What To Do When Everything Turn To Shit 💩

Or When It Seems To

Hi, I’m Dan. Welcome to the 1st edition of my newsletter. 👋

Life is a temperamental beast. One moment you can be absolutely flying, then bam! something suddenly hits and totally grounds you.

Or maybe it’s multiple really shitty things all at once, taking you back to square one (or further).

…and then there’s 2020! 💩⛈

Without going into too many details (as it’s partly ongoing) I faced quite the personal shitstorm recently:

  • Very serious health issue of a family member, I fly to Australia to support (during covid’s peak), get laid off from my dream job while in 2-week hotel quarantine… bam! 😩

I know many people are going through difficult times in 2020. So I wanted to share some tips on how I overcame (am still overcoming) mine - maybe they will help you face your own challenges:

  • Feel what you’re feeling - early on I tried to patch over feelings and distract myself from the reality of my situation. I did this with various measures of mindlessly scrolling my phone (my daily screen time in hotel quarantine was something ridiculous like 7 hours a day!) plus Netflix, crap food and booze.

    But I realised there’s no point. Painful thoughts and feelings tend to come back (usually in the middle of the night, when everything seems even worse). You need to face reality and be with your (shitty) feelings for a while, as hard as that can be. So grieve, feel upset, angry or whatever you’re feeling.

  • Pause and reflect - (if you’re in a position to) take some time to slow down and reflect. I’d been so busy chasing my dream, having work meetings late into the night and flying around the world, that I hadn’t had time for this in ages. Think back to recent events and life decisions, look at photos of good times, then start to focus getting back on track (or finding your new track) by doing things that help you feel better, like…

  • Spend quality time with family - in person preferably, but during covid this may not be possible - so (video) calls or daily text messages can also suffice. This was a silver lining to my situation. Suddenly faced with no work, I could focus on spending QT with my family during a particularly difficult time. In the end it’s what really matters.

  • Catch up with / call / message friends - I’ve caught up with friends more in the last month (both physically and virtually) than I have in the previous year. I realised that I’d prioritised work and chasing a dream over my friends for a long time. It’s been really nice catching up again. Friends are great and always have your back!

  • Share what you’re going through - talk about it (or write it down). When these events hit my first instinct was to shut down. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. But you need to get your thoughts and feelings out of your head. Either by talking to someone about it, or if you’re not ready for that - by writing things down. I did both.

    Talking to someone you don’t know can also help. Someone from Airbnb who didn’t know me volunteered to support. I found that helpful and could be more open about certain things. Plus it was good to get an outsider’s objective perspective on my situation.

  • Be grateful for what you have. I use the Five Minute Journal App for this. Each morning I write down 3 things I’m grateful for, and in the evening I write 3 ‘amazing things that happened today’. Sometimes I put the same things (like grateful for my son or that I had a good nights sleep). Just the practice itself helps you put things in perspective and to appreciate the positive things in your life (which are often more than you think).

    • Good to think about: chances are that if you’re reading this, no matter your current situation, you’re in the top few percent of people on the planet in a number of important categories. i.e. There’s billions of people around the world who, if they could swap lives with you, would think they’d won the lottery.

  • Get out in nature - I couldn’t do this in quarantine obviously (I couldn’t even leave the room for fresh air, there was literally a guard outside my door!). But when I got out I went to the beach near my parents place everyday and watched the sunset. Back in Amsterdam I’m going for bike rides through forests and out in the countryside. When I don’t have time for that, I just go for a walk in a park. I find nature soothes you.

  • Exercise - now that lockdown has eased in Amsterdam I’m doing (outdoor) exercise again - tennis with a friend, shooting basketball and going on bike rides with my son. Exercise always helps clear my head and get in a more positive frame of mind.

  • Sleep - sleep fixes basically everything! It calibrates your emotions, restocks your immune system and regulates your appetite. Dreams help process painful thoughts and they inspire creativity. If you’re interested in just how beneficial it is, as well as tips on how to get better sleep, I highly recommend the book Why We Sleep.

  • Learn something new - I devour audiobooks and podcasts (I’ll share recommendations in future newsletters) and I’m now learning Mexican cooking on MasterClass.

  • Start something new - this newsletter for example. I’m also getting in to gardening. 🌱

  • Meditation - I haven’t made this a daily practice yet, but I do it fairly often. I’ve tried Calm and Headspace, but I tend to quit after the free trials end. I now use the free Oak Meditation App. It has less options, but it’s good. Most often I just do their 3-minute ‘deep calm’ breathing exercise. It helps.

  • Listen to music - music is great to regulate your mood. I listen to classical music when I want to be calm or to focus. Then something more upbeat to get motivated. Plus - try to not feel a little bit happy listening to Motown music, or not do an air drum solo to In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins!

  • Eat healthy - I’m cooking a lot of healthy (Mexican) food at home lately. I’m also intermittent fasting, which I find gives me energy and focus (and helps lose quarantine weight, 5kg so far). I use the Zero Fasting App to track this.

One of my lunches in hotel quarantine… seriously! 😅

  • Take a break from drinking alcohol - while it’s tempting to drown your sorrows (and by all means you should have a few drinks with friends and family) it’s not a long-term fix. Taking a break from drinking can bring you clarity for the situation, plus energy and focus. After getting back to Amsterdam I took 3 weeks off and it felt good. Now I’m only drinking with friends out.

  • Take a break from Social Media - we know how much of a time-suck this can be at the best of times. And when things are not going well, I find it can make you feel worse. I long ago deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps. I’ve now moved Instagram to the last screen of my phone (so I hardly ever check it).

I added the sub-header ‘Or When It Seems To’ to this post because I’ve realised there’s always a silver lining. This isn’t the first time I’ve faced adversity, and it certainly won’t be the last. I’ve come to realise that difficult times have often been a catalyst for something good that comes afterwards - in the form of new ideas, relationships or adventures.

After the shitstorm passes, it could even be the start of an exciting new chapter.

Take care everyone!

Dan 🤘

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