So often we assume that once we get past the rough spot we find ourselves in, that it will be smooth sailing going forward. Unfortunately, so often we find ourselves mistaken. While the mindset of “I just have to get through this” can be helpful in the moment, it can set us up for feelings of disappointment and failure later.
Emotions and stress are like waves in the ocean… they build, peak, and recede, only to be followed by another. We have little to no control over our emotions; no more than we have any control over the waves in the ocean. Emotions happen naturally, whether we wish them to occur or not. Not often does one say “I wish I were depressed.” Rather, depression (or any other emotion) occurs, sometimes despite our best efforts. “But I wasn’t depressed (anxious, angry, etc.) anymore, and now it’s back; what did I do wrong?” Likely, nothing. That can be the nature of the emotion, as troublesome as it may be. So what can you do?
Simple answer- Cope.
What it means to cope will vary from person to person. But whatever that means to you, do it. If it means making sure you are exercising regularly, do it. If it means that you are attending yoga weekly, do it. If it means spending quality time with friends and family, do it. If it means scheduling an appointment with your previous therapist, DO IT.
Having to cope with a previously overcome emotion is not failure. It is life. Emotions come and go. Sometimes we need boosters. While we cannot control the rain that falls in our life, we can control how we cope with the rain. We can pretend that it is not there… We can try to dart between buildings getting brief reprieves from the wet onslaught. We can dig in our bags and pull out our umbrella and hope it is big enough to keep us from becoming drenched. And sometimes, we need to ask for help and seek refuge until the storm passes. We are powerless to control whether or not it rains, or whether or not we experience a specific emotion, but what IS in our control is how we respond to it.
Karen Rosian, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist