How to get through a hard day Heather Bussing January 8, 2014

After surviving two roundtrip tickets to hell, Heather Bussing has some sage counsel on how to deal with emotions and life.

One of the benefits of going to hell and back a couple times (and there are many, it turns out) is I’ve learned how to make it through a really hard day. (Being a lawyer also gave me intensive training, but I don’t recommend it.)

So here is what I’ve learned about how to survive a rough day.

Don’t Fight Your Feelings.

You won’t win. Not ever.

There is no amount of stuffing, denying, ignoring, drugs, medicines, alcohol, sex, drama, running away, or hiding that will make your feelings go away. You can learn to manage them. You can put them off for a bit until you can deal with them constructively. But you can’t ever get out feeling your emotions. If you try, they will leak out in unexpected and damaging ways in your thinking and behavior, or start to cause pain and problems in your body.

So accept that you are sad or mad or scared or ashamed. It’s okay. Your emotions are just energy and information. That’s it. They may not have anything to do with the truth or reality. And if your response is a lot bigger than what is going on right now, it’s old stuff leaking out.

Your emotions may hurt, but they will get better if you accept them, give them a little attention, and figure out what they want you to know. You don’t have to act on them. You do have to deal with them.

Don’t Fix Anything When You’re Losing It

The temptation is always to make a decision, take an action, walk out, blow up — anything to bring the situation to a close, so you don’t have to deal with it. But when you are charged up on adrenaline from fear or anger, or in shock from grief, or exhausted and depressed, the decision you make is going to suck.

Some of my fixes have been way worse than my f*ckups.

Get present. Take a nice deep breath. Go for a walk around the block. Know that waiting until you move through the feelings is in the best interest of everyone, especially you.

This takes practice. Nobody ever gets it right completely.  But if you can stop, count 5 things in the room in front of you and pause, you will discover that you are actually safe, and loved, and everything is okay in this moment. Even when things are crazy and falling apart, you can still be okay.

If you can’t stop and breathe, then your lizard brain has kicked in, and your entire system is in survival mode. There is no override for this. So just get somewhere you feel safe with as much grace as you can muster. Then be very gentle with yourself until you recover. Lizard brain beats rational brain every time. Lizard brain also thinks lots of things are really scary. It’s a total drama queen. If your life is being run by your lizard brain, you may have post traumatic stress. Get some help; you can heal and dial it down.


If you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, your reactions and perceptions are going to be distorted. So deal with what’s going on with you before you try to deal with anything in the world.  Resting, talking to a friend, asking for help, letting the adrenaline subside will make everything better because you changed.

Low blood sugar also makes everything seem too hard and awful. So try eating something. Maybe the world’s not ending, maybe I just need a sandwich.


You can take do-overs any time, no limit, no expiration. You do not have to suffer from a bad day until the end of the day.  You do not have to suffer. Pain is sometimes unavoidable, but suffering is optional. Sometimes things really are awful. I especially hate it when reality does not conform to my expectations. But I can change my expectations by clearly seeing what is going on rather than what I want, and starting over from there.

So accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, and take do-overs.

Ask for Help

I’m terrible at this, but it really does work. When a problem is all alone in your head it fills up all the available space. Pretty soon, it starts to think it owns the place. When you put it out in the world by telling someone, or writing about it, or asking for help, it shrinks. That’s because the world is always bigger than your personal crisis de jour.

Get Over Yourself

I know, you’re great. And you work so hard. And your idea really is better. And you were just trying to help. But maybe what’s going on is not yours to deal with or fix. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not about you.

So figure out what is yours and what’s not yours. If it’s not yours, let it go and stay out of it. If it is yours, figure out your part and whether there is something you need to do.

If you have trouble figuring out what is yours and not yours, understand that it’s not possible for everything to depend on you. I still remember the day I realized I just wasn’t powerful enough for everything to be my fault.

What a relief.

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