How to Recover From a One-Two Punch Life Event

Sometimes life hits us hard with an adverse event throwing us off balance. In return, we react, we adjust, we recover. But what happens when two major life issues clobber an individual in one year? What is the process for getting up, fighting back, and returning to normalcy?  

   A client of mine learned to pick up the shattered pieces of her life and rebuild. For Rhonda, it started when her long-term job with a major financial institution was made redundant. Walking out the door on her last day with her pink slip and severance package in hand, she stayed positive. She did something quite wise, Rhonda decided to take a breather. She deferred our work on her job search for 30 days.

     When I caught up with my client to schedule our first session, she answered the phone in a calm, professional manner. It was what she said next that left me with no words. Rhonda explained she was sitting in a hotel room with her husband and two dogs because her home burnt to the ground in a Northern California fire. 

Picking Up the Pieces

     There you have it, folks, two major life events mere weeks apart, both traumatic, both requiring emotional and financial recovery. Where to start? After processing the initial shock of dual events, Rhonda drew on her resilient nature and began to design a plan. Although highly independent, she knew she must ask for and accept help from friends and agencies. The family made plans to move out of the hotel and into the home of a distant cousin.

     After some counseling and joining a support group, Rhonda and her spouse began finding glimmers of that elusive silver lining.

Now unencumbered by a mortgage payment and Rhonda’s job, the two began discussions about fulfilling a dream and moving to Colorado. While warming to their newfound freedom, their burden became lighter as they anticipated positive psychological changes.

Trauma Recovery

     I suspect at the outset of the tragedy; the couple experienced situational depression. Who wouldn’t? Rhonda told me they left their home mere minutes before the fire consumed it.

     People do recover from trauma, and looking back, Rhonda reports having a stronger appreciation for life. Those two events stacked one upon the other were severe, but change often provides new opportunities. 

     In tough situations, lean into resilience, but the life lesson here is don’t try to go it alone. Whenever a traumatic event impacts your life, ask for help, seek counseling, and as you work through recovery, train your brain to see the positive.

Dear Reader,

When the COVID-19 crisis is over, I suspect there will be multiple stories regarding one-two punch life events. I am publishing this today, to remind us, that on the other side of the toughest situations, it is possible to rebuild.

Stay safe.

Love,

Sunny

You Can Scale Your Mountain or Conquer Any Barrier

 

Opening the text on my phone, I found a picture of a beautiful woman in a red dress accompanied by an interesting vehicle. Smiling I realized my friend Carol, forever an inspiration to me, was not going to let a broken foot keep her down. She knows how to conquer obstacles. Here was a perfect example of one of my mother’s favorite expressions, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studying the picture, I realized Carol was following doctor’s orders by using this cool four-wheel vehicle to keep off her broken foot. Her knee rested on a plank allowing her good leg to push her around scooter-like. Again I was reminded of something a friend’s mother once said: “Everything is figure-out-able.” I remembered laughing at the made up word, but loved it nonetheless.

Carol’s actions, and the mother-isms I love, are life lessons. Often situations in everyday life trigger road blocks dotting our life landscape like immense mountains or menacing walls. Don’t let those barriers stop you.

Assign a Label

Need a suggestion to help design a way to tunnel under or scale your wall like Superman leaping tall buildings? Begin by labeling your wall. It could be limited thinking. For example, what if Carol believed the only way to heal was to stay in bed with her foot propped on a pillow accompanied by a bell used to summon family members to wait on her. Well you get it, she wouldn’t be wearing that red dress looking like she’s ready to conquer the world.

Perhaps your label is fear of the unknown. I once wanted to accept a teaching position in Australia. What stopped me? Anxiety over being halfway around the world removed from friends and family. Regretfully, I allowed fear to squash my adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Pity Parties

Once you uncover the cause of your frustration, get over it! Sounds harsh, but don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself. You lost the sale, got laid off, had to cancel a much needed vacation because your car broke down and fixing it sucked up precious leisure funds.

Stop the pity party. Want the vacation? Get a second job. Lost the sale? Figure out why and take another run at it. Got laid off? Write a dynamite resume and begin your job search.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deal With It

Find a way to deal with the hand life dealt you. My friend Barb gave me this tea towel which clearly illustrates my point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, if limoncello is not your thing, let me remind you of a bumper sticker I once saw to drive home my message: When life hands you lemons, throw them back and demand chocolate!

Get the picture? Scale your wall, move your mountain, get the job done I know you can because as wise women once said, everything is figure-out-able.

The Perfect Reason to Journal Even if journaling is not your thing

Whenever Amanda walks in my office the first thing she does is pull out her constant companion, her journal, and bring me up to date on what transpired since our last session. I admired my client’s dedication to journaling. The process of chronicling her thoughts and insights on daily happenings works well for her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People journal for a variety of reasons ranging from improving focus and mental clarity to experiencing a sense of accomplishment in recording achievements.

I rarely recommend journaling to my clients although I probably should. It can be a viable stress reliever, used to catch insightful thoughts and creative ideas, but frankly, journaling is not my thing. Why don’t I journal? It’s a process I don’t enjoy. Suffice it to say, different strokes. What works for Amanda doesn’t necessarily work for me.

But keep reading, as I do have one important singular exception to my personal journaling outlook. You can journal whenever you like, or not, but when a stressful situation results in a multitude of negative thoughts bouncing around in your brain, I recommend you sit in a quiet place and take pen to paper or tap away at your keyboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to studies at UCLA when participants wrote down their negative emotions, versus verbalizing, activity in the alarm center of the brain (called the amygdala) decreased. In layman’s terms, brain scans proved committing your feelings in writing stopped the madness. Once you quiet those gremlins in your head, tranquility sets in and you can calmly begin to sort the problem that had you bouncing off the walls.

Stop and think about a time when a stressful experience occurred that you did not handle very well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No doubt you stayed inside your head and held negative thoughts captive. Without a pathway to clear those pessimistic feelings, you ended up reacting to emotion and making poor decisions.  Perhaps you blurted out things you regret or acted impulsively.

Of course it’s too late to rewind what’s said and done, but never too late to employ this particular journaling strategy.  The next time you feel overwhelmed by a boatload of stress take a time out to steal away and capture all the pent up negativity on paper.

No judging and no editing anything out. Remember, this is for your eyes only. Write until you feel totally empty of all those bleak thoughts.

When you finish, take a deep cleansing breath and feel a calmness settle over you.  At that point, I believe you will find you are able to rationally and successfully deal with the issue. Give it a try!