In lieu of your monthly resource this time around, I wanted to share something a little bit different. It’s far more personal (and, I am half rolling my eyes as I say this, more vulnerable) than my usual fare. But that doesn’t make it any less important.
Well, here goes!
If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. – Lao Tzu
I believe these words. I fully do. But, like most other people, I have times when I have difficulty embodying them because I feel like I’m struggling with everything – anxious, depressed, and completely disconnected with the present.
The past few weeks, I’ve been going through one of these hard phases. I would wake up as I did every day. The weather would be nice. The sun would be out out. The sky’d be blue.
And I am lucky to have a job where I can do the kind of work I want to do, where I can work from where I want, and be my own boss; there’s pretty much nothing to complain about. But, on these days, rather than go through my usual routines, I’d be paralyzed by panic, negative self-talk, fear, doom.
What am I doing? What if my business fails? Will I ever be able to hold a full-time job again? Why don’t I feel motivated...to do anything? What is wrong with me? I’m so lazy. Am I making the wrong decisions for my business? Why haven’t I figured this out yet? I’m going to lose all my clients and drive my business into the ground.
I spiral fast.
When I see this happening, even though I know on a rational level that it’s simply my anxiety about the future unknown (link to attachment of 3 tenets article) coming out, and even as I repeat to myself things that I regularly say to my clients, I simply can’t seem to pull myself out of it.
I have said to people, based on my own experience, “All you need is hope on the horizon. You just need something to focus on, something to keep you going, something to keep your hopes up.” But, during these dark times, I can’t seem to find my hope on the horizon. Or my ability to do anything or be at all productive.
All I can try to do is hold on tight to the pillars of structure in my seemingly structure-less life (lesson number one for entrepreneurs: build your own systems and infrastructure, because no one else is going to do it for you!). So I double down on the meditation. I force myself to go outside and get some sun and fresh air. I go for solo hikes in the park. I try to exercise.
I focus more on being rather than doing. I tell myself all the things I have to be grateful for. I take care of life maintenance things and try to forget about the never-ending work to-do list for a day. Or two. I let things out in a good cry. Or two. I talk to my best friend who tells me everything is going to be okay and to calm the f down (in the kindest way possible, of course).
I read over positive testimonials that people have written about my coaching and training work. I look at my running list of accomplishments for my business (created exactly for times like these). I tell myself to focus on one project at a time, one tiny step at a time, that I can’t fast forward experience, that acorns take time to grow into trees.
Still, I didn’t feel like I was going to pull out of it. I’m still not entirely sure – and maybe life is just one big long cycle between the light and dark. I’d have a “bad day” like this and then an “okay day,” then another series of days when I manage to get things done, but still circle back to the negative thought spirals and defeatist attitude.
How am I gonna snap myself out of it this time? How can it be that I still feel so little control over my own emotions? I know, of course, that I do, in fact, have a great deal of control over my emotions (link to prior posts).
I’m writing this on one of the “good days,” when I can catch myself judging the quality of the day and thinking about how I should let go of such a judgment (kind of a judgment in and of itself!). I don’t know how tomorrow will be. Or the next day. My slump could continue, or it could be done. There’s simply no way to tell. All I can do is hold onto my pillars and take things one breath at a time.
I will say that it feels like an acute failure to be someone whose job it is to help others through dark times and to find herself stuck in one too. It makes it feel like what I tell people is bullshit or “doesn’t work.” I worry that I’m fraudulently performing happiness and positivity for people, or that I’m perceived as being out of touch.
All of this quickly turns into the dreaded: Who am I to coach other people when I can’t even get myself together? My business will never succeed. A bad place to go mentally.
But, of course, the truth is that I’m not a fraud. What I am is just like everyone else: someone who has good times and bad, who’s got highs and lows, who has weathered her fair share of slumps and also made it through to the other side each time. Eventually.
And I realized that it was important for me to share this. Because the lows are a part of me too. And I want to bring my whole, authentic self to this work, which means openly talking about the tough times too.
So thank you for listening.