Today someone asked me how I was doing and I found myself answering honestly.
”I just feel like there’s no relief in sight.”
Have you ever felt that there’s no relief in sight? It’s a truly terrible feeling, a somewhat oppressive, desperate feeling.
I do NOT highly recommend it.
As soon as I said it, I started with the laundry list of all the things that seemed to be piling up on top of each other in a desperate attempt to overwhelm me. Starting with the big ones and then adding up everything I could think of that was possibly going wrong.
If we were to have a dance off, with one move for each very legitimate reason I have to feel that there is no relief in sight, I would still be two-stepping while the rest of the population had exhausted even the running man and the chicken dance. I have THAT MANY reasons.
Of course, then, as the grand champion of the dance off of despair, I would only cement myself in first place of misery. Me and my reasons, reinforcing my inability to siphon even one ounce of relief from life. And from this elevated place, I could criticize myself for being miserable.
Sounds dramatic, I know.
I feel dramatic.
Did I mention I have COVID?
So as I sat here, trying to keep my self-criticism in check by consuming large amounts of carbs, I came across this sentence in an email newsletter:
“You are meant to have to apply every single last tool in your box
and then create MORE tools,
just to get you through this difficult process.”
(Thank you, Stacey Boehman.)
It was like a prophecy.
I started going through my own process. I looked through the tools and strategies I have developed and tried them on, some applying to this situation and some not as much. I felt like none of them were “just right”.
So, I read the sentence again.
I was meant to create a NEW tool! The new dance move that would outshine all the other dance moves. An epic, life changing new tool.
And I would call it …drum roll please…
the No Relief In Sight tool.
(Clever, I know.)
I sat for a minute…thinking of all the supporting evidence I had for being overwhelmed. And I realized, the worst part was the IDEA that there was no relief in sight. Taken individually, I could (and would) handle every one of these things. I had to take a harder look at the overwhelm itself- not all the contributing factors.
Was it really true that there is NO relief in sight? Like not even one glimmer of relief? Like NOTHING AT ALL could be construed as a silver lining, or at least the lesser of two evils?
That seemed a little far-fetched, even for me in my dramatic state.
If, per chance, there was a miniscule possibility of relief, all I had to do to debunk my oppressive statement was find where that relief was hiding.
So, I thought I would begin by listing everything that I was grateful for just this week. I figured this would get me started with some ideas. I made sure to be really specific.
Waking up without a headache today.
Having tons of food in the house (minus all the carbs I inhaled earlier).
Having a washer/dryer on the first floor.
All the people I could call in an emergency, listed by name. (Don’t worry, I’m not calling. It just makes me happy to know I COULD call if necessary.)
Knowing that I am actually capable of handling whatever comes my way.
My NP colleague who covered all my patients this week.
You get the idea.
I stopped after a page and a half, not because I ran out of things but because my hand was cramping.
All of these things gave me some relief. I’m not alone. I don’t have a headache. I have a lot of things that make my life easier. Basically, if I look in the right direction, there IS SOME relief in sight.
So here’s my brilliant tool.
When you feel like there is no relief in sight, when everything is overwhelming or problematic, when you find yourself further bolstering the supporting evidence that life is really tough by ruminating, take a pause.
Write down all the things that you are grateful for right at this time, really specific things. You can stop if your hand cramps (as long as you complete one page, single spaced).
Sit in the balance. Yes, there are things that will still be awful, like COVID. But if there is nothing good in sight, then you are looking in the wrong direction.
Balance out the experience of the bad with the knowledge of the good. You don’t even have to lean further into the good, the neutral balance will feel so much better than the misery. Give equal airtime to the struggles and the supports (even if you have to look for them).
Yup, that’s it. That’s my brilliant tool (you’re welcome). I would make it trickier, with lots of steps, but just doing this worked for me so I figured I would leave it there.
Here’s the catch. It doesn’t happen magically.
It takes awareness and a decision not to accept that there is NO relief at all.
It takes acknowledging that just by saying “there is no relief in sight”, we make it true. It keeps the focus in the wrong direction, reinforcing the struggles and preventing even considering alternative truths. We block ourselves from the relief we seek.
It takes a conscious effort to step away from the spiraling thoughts and the carbs and put your focus on all the places relief MAY lie.
Then all you need is a gel pen and a notebook with an empty page and a half.
And some mean dance moves.
P.S. If you have something unusual that you are grateful for, something that makes you smile just by writing it down, will you share it with me? Post it below :)