“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” ~Anais Nin
I bought an ice cream cake for my family to thank them for giving me the time and space to write the first draft of my novel. My husband took photos. I selected my favorite shot as the wallpaper on my computer to remind me of this milestone.
I was happy and joyous for a week. The second week I fell into despair—hard—and stayed there for months and months and months.
I could not edit the novel I had completed and I could not start something new. I was stuck. A terminal sense of doom clouded my days and fogged over my nights.
Eventually, I sought help from a counselor who specialized in treating creative people. Her diagnosis was grief. Some people go through the grief process when they complete a creative project, she explained.
Apparently, I was one of those people.
I had fallen into the trap of believing I could sustain the triumphant joy and deep satisfaction I had received upon completing the first draft of my novel and remain in those victorious feelings forever. When I couldn’t, I fell into depression and stayed there.
I had experienced a kind of death.
The counselor recommended that I allow the grieving to unfold naturally without force. That meant I had to give myself permission to be depressed. I had to sit with the feeling, day and night, and not wrestle with it.
Weeks later, I finally emerged from the darkness of despair into the light of hope. I discovered the strength to edit my novel. When that was finished, I started looking for a publisher.
I had experienced a kind of rebirth.
Since that first bout of depression, I’ve written and published four books. Each time I finish the first draft, I grieve again. But over the years, I have learned how to process my feelings and create again.
Here are seven simple steps to help you move through your emotions without getting stuck:
1. Learn acceptance.
Acknowledge what you are feeling without judgment. Offer yourself reassurance that it's okay to feel whatever it is that you are feeling, no matter what anyone says or thinks.
If you ignore what you're feeling or pretend to feel something you don’t feel, the charade will prevent you from moving through the emotion. You will remain frozen in denial. The feeling will take hold and anchor you like a dead weight.
By accepting what you feel when you feel it, you release the possibility of getting stuck.
2. Practice patience.
Some feelings last a few moments. Others last a few hours or a few days. Some feelings can last a whole year or longer.
Let the feeling stay as long as it needs to; don’t force it to leave. It will only come back until it is done.
3. Seek help early.
It's okay to seek help for dealing with a difficult emotion. If you find yourself overwhelmed, call a friend who can listen and offer advice or hire a professional who can provide expert insight.
It's better to get assistance as soon as you need it rather than waiting until you are stuck with an emotion you cannot release.
4. Avoid self-medicating habits.
Don’t try to mask the feeling. Drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, and shopping may temporarily relieve you from the pain of your emotion, but they will not solve your problem.
Self-medicating habits create a labyrinth around your emotion. They offer the illusion of freedom while imprisoning you. Eventually, you'll have to face what you are feeling head on without the benefit of an addiction to cushion the impact.
By refusing to indulge in avenues of escape, you will learn the invaluable skill of self-reliance. You will grow confident in your ability to process your emotions quickly and efficiently no matter how joyful or painful they may be.
5. Develop a routine.
A consistent routine provides the foundation to build a life. Without it, chaos takes over. Feelings will either run rampant or hide in dormancy, both of which are unhealthy.
Wake up at the same time every day. Schedule your meals. Go to sleep at the same time each night.
Make sure you have quiet time for prayer, meditation, or reflection. Include hobbies on a regular basis. Spend time with your loved ones on a daily basis.
The more structured your routine, the more likely your emotions will flow.
6. Introduce something new.
Once you have developed a routine, add something new. Boredom leads to apathy, which can encourage an emotion to take root and not let go.
Variety leads to excitement. Trying something new keeps things fresh and alive.
Take a class or join a club. Visit somewhere you have always wanted to go. Be adventurous.
7. Honor the past, present, and future.
Life is more than random moments. It's a journey of self-discovery on a continuum of time. You can easily get stuck in an emotion by dwelling on the past or not paying attention to the present or worrying about the future.
Embrace the whole spectrum of your life: the past with its history, the present with its immediacy, and the future with its potential.
If you only think of the past, you'll be stuck in the mire of what once was and miss out on what is going on all around you right now.
If you focus only on the moment, you will neglect to remember the lessons you have learned through past experience and fail to pay attention to any future consequences. If you only dream of the future, you will become lost in fantasy without a compass to guide you there.
By honoring the past, present, and future, you can truly live each moment to its fullest.
Emotions are meant to come and go, not stay with you forever. By following these steps, you will train your mind and your body to process emotions in a healthy manner, leaving you free to explore the next chapter of your life.
Photo by www.hansvink.nl