Accept whatever you are feeling. Listen, some feelings suck, especially when we’re stressed. Nobody wants to be anxious, or sad, or frightened, or angry. But spending energy denying these feelings or trying to avoid them actually makes your mind and body do double the work. It takes an already stressful situation and makes it 10 times worse! Feelings like this are perfectly normal when your world feels like it’s turning upside down, so allow yourself to feel them. Give yourself time to process, and you’ll emerge from the other side faster, healthier, and ready to take on the world.
Maintain a normal routine. When it seems like you can’t count on anything, it’s vital that you give yourself something to rely on–something that you don’t have to worry about or try to fix. Everyday activities like getting dressed, going to work, doing chores, etc. give you a sense of control–and what once seemed like an annoying task can feel comforting in its familiarity.
Ground yourself in the here and now through your senses. There’s a technique that PTSD survivors learn called Cognitive Grounding Therapy that centers around being consciously aware of your immediate environment, and it helps stop the runaway train of anxiety and panic. In a similar way, you can focus your emotions and thoughts by taking immediate stock of your environment or doing something that occupies the senses. Start by naming 3 things you can see, touch, hear, etc. Then take part in a sensory activity: listening to running water, watching a fire, cuddling with a pet, going for a walk barefoot. If your brain is busy feeling the world around you, there’s not as much time for wondering what could possibly go wrong.
Organize or clean something. This sounds counterintuitive–really? another chore?–but it works. That’s because setting something to rights gives you an immediate sense of control and impact on your world that you might otherwise be lacking. Even people who hate to clean (like me) or can’t organize worth a darn can get immediate benefit from this. Plus it’s free and always accessible! Cheapest therapy around.
Speaking of therapy . . . If you possibly can, find a well-reviewed therapist that you can schedule a few sessions with. Unlike psychiatrists, a therapist’s primary job is not to diagnose you, but to listen. Think of them as someone that you can say literally anything to; confess or complain or cry, without judgement or negative feedback of any kind. Because that’s exactly who they are. Doesn’t that sound like just what you need? Just giving yourself that kind of outlet and having a positive human sounding board can be an enormous relief.
Speak kindly to yourself. For some reason, people’s internal voices can be particularly cruel. We talk to ourselves in ways we wouldn’t dream of talking to anyone else–and in fact, if someone talked to your friend that way, you’d probably throw down. Check these internal critics, first by identifying them. Whose voices are they? If they sound like your mother, your ex, or that gym teacher who always hated you, then you should ignore them. But if the voice is genuinely yours, start talking back to it. Be your own best friend! Don’t let anyone talk trash about you, especially not You.