We were about a month into our COVID-19 quarantine when it finally happened. There had been some ups and downs, of course, but I was feeling pretty good and able to stay positive as an individual, husband, and father. My family was handling it all surprisingly well. I was getting tons of work done. I felt like I was leading the family well. Then I finally snapped.
During the month or so of quarantine, I had been straining, working from home, fearful about my wife working in the medical field, stressed about a son doing middle school online, anxious about a son doing college online, sad for two adult children out of work, worried about one adult child still working in “essential services,” and totally uneasy about my at-risk mother-in-law. ALL of this under ONE roof. (You catch all the emotions in there? I didn’t.) But we were actually navigating it fairly well and trying to stay positive—movie nights, game nights, lots of good conversations. We got this!
Then it all started to unravel. Then I unraveled. Big time.
In the span of a few days:
- My wife was filing for unemployment.
- We had a brush with a tornado that left us with a yard full of fallen trees.
- We had no power to our house for days.
- My car broke down while I was getting ice to keep food from spoiling. (It all spoiled anyway.)
- We had friends who completely lost their homes and we were heartbroken.
- We had all-new financial pressures.
Things were starting to pile up. Stress and worry were at all new levels.
I ignored it—too much to get done!
After about four days of trying to adjust to Generator Life and a bunch of new problems and expenses, I was soon trying to stay positive and hold my world together with threads and patches.
Then, in a single moment, life came undone. (Of course, it did.) The reality is, I came undone. Ironically, it was actually a relatively small thing that did it. Something so small that it would have been no big deal in any other context. Straw. Camel. Back. You know the saying.
I’ll admit it—I was lying in bed crying with the door locked, feeling fragile and helpless.
How did it get to this? I’m stronger than this! What if anyone in my family sees me like this?
If we can allow ourselves to be honest, vulnerable, transparent humans for just a second, you might be feeling it, too. You might be close to snapping. Maybe you are on the edge of being overwhelmed. You may have already broken down. Your story and circumstances might have some major things going on in them that make my little pity party look pitiful.
What do you do to stay positive when it all seems to fall apart?
Here’s what I learned after I snapped back from my snap:
- Acknowledge your emotions and share them with people that you trust. For a while, I had been suppressing or burying emotions and needs deep down, trying to play it cool, but making myself a ticking timebomb.
- Be real with your kids, your spouse, and your friends, because they have their “moments” too. Kids don’t need their parents to be perfect; they need them to be real. It’s good for them to see you work through imperfection and real-world problems.
- Guard your mindset! Be careful what you look for in life, because you’ll find it. If you look for everything that is wrong, you’ll find it and focus on it. If you look for what is going right, that’s there, too. Find it and focus on it. You can acknowledge what’s wrong and still practice gratitude for what’s right. Remember what is really important—people.
- Practice self-care. I was afraid to be honest with myself and the people around me—people that I know would help me, let me blow off steam, and help me process my emotions. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s more than okay to take care of yourself! Practice self-care. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can take care of yourself—physically and emotionally.
- Breathe. Think. Act. Take a moment to take some deep breaths, think about what you can and can’t control, and then respond appropriately—don’t react. Don’t make important decisions when you aren’t your best self or you’ve gone to pieces.
- Focus on helping others. This may sound counter-intuitive, but nothing feels better than helping someone with their problems. It actually makes our brain release happy chemicals and it may take your mind off your problems or even put them in perspective.
It’s okay to have a “moment”; it’s not okay to stay there. We’ve all been at a place where we felt like it was just one bad thing after the other and we’ve felt overcome by stress, anxiety, anger, or sadness. Give yourself permission to be real, but also develop a plan to stay positive the next time you feel overwhelmed and about to break down.