by Katherine Lee, LCSW
One of the things I love best about being a therapist is helping people who are stuck in phases of uncertainty. Throughout our lives we’re susceptible to times when we may feel that life in the present is boring, dull, or unfair. We want what we want, and we want it now. Millenials who struggle with dating ruts, infertility, or unhappy relationships or marriages are particularly privy to having the feeling that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Worries creep in, and we’re left experiencing a sense of timelessness. I’d like to share some helpful tips for managing periods when you just can’t seem to get what you’re looking for.
When we don’t have what we are longing for, we have the tendency to “catastrophize.” In other words, we may spend time worrying about the worst case scenarios: that we’ll “always be alone,” or that, “life will never work out the way we’ve wanted.” Although unhelpful and unpleasant—this is your mind’s way of strategizing and planning in the face of the unknown. The problem becomes when you start buying into these anticipatory outcomes. The truth is, there’s no way for us to predict that far into the future, and we can’t possibly know what will happen tomorrow, next month, or next year. Catching yourself when you have catastrophic thoughts will better help you to shift your thinking in the moment.
Comparing yourself to others is another way to try to look for answers or problem solve during this time of dreaded ambiguity. You may ask yourself why your childhood friends seem to have what you don’t have, or think that you “should” be further along in the process of settling down with someone every time you browse through Facebook. Again—when done excessively, this is an unhelpful thinking style that often intensifies anxiety or sadness. Some folks take a break from social media for this very reason. Others find it helpful to have a support system where others are in the same boat. Both can help to decrease the urge to compare.
Don’t Give Up
Although it may seem odd, throwing in the towel is another way of trying to control unforeseen circumstances. This is why believing your worst fears can be harmful, as it can begin to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may find yourself saying, “I’m never going to have what I want, so I may as well stop trying.” This is particularly unhelpful when you have years and opportunity ahead of you. While it may feel frustrating or draining at times—continuing to make efforts towards getting what you want can ultimately lead to greater probability of future happiness
Stopping or changing unhelpful thinking styles during periods of unhappiness can be very difficult, and work with a therapist who specializes in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can assist you along in this process. As mentioned earlier—support groups can also help. Remember that you’re not alone, and there’s help out there.