5 Things to Remember on Your Very Worst Day

Image by Bryan

Image by Bryan

The Holmes and Rahe stress scale lists the most stressful life situations in order of “life-change units.” These life-change units affect the chance that various events will negatively impact your health. At the top of the list with 100 units is “death of a spouse.”

Here’s where it gets tricky. You might think that, if you’ve already walked through the hell of a top-tier stress, you now have the strength to endure everything below it on the list. But that’s just not true. Each life crisis is unique and doesn’t always give us the stamina for the next one.

Just because you’ve made it through a divorce (73 life-change units), it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re emotionally prepared to lose your job (47 units). Your brain may be able to recall abstract facts from past experiences, but it usually does a pretty good job of shielding you from reliving the trauma. This is generally a good thing, but it also means you can’t compare the stress of past experiences against the stress of new ones.

This means that, no matter what you’ve gone through, your worst day ever is probably right around the corner.

Here are some things to remember on that day:

1. You’re not the only one to have walked this road

On one level, this is hardly solace. When you’ve lost a loved one, it doesn’t help knowing that others have gone through it too. But there are moments of clarity where you can stop, look at those who have been down this road and see that, yes, they made it though—and you will, too.

2. You’re going to discover who your true friends are

Most of us have a lot of “friends.” But there’s something about tragedy that makes the cream rise to the top. At first you’re going to be surprised (and probably hurt) at who doesn’t call and check up on you, but you’re going to be astonished at who rises to the occasion. This is important for two reasons:

When all’s said and done, we may want to reprioritize our friends
We need to remember what kind of friends we want to be when others are in crisis

3. Don’t make decisions based on your current emotional state

When you’re handed your severance check you may think to yourself, “Wow. I am taking this exceptionally well.” Give it time—in two hours you’re probably going to be crying into your second pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Next thing you know, you’ll be having a heated, one-sided argument into a bathroom mirror.

Simply put something in your mouth so that you don’t choke on your tongue, buckle up, and ride it out. Don’t make any decisions or take any actions during this period—you’ll probably regret them. Trauma’s a roller coaster, just hold on.

4. Be mindful of those around you

One of the worst things about stress is the effect is has on those around you. Be mindful of the spouse, children, siblings, parents, church members, etc. who have to walk through this with you. You don’t always have the luxury of crawling into bed and waiting until the pain has subsided.

If you lose someone close to you, the stress ripples outward to those around you. While it’s important to not stuff your feelings, it’s also important not to be indulge yourself in them at the expense of your loved ones. As inhumane as it sounds, sometimes it’s important to soldier on for the sake of those around you.

With that in mind, you will need one or two confidants and it may be wise to make them people outside of trauma’s wake.

5. God is already at work redeeming this crisis

While I don’t subscribe to the theological idea that God has preordained our suffering, I do take heart that God’s more interested in bringing good out of my situation than even I am. There is probably more comfort in this fact than any other condolence (but hearing it from you isn’t going to be as helpful as remembering it myself).

Lastly remember, in the immortal words of M. Scott Peck:

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

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