So, you know that saying, “when going through hell, keep going”?
Well, I’ve been going through some sort of hell lately — I mean… I’m still moving… so that’s good. I’m not STUCK in hell… I’m going through hell….
And keeping a good attitude about things is imperative when the going gets rough. And, for the most part, each day it gets better, and truth be told, the details are not all that important, because we all have seasons of loss and uncertainty, where curling up on the rug in fetal position on the kitchen floor seems like a reasonable short-term solution… (I hope I’m not the only one who has done that… MORE THAN ONCE in her life).
Anyway, like I said, the details are not important because essentially we all experience loss and disintegration at some point in our lives, and although the parts and pieces of each of our experiences are unique to you… and me, the part that is the same is how we get through hell… rather than staying STUCK in hell.
And the first thing, as my mama always says… is “the only way through it… is THROUGH it”… so there’s THAT… and that is something, for sure.
Then, there are a few other things that I have come to learn — and if you are going through a hard time, or if you know someone who is… perhaps my little personally tested GTHT (going through hell therapy) might be useful.
Now, I’m being playful, of course.. but on a more serious note, this is real deal, science backed, guaranteed to work if anything will…. These are practices that healthy, vertical, ready to grow through the hard times rather than get beat down BY the bad times sorts of women turn to when life gets really, really hard. Perhaps you’re there now… or perhaps you now someone who is… So, whatever the case, my hope is that you find it useful… and I’m sharing it now because it wasn’t so many weeks back when I said to my inner circle of sisters, “I just want someone to tell me what to do.” So I am giving you just that… if you need it.
P.S.— every one of these few suggestions are also very good “stay well” practices too.
I am firmly of the opinion it is a much better to learn how to swim when the waters are calm than when the waves are cresting and crashing and your boat is capsizing.
Alright, so here is what I know.
First and foremost — when you are going through a difficult time, this is NOT the time to “dumb down and numb out”… contrary to what every cell in your body is suggesting. Now, of course, there may be moments where you feel like you need to escape or distract yourself — and I’m all for that… but let it be something that lifts you up or inspires you or makes you laugh or at least get out of your environment NOT something that hijacks your biochemistry (drinking too much) or causes more problems and pain (lashing out to hurt someone who hurt you or emotionally vomiting all over those you love). No, stay awake… this difficulty through which you are going has something to show you — something to teach you — not about the other person, or even the world… but about YOU, and there’s a good chance you will miss if you are not FULLY present and awake.
So, what do you do instead?
Here are the things:
Practice RADICAL self-care.
I know that this is starting to be a buzzword, and I’ve been teaching about radical self-care for decades (and calling it just this :: radical because it isn’t what the ladies at church are suggesting you do, and self-care because it has nothing to do others, or being nice or a good girl, and it might even look selfish or repulsive to your community). Instead, it is about taking care of yourself in bigger and better, deeper and more expansive ways than ever, for this is IMPERATIVE to give you the strength to get through unpredictable challenges or losses (which can be a crooked, windy, dark, pot-holey, fire-storming road if you didn’t get that memo)…. So radical self-care means, take a bath, (or four) a day. Be willing to cry hard and out loud. Be willing to be witnessed — because doing all this alone can make it harder in the long-run. Then, schedule yourself a LOT of massages. Surround yourself with women who can hold you while simultaneously INSISTING that you hold yourself up. (Note — this is a big one… you do NOT want to surround yourself around women who hold you up — not on an ongoing basis — from time to time, I get it… you need to be held, and sometimes held up, but generally speaking, you want to be in circles of women who HOLD you while you hold yourself up… so you know you can do it.
Eat really, really well.
What does this even mean? It means real food, not processed. It means eating an anti-inflammatory diet: which translates into limited or eliminated quantities of caffeine, alcohol, dairy, sugar and wheat. It means eating your biggest meal at the hight of the day (between 10am and 2 pm) and eating foods that look like they looked when they were “born”. It means eating seasonally, and not getting too rigid about anything, really. It means that when you stray from the “super clean eating” path, that you don’t give yourself a hard time, as one of my first old-school yoga teachers said it best when he said, “it’s not the chocolate cake that will kill you… it’s what you do to yourself over eating the chocolate cake that will kill you.” And then, follow the 90/10 rule. Do your best to eat well 90% of the time and if you fall off the wagon, do it as consciously and joyfully as possible… and then get back at it the next meal, next moment or next day.
Move your body.
I know you have heard this from me before, if you’ve been listening to me. But exercise / movement / sweating / breathing heavily for extended periods of time… all of these things make a WORLD of difference in your inner world. Movement is an exceptional anti-depressant, digestive support, and energy “drink”… and then, doing it outside? Doing it outside gives you extra credit. Giving yourself exposure to morning light, helps with all sorts of biochemical hacks in all the best ways, related to digestion, energy, sleep, mood, skin health, and prevention of disease. Movement is life… and so get moving, in the morning, and outside if and when possible… push yourself a little, sweet pea… and get yourself OVER the hump of thinking you need to be motivated to do so… motivation, in so many ways, is a transient, evasive thing… and whether or not you “feel like” doing something, you are going to reap the benefits, so stop squawking, and do the thing.
Next in line for practices that are imperative when going through hell… , and this is a hard one when we are feeling ALL the feels, but it’s a super important one: Take time to reflect. Journal, notice your feelings, better yet…feeeeeel your feelings, reflect on what is the basis below or behind your feelings, if you can… and then let them be…. You don’t need to change them… you don’t need to fix anything. There isn’t anything to do, but it does help to really be present to what is… remember that thing about being fully present? And awake? When you take time to reflect… you are consciously practicing doing just this — and there’s a good chance you’re gonna learn something…. About you, your patterns, the way you move through the world and what is available to you — you see, it’s like this: when we are quiet — or even quiet-ish…. There often is this tiny, little voice that rises up… first maybe just a little squeak, then more like a whisper, and finally you can actually make out what she has to say…. And that voice… that voice is YOU. Listen to her.
And finally: Meditate.
Now, before you get all cranky and start squawking again because this feels like the last thing you want to do when you are suffering…. We are laying down new and good for you neural pathways, dear One. And this is a MUST if you ever want to get out of hell. And with a little bit of practice (like it only takes 13 minutes of daily meditation for seven weeks of your brain to change… to LITERALLY change), you may even find you like it a little, and you like how it feels when you’re not suffering or thinking about how horrible things are… and maybe, just maybe… you might find yourself in a meadow of wild flowers or sitting during a sunrise and saying something like, “thank you”… to all the hard stuff… and feeling a smile come across your face, and saying, as you raise yourself up, lifting your eyes to the sky, with your head held high, “let’s do this!”
Stranger things have happened. And I’ve gone through hell a few times in my life, and I’m here to say…. It gets easier, and the load gets lighter….
So if you’re going through hell, you know the gig: Keep going… or, if you know someone who is having a hard time… perhaps this will help.
Here’s a little meditation to help get you started:
Sending you soooo much love.