
  6. Ask for help. We all need help at different times in our life. This is not a sign of weakness, but a show of strength.

Today, even though there are still things being thrown at me, I have adopted a new perspective: it’s all going to make me stronger if I let it. But I also give myself permission to experience every emotion and I evaluate each one instead of shutting it down.

If you need help, call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 456 789 and speak to one of their trained counsellors.

I was inspired by this video from Jay Shetty, a monk-turned-motivational-speaker on how the obstacles in our lives make us stronger. I hope you are inspired, too.