How To Be Okay When Things Aren’t Okay
As we are all living in uncertain times, it can be challenging, especially as a mom, to deal with all the things that are known and unknown right now. When someone asks you, “How are you doing? Is everything okay?”, it can often feel like you’re a dam about to burst with things that are weighing on you and challenges you’re having to deal with.
As a smart, capable woman it can be difficult to deal with the roller coaster of ups and downs that come with being an accountant and a mom. You’re not just responsible for doing your job and servicing your clients or the company you work for, but you’re also in charge of the health and welfare of your children while helping to support your family financially as well.
When you have all that on your shoulders and then add something big like a job loss or a loved one’s diagnosis, or something small like your neighbor didn’t pick up after their dog, it can often feel like you’re at your breaking point. It’s as if one more thing will literally break you into a million pieces.
At times like these, someone saying, “It will all work out” or “Everything happens for a reason” can be really unhelpful. Logically you might understand that you’ll be fine, but emotionally you just aren’t okay when things aren’t okay.
Have you ever had that happen where someone tried to show you the upside to something that you’re upset about? Where you wind up digging your heels in even more, just wanting to be angry, hurt, disappointed, etc.?
The funny thing is that we can often become like toddlers, fighting against the positive spin that others are trying to offer us. Our brains throw a little temper tantrum, wanting to not be okay when things aren’t okay; wanting to argue that it shouldn’t be this way.
I’ve been on both sides – wanting to help someone by trying to show them the bright side, and also wanting to just be left alone in order to be upset about a loss or something I was angry about. But the truth is, you don’t want to feel good when a loved one gets diagnosed with cancer, a friend loses their job or you get passed over for a promotion.
Unfortunately, you get into trouble when you try to think positively about a negative circumstance because it often backfires. When you aren’t emotionally ready to feel better about something, it actually causes your brain to go to work in the opposite direction and intensifies whatever negative emotion you are feeling, as if it’s guarding something important.
That’s why when you, or other well meaning people, try to help you feel better about a negative situation, it just doesn’t seem to last. The good news though, is that there are some steps to take in order to be okay when things aren’t okay, but dismissing how you feel and trying to jump too quickly to a better feeling place is not one of them.
This week I’m going to discuss why it’s okay to not be okay and the steps for handling how you feel when life isn’t going the way you want.
Why it’s okay to not be okay
As a woman working in a male dominated profession like accounting, you might have gotten the unspoken message that emotions are a sign of weakness and should be kept under wraps, at least until you get home. Maybe you’ve been leery of turning to a colleague to share some challenging situation that you are dealing with, afraid of being labeled as “emotional”.
But no matter how hard you might try, you are human, and trying to stop your brain from doing what it is programmed to do is impossible. Your brain takes in millions of bits of data, has over 60,000 thoughts a day, and releases various chemicals in your body that create every emotion you experience, whether it’s sad, mad, happy or confused.
It’s important to know that it’s not that women are biologically more emotional than men, it’s that we have been socialized to notice our emotions more and to express them. Studies have found that women are more likely to express happiness, warmth and fear, which helps with social bonding and appears more consistent with the traditional role as primary caregiver, whereas men display more anger, pride and contempt, which are more consistent with a protector and provider role.
So if you’ve been hard on yourself for feeling more negative emotions lately, just know that it’s perfectly normal. Other studies about the gender differences in experiencing emotions have shown that women ruminate rather than speak out as well as react to stress differently, making it harder for us to challenge our thinking at times.
But as I said before, you don’t want to be happy when someone comes down with an illness and you don’t want to feel grateful when you’ve been passed up for a promotion that you believe you deserved. There are things that are perfectly normal to not be okay with.
But it’s also important to know that your brain is always trying to actively prove itself right. Therefore, when it believes something isn’t fair or that things should be different, it will go to work looking for more and more evidence to prove those beliefs true.
Unfortunately, if you’re not aware of how your brain works, you can get stuck in a never-ending loop of negativity where there’s something that is natural to not be okay with, but your brain starts looking for more and more things to not be okay with as well. It’s like when you stub your toe in the morning and then it seems like everything else throughout the day is awful too.
The key thing I want to help you see is that you get to decide whether something is worth not being okay with. You get to look at different situations and decide on purpose that this is not something I’m okay with and just accept the feelings that come with that decision, knowing that when you’re ready, you can also make a new decision.
For example, you get to decide that you are not okay with being turned down for the promotion and that you are choosing to be disappointed about that situation, as long as you also accept that the feeling of disappointment is not going to fuel the action necessary to move forward. You don’t have to be okay with the situation, but make sure you are consciously deciding to not be okay and that you like your reason.
Obviously you’re powerless to change the fact that you didn’t get this promotion, but where all your power does lie is in the way you choose to think and process the emotions that come up for you. None of us were ever taught how to feel disappointed or frustrated when things aren’t okay, so that we can process our emotions, lessen the intensity, and then have the ability to take action to get the results we really want, which in this case would be the next promotion.
It’s perfectly fine to not be okay with certain things, but when you also become aware of the fact that you can be in charge of the way you look at things, you also get to choose how long you want to not be okay with something. You get to decide to give yourself as much time as you need, and you also get to decide when it’s time to move on.
By learning how to be okay when things aren’t okay, you also take back control of the direction you’d like your life to go. The human experience is always going to have ups, downs and challenges, but learning how to be okay no matter what, makes the journey so much easier to navigate.
Steps for handling how you feel when life isn’t going the way you want
It’s a great feeling when things are moving smoothly, when no one gets sick and the economy is thriving. However, most of us don’t live in a fairy tale story where everyone gets their perfect happily ever after ending.
As both an accountant and a mom, you’re probably dealing with a lot of challenges with your career as well as your family. What was once a difficult balancing act of being a working mom, has now become like a three ring circus of juggling acts and hoops of fire to jump through.
Unfortunately there are so many things going on in the world right now that are known and unknown, which can create a lot of worry, fear and doubt. More working moms than ever are challenged to know more, do more, and stress more.
If this resonates with you, and you’re having a hard time handling all the emotions you’ve been having during these difficult times, I want to help you learn how to process your emotions in a way that you’ve probably never been shown before. Once you understand how to process your emotions, it will be much easier for you to be okay when things aren’t okay.
Let’s start with where your emotions even come from. As I’ve shared in previous podcast episodes, your feelings and emotions aren’t happening because someone was diagnosed with an illness, because the economy is taking a downturn, or because you were passed over for a promotion; your feelings always come from all the thoughts you have about it all.
In other words, you have a thought about what’s going on in your world and your body releases chemicals, creating an energy in your body. Those 60,000 thoughts you have a day are having various chemical reactions in your body, all day, everyday.
What happens is that, over time, a thought that you’ve had over and over again then becomes a belief, and those beliefs then become the reason why you don’t want to be okay with a lot of things. For example, you believe there’s a certain right and wrong to the world; that things should be a certain way, that people shouldn’t get sick, and that it’s not fair when you’ve earned a promotion and it doesn’t happen.
Of course you can always keep those beliefs, but learning how to feel your way through them is the secret I want to share. Learning how to actually feel your emotions and process them, as opposed to just being at the effect of them without any sense of control, is how to have much more balance in your life and how to live your life on purpose.
Learning how to process your emotions is important for you, not only physically, but even more so mentally because how you show up in the world totally depends on how you are feeling. If you’re managing your mind and your emotions, you’re able to be focused and on top of things much more easily and that’s when you become unstoppable.
The first step is to begin to get clear about what are the top 3 emotions that you feel on a daily basis, with an emotion just being one word rather than a thought like, “I’m feeling frustrated about my work”. In this example the one word emotion is frustrated.
Because you feel many different things throughout the day, your mixed bag of emotions might include feelings like stress, anxiety, overwhelm, determined, focused, frustrated, grateful, productive, etc. My top 3 emotions on a daily basis are usually focused, frustrated, and balanced.
It’s perfectly normal, especially for accountants whose intelligence and thought process is an important part of our jobs, to be able to tell me all the thoughts you’re thinking, but to also be challenged to name the emotions you’re feeling. The more you practice the exercise I’m going to teach you, the better you will get at recognizing your emotions.
The reason this is important is because the easier it becomes to identify your feelings, the easier it will be to find the thought driving it, to process the emotion, and then to move on. Remember, when you address the cause, you also address the effect.
The next step is to get out of your head and into your body by describing what each emotion feels like in your body; it can be helpful to close your eyes when you do this and just scan your body from bottom to top to find where you are experiencing this emotion. You need to describe the emotion, with as much detail and descriptors as possible, as if you’re explaining it to an alien from another planet who has no idea what a human emotion feels like.
For example, when I feel the emotion of frustrated, I feel it in my neck and shoulders. It’s a tightening sensation; it feels hot; it’s like concrete starting to harden; it’s dark grey in color; it starts in the middle of my shoulders and then slowly spreads out across my back; it has a crackling, thumping sound.
When I feel anxiety, I feel it in my chest and throat. It’s like a wave of heat that expands across my chest; it’s hot; it’s red in color; it pulses and grows bigger; it’s restrictive; it moves slowly but powerfully; it sounds like a fire alarm.
As you can see from my examples, the more details you can give, the more you are feeling your emotion and the more your body will break down those chemicals creating that sensation in your body and regulate itself. By allowing yourself to be present with the emotion you’re feeling, the less resistance you’re having towards it and the easier it is to process it and move forward.
By learning how to describe an emotion, you’re also not hooked into the thoughts creating it. Again, it’s your thoughts that are creating the emotion you’re feeling so when you can think about all the ways to describe it, you aren’t focused on the cause of it, giving yourself a chance to release the causal thought.
So why is this important to learn? At first this is going to seem strange, but by actually feeling your emotions, rather than resisting them, avoiding them or trying to numb them, you are learning one of the most powerful things you can do. By getting comfortable with how your emotions feel in your body, you will no longer be concerned about feeling them, making it much easier to be okay when things aren’t okay.
The best part is that when you learn how to process emotion, your self-confidence will grow exponentially. When there’s no emotion you aren’t willing to feel because you now know it’s just a vibration in your body that you can process, then there’s nothing stopping you when fear, worry or doubt show up.
Stop for a minute and think about all the things you haven’t done because you felt emotions like confusion, doubt, or fear. Now imagine being able to process those emotions and then taking action on whatever you need to do to get whatever result you want; just imagine the possibilities!
In order to handle any situation in your life and to be okay when things aren’t okay, you just need to know that the reason you feel the way you do is because of a thought, that thought creates a chemical reaction in your body, and you now know how to process that reaction by being fully present with it. When you know that the worst thing that can happen is a feeling, and you can process any feeling, nothing is going to stop you from having the life you want.
- When you aren’t emotionally ready to feel better about something, it actually causes your brain to go to work in the opposite direction and intensifies whatever negative emotion you are feeling, as if it’s guarding something important.
- Studies have found that women are more likely to express happiness, warmth and fear, which helps with social bonding and appears more consistent with the traditional role as primary caregiver, whereas men display more anger, pride and contempt, which are more consistent with a protector and provider role.
- It’s perfectly fine to not be okay with certain things, but when you also become aware of the fact that you can be in charge of the way you look at things, you also get to choose how long you want to not be okay with something.
- By getting comfortable with how your emotions feel in your body, you will no longer be concerned about feeling them, making it much easier to be okay when things aren’t okay.
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