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I’ve seen dark before, but not like this
This is cold, this is empty, this is numb
The life I knew is over, the lights are out
Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb
I follow you around, I always have
But you’ve gone to a place I cannot find
This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
You are lost, hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing

– Frozen II, The Next Right Thing –

In a world covered in snow, in a month of winter in Chicago that drags on, and in a pandemic, nothing could feel more relevant than a Disney movie! 🙂 All jokes aside, this song has been playing in my head these past couple of days. Why? Because sometimes, in a time of grief, loneliness, indecision and sadness, the most that you can do is, “the next right thing.”

Today, I’d like to offer a few words of encouragement and tips of what it could look like for all of us to, “do the next right thing,” during this time.

First, things first

Whether you are struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, Depression, or general loss, a few emotions seem to overlap: sadness, lack of hope, lack of motivation, and indecisiveness. The onset of each of these struggles may be different.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is brought on by the changing of the seasons, when it gets darker earlier and some degree of cold. Our bodies get a reduced amount of Vitamin D as there are more grey days than sunshine. This can be particularly difficult for individuals who did not grow up in winter weather and now find themselves in this winter tundra.

Depression on the other hand, is experienced in our emotions and body for a number of different reasons. Biological reasons, specific events, burnout, compassion fatigue, your environment, and stuckness can all be contributing factors for bouts of depression.

For grief, we all may be too familiar with this onset so I’d like to focus instead on our response to grief. Grief can lead us to questioning our meaning and purpose in life. We may find ourselves experiencing despair, trying to escape the pain through multitude of substances, intimate relationships, or work. It can knock us off our feet, or can lead us racing to the next project to complete.

If you are experiencing these emotions right now, know that you are not alone. The struggle is real. So what can you do about it?

Tips

Self-CompassionMany who struggle with SAD, depression or grief struggle to, “parent themselves,” with kindness. Negative self-talk can be prominent during this time as you wonder, “what is wrong with me that I cannot do the things that I once did.” Practicing self-compassion instead recognizes that we are all human, that if a friend was going through a similar situation, we likely wouldn’t respond with criticism towards them; we would instead offer kind words and understanding.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness encourages us to be present to our emotions and our bodies’ response in a specific moment. We notice ourselves and the world around us without judgement. Notice your surroundings, and even where in your body you are feeling the emotions. This type of noticing is so that you can respond in a caring way.

Routine

Finding a routine that works with your energy level may take a little bit of time and that’s okay. Your routine doesn’t have to have a million “to dos.” Instead it can be as simple as waking up at a specific time and brushing your teeth. Routine creates a rhythm of expectation that is helpful during a time when so much may feel uncertain.

Movement

Movement can include stretching, going for a walk, doing yoga, dancing, jumping around, biking – the opportunities are endless. This may be one of the most difficult things to do if you are experiencing low energy or motivation. Being kind to yourself or, “doing the next right thing,” may include adjusting the type of movement you once did to one that feels more gentle. Working out virtually with others may be the extra encouragement you need to incorporate movement into your life. Embrace that if it’s true.

Self-compassion and mindfulness would say during a moment of stuckness or indecisiveness, “just do the next right thing.” Do the task that is right in front of you. When it is too difficult to imagine a day when you won’t experience the same level of suffering, this I have found to be really freeing for many. Instead of looking ahead to the future, they can instead focus on what is presently in front of them.

Support

Sometimes, we need help discovering what the next right thing should be. This is where you can find support, encouragement and compassion from a counselor. If you’d like help with this, do not hesitate to reach out!.

Written by therapist Pamela Larkin

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