In just a few weeks, my world turned upside down.
One particular day during work, I was rushed into the hospital. Within a day, I was in surgery. The next day after my release, the guy I was dating informed me via a phone call that his mother did not condone our relationship. We broke up a week later.
This all occurred just three weeks before I was booked and ready to go on a month-long trip around Europe. I had the most incredible time while country hopping, eating delicious food, and laughing nonstop with my bestie in Europe. But I knew I would be heading back to all the sh*t (that’s how it felt at the time) back home.
After my holiday, I returned to find out I had been demoted. I’d been with the company for four years and never took any sick day until the sudden surgery. In fact, I had accumulated so much holiday leave, I was told to book time off—hence my trip to Europe. You can imagine how infuriating this would be.
Jobless, recovering from surgery, and brokenhearted, I felt like everything I had been pursuing was wiped overnight and I had to start over. In the middle of this struggle, I encountered an older man at a bookshop one day, and as we chatted, he said these words, “Perhaps this is not the end but just the beginning.”
Latching onto those words in the midst of a dark and lonely place, I decided to view this bizarre concoction of events in a meaningful way. Approaching this season with openness, curiosity, and surrender, a process began to unfold.
Here are some of the things I learned and how I navigated through this time:
1. How you respond matters.
Struggles come in many ways. This can leave us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. We’ve been thrown into the unknown, so it’s normal to feel out of balance.
By taking regular moments to slow down and process what is happening, we give ourselves the space to deal with this in a gentle way. Through time in prayer and focusing on self-awareness, I started to realise that for a while, I had been longing for more out of life.
By viewing the situations as blessings in disguise, it assisted me toward having a better life filled with freedom, health, and passion. However, if I were to respond by being resentful, I would not have discovered the blessing.
Faced with despair and a lack of hope, the “why me?” thoughts can rise. This helpless attitude can leave us feeling defeated and in victim mode. Should the pain be someone else’s? Why?
Here are some honest questions we can ask ourselves:
>> Is there something to learn here?
>> Is this a blessing in disguise?
>> Is this an answered prayer in some way?
>> Is this going to make you stronger?
These questions can be paramount to disrupting anxious, fretful thoughts.
“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” ~ Lou Holtz
(Please note that there are horrendous events that happen to people that are beyond humane. I want to emphasize here that this kind of self-reflection could be limited to certain situations. My journey and what occurred may relate to certain people—not everyone.)
2. Take care of your health: mind, body, and soul.
During challenging times, it can be difficult to keep on top of our well-being practices. We may neglect the things that keep us grounded. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. This doesn’t mean we need to be a perfectionist at self-care. Small baby steps can make a world of difference.
Synchronizing the mind, body, and soul can bring about strength, health, and a sense of calm. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel on top of this, as it only adds stress to an already stressful situation.
Here are some low-key ways to bring calm into your life:
Exercise. If working out is too daunting or stressful, keep it simple by walking. Sometimes intense exercise can backfire on us (if we are already stressed).
Hike. Hiking in nature can heal us.
Vacation. Take a few days off work.
Spend time in nature. This is self-explanatory!
Do something creative for yourself. Don’t skip out on those hobbies.
Be spontaneous. Have a day of complete surrender. Wander. Eat. Chill at the beach.
Socialise with people you can be yourself around. The people you can just be with.
Journal. Free flow writing is incredible for releasing all that anger, sadness, grief, pain, confusion.
Pray. Seek God’s guidance and peace. If it wasn’t for prayer, I would not have experienced such peace through this time.
Netflix marathon. Have an afternoon off, stay in your pj’s, make tea, and marathon it.
Sleep. Have early nights. Honestly, this is a big one. Your mind processes emotions during the night. Don’t skip out on sleep so that you can heal while you sleep.
Cuddle your pet or human (okay, I am biased to my dog). It can release oxytocin (love drug), which makes you feel warm, embraced, and joyous.
Spend way less time on social media during this time. Give yourself space to be completely present in your own life.
3. Set boundaries.
When we’re going through a stressful season, keeping up appearances to make others happy can take away energy from our own healing process. And it’s a time when we are vulnerable. One of the best words (and actions) I have learned in my life is no.
When you live to make others happy at the expense of your time, health, and truth, it robs you and others. It also reveals the people in your life who are with you through thick and thin—or just with you because of what they gain from you. (Oh, it hurts seeing the truth, but it’s also so good to be free of certain people.)
When we live our lives completely for others and we dedicate little to our own well-being, soul growth, and independence, it can be counterintuitive. We may think it’s our duty to carry the world on our shoulders. But to be truly supportive of others means you know how to take care of yourself first.
A lack of boundaries can lead to elevated stress, illness, unhealthy relationships, codependency, drama, fruitless pursuits, and a path that doesn’t align with who you truly are. This struggle motivated me to look at what I was accepting into my life and ask myself, “Is this wholesome? Am I expressing myself honestly? Am I choosing a path that is from the heart (not from societal expectations)?” It also gave me the opportunity to work through this struggle without trying to rush the process just to keep up appearances.
4. Allow yourself to be supported by others.
We need to surround ourselves with people who are honest and supportive. Talking to someone about our pain is highly, highly recommended. It can be awkward, and it does take courage. Opening up helps with healing, overcoming troubles, and also gaining perspective. When we keep things bottled up inside, we can overthink and create bigger problems. It can also affect our health.
Finding the right person to talk to can be challenging. I opened up to people thinking that it was a safe space but instead felt misunderstood or judged. At times, there were insensitive responses, and I could sense the “just get over it” attitude. Other people (generally those closest to me) showed a brave face, but my pain worried them too much.
Seeing a psychologist, counsellor, or mentor outside our immediate circle can do wonders. There is still a lot of stigma around this; I get it. Through talking to someone outside of my circle, I was able to really express myself without worrying if I was going to offend someone or come across in any certain way.
5. Connect with your soul.
Prayer has always been a way for me to let out what I feel without judgment. The deeper my relationship with my soul, the less I hide myself. Our soul knows our heart—the deepest parts of us. Saying what you feel in the moment—even if it’s messy—is not going to rock the love our soul has for us. It can handle our truth, pain, anger, and moments of imperfection.
They are part of the human experience, and by denying this, I believe, this is where we get stuck. Unhealthy. Anxious. Depressed. And that’s probably why I like prayer so much. It allows me to view myself with compassion and kindness.
6. Accept and let go so you can heal and flow.
Without acceptance, it is hard to move on. People hurt us, we make silly mistakes, and change can happen dramatically at times. Life is never fully in our control, and we do not know what tomorrow brings. I could write something that makes you feel good in the moment, but when you are actually out there in the real world, dealing with this, a peppy blog post won’t help.
Accepting struggles as they are, learning from them, and moving on empowers us. Getting to this point can be challenging, though.
7. So, grieve.
People told me to move on and tried forcing my grieving process to end quickly. In order to be free (and not bite us in the ass later on), it is healthy to grieve and mourn in our own time. Acceptance isn’t all about sucking it up and getting on with it. One healthy way to gracefully move through our struggles is by sitting with the pain—not avoiding it.
“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” ~ Michael J. Fox
8. Turn your struggle into your power.
This is the point in the movie where we make a comeback. Begin to look for opportunities in the current circumstance you are in. Yes, it can be hard, especially when your confidence has been stripped away. The best part about my world falling apart was what I had to lose by trying new things and failing. I’d already faced a painful season.
That struggle was the best damn thing to ever happen. Those endings were new beginnings. I dove into my life and decided to have a go at all the things I had dreamed of doing since I was young. I have failed so many times since then, and it has only brought me closer to who I truly am.
As I write this now, I am so grateful that my life was turned upside down. The boat was rattled, and while painful at the time, it woke me up to a life of exploration, true joy, independence, creativity, and best of all, a heart free of bitterness (aka becoming a more loving person to myself and others).
Finally, maybe it happened for a reason.
Your struggles are not the end of the road. They may just be the beginning of something new or a change that needs to occur in order for you to live as your truest self. Perhaps, deep down, you are longing for something more, and to honour that truth means you will have to let go of the picture you are gripping onto. Maybe you will find purpose, create something new, or finally follow your passions. It could be a wake-up call to get your body into shape, health into gear, mind refocused, or spiritual life on track.
Whatever the reason may be, if you dig deep and allow yourself to be open, the answers will unfold. You will look back with gratitude that your world turned upside down.
Remember: maybe it’s not the end, maybe it’s just the beginning.