Staying On Track Through Times of Trouble

My 22nd birthday was a straight up rollercoaster.

Halfway into the morning, my dream company cancelled the interview they’d scheduled with me. No more trip to NYC.

The same day, the person I’d been most recently involved with texted me the news that he’s seeing someone new. Kind of an ego bruiser.

This all came in the midst of a post-grad journey that has been anything but smooth and peaceful, about a week after the death of a wonderful high school friend.

In times of grief and confusion, minor letdowns can seem major. The camel’s back had officially broken, and I realized that I needed to make time to resolve these conflicts on top of a schedule packed with class, writing deadlines and a full-time job search.

Despite what you’ve heard, it isn’t “strong” to ignore your problems. Over time, failure to acknowledge and resolve internal conflicts can manifest in depression, anxiety, confusion, and an inability to emotionally connect with people. Practicing internal conflict resolution while you’re young and resilient will seriously pay off.

Resolving your conflicts also doesn’t have to get in the way of a busy life. Here are the steps that have helped me uphold my commitments and personal relationships as I overcome my challenges:

Internal Healing

  1. Be honest with yourself.

You don’t have to tell the world you’re hurting, but tell it to yourself straight. You can’t overcome any type of feeling if you don’t admit it’s there. By facing the nitty gritty details, you’re giving yourself permission to unearth and work through them.

  1. Be kind to yourself.

As you’re honest with yourself, be sure you’re doing it without judgment. Some of your truths may not be pretty or easy to accept; take your time with them. Don’t resent yourself for being sad, angry or confused.

Transform any self-deprecating thoughts to positives. For example, turn “I’m such an idiot for starting that fight,” to, “I engaged in that fight because I was frustrated. How can I better express those feelings next time?”

  1. Be conscious of unhealthy thoughts.

Resisting the changes your conflict has created, or obsessing over regrets and what-ifs, creates backward progress. Re-direct your thoughts when you sense they’re heading down what-if road.

I redirect mine by focusing on my five senses; what colors I see, how my breathing sounds and my skin feels, etc. It brings me back to reality and lets me change my train of thought.

External Adjustments

  1. De-clutter.

De-cluttering your physical environment helps a surprising amount in releasing emotional baggage. Put all your dust-collecting items and unworn clothes in a giant trash bag and donate them.

Having trouble blindly parting with your more sentimental dust collectors? Give them to a special person in your life.

  1. Physical health = sanity.

Carve out time to exercise, but be gentle with yourself. It’s ok if you’re too depleted or stressed for anything more than a five minute walk in the morning.

Remember, too, that over-indulgence is not self-care. A bottle of wine and a pint of ice cream will make you feel sluggish and skip the walk tomorrow. Moderation is your friend.

  1. Meditate, meditate, meditate.

I am not kidding. You don’t have to be the Buddha to do this. Sit and focus on your breathing and body for five to ten minutes. Continued meditation will give you calmness and clarity.

  1. Set a daily allowance.

Avoid spending precious time and energy in sad or angry lala land by allotting five to 10 minutes a day to journal, cry, scream into your pillow, whatever works for you. Once the timer is up, it’s time to get back to reality. Lessen the time by a minute each day. You’ll find you become more in control of your feelings while still acknowledging them.

  1. Don’t grieve alone.

As my best friend says, the phone can weigh 500 pounds. But even just telling a loved one you’re sad and need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on will bring you comfort and release.

Teen and young adult years are already pretty confusing as is; life’s big and small obstacles during these times can throw us for some serious loops. The great thing is that conflicts can aid tremendously in self-discovery and personal growth if you address them in healthy ways.

What are your tips for overcoming personal conflict while staying focused and present?

Image: Picjumbo