life

How to be Happy When Everything is Falling Apart Around You

Justin Shiels

There are a thousand reasons to want to give up on everything and lay in bed all day eating pop tarts while binge watching “Ugly Betty” for the thirteenth time. But the interesting thing is that despite it all, we all still can make space for happiness.

In 2016, I cried more than I have in my entire life. 

It started with a breakup. Then followed the startling realization that my rent would soon double. I moved out of my beautiful office and away from my beloved studio mate. And the final shocking blow, our country elected a new president. 

Given a set of circumstances completely outside of my control, things simply fell apart.

But I decided that I still wanted to be happy even when everything was crashing down around me. Here’s what I learned:

 

Allow yourself to feel all of the feelings… for a specific and limited amount of time 

The majority of those 2016 tears came to me during dramatic ending scenes on network TV or live performances from Chance the Rapper on Saturday Night Live. If I’m honest though, I was processing so many of my losses through a Roku addiction. There were moments of intense rage--screaming into pillows. There were even a few weekends where I smoked endless bowls in an attempt to disassociate from my ongoing pain. I let this go on for weeks...months even, but then I decided I had to start living again.

The key for me was setting time limits. 

After the initial fits of wallowing, I gave myself permission to be as sad as I needed to be only on the weekends. Through the workweek I plastered on a smile and rejoined the daily grind. 

As I started to heal I increased my limits: I could only drink on Fridays and Saturdays. Weed became an end of workweek treat. 

Eventually I stopped needing the time to be bummed out. I stopped needing to disconnect. And I actually wanted to be a part of the world again. 

Lean on your friends, talk about your problems, but let go of the endless loop

I’m thankful to be surrounded by an incredible group of human beings that provide immeasurable support. They invited me on road trips, cooked delicious meals, and bought me cocktails. Most importantly, they listened to my emotional rants and provided much needed advice along the way. 

In the best-case scenarios, they even asked the tough questions, forcing me to acknowledge my propensity for backwards steps.

After talking things through over and over again, I decided it was time to change the conversation. I stopped talking about the breakup blues and directed our interactions (and sometimes even our experiences) to just be about enjoying each other’s company doing something new. 

 

Cut out the things that trigger your sadness 

I genuinely believe that as humans sometimes we fall into the habit of self-punishing: listening to that sad song over and over again because it makes us feel terrible, trolling our exes Instagram account to see who they’re dating, or falling down the Google rabbit hole obsessing over the 45th president’s new scandals. 

Whenever possible, it’s best to let go of those habits that hurt us. 

Sometimes it feels good to have a good cry from a sad song, but maybe listening to your workout playlist instead will set a healthier mood for the day. 


Focus on personal growth 

It feels cliché, but the best time to work on yourself is when you’re not feeling so great. 

In times of trauma, focus on building yourself up. Learn to cook a new healthy meal, set a personal fitness goal, or start a daily meditation practice. 

There is nothing more powerful than feeling more in control of your mind and body.

One of the most important reminders, specially when things feel out of sync is to remember that peace comes from within. You don’t need answers from external sources. Closure talks very frequently end with more pain, more questions, and more time necessary to process. 

 

Let go of emotional weight by decluttering

Everything we own has a certain amount of emotional weight. One of the most cleansing personal rituals is to thoughtfully let go of items that you no longer need. 

Start with your living room and move throughout the space, decluttering and boxing the excess. As you clear space, move to the other rooms of your house, assigning the perfect space for everything you own.  

 

Give yourself a project

Channel your anger, sadness, and pain into something tangible. Make a mosaic from the shattered plates you cracked in a state of rage. Start that podcast you’ve had on the backburner. Focus your energy on decorating your now clutter-free apartment. Challenging times often inspire the heights of creativity. 

---

There are a thousand reasons to want to give up on everything and lay in bed all day eating pop tarts while binge watching “Ugly Betty” for the thirteenth time. But the interesting thing is that despite it all, we all still can make space for happiness. 

The impetus for SoCurious came from the most challenging moment of my life--a period where everything fell apart. But I rebuilt. I refocused. And I started over.

Image via Sebastian Pociecha from Pexels

Justin Shiels

By day, Justin Shiels is a Creative Director at a tech company in Austin. And his passion is using words and pictures to change the hearts and minds of people.

SoCurious started from his personal journey of self acceptance and deep self love. The purpose of this project is to translate the key learnings from therapy and self help books into practical wellness tips.

How to be Happy When Everything is Falling Apart Around You

September 14, 2021

In 2016, I cried more than I have in my entire life. 

It started with a breakup. Then followed the startling realization that my rent would soon double. I moved out of my beautiful office and away from my beloved studio mate. And the final shocking blow, our country elected a new president. 

Given a set of circumstances completely outside of my control, things simply fell apart.

But I decided that I still wanted to be happy even when everything was crashing down around me. Here’s what I learned:

 

Allow yourself to feel all of the feelings… for a specific and limited amount of time 

The majority of those 2016 tears came to me during dramatic ending scenes on network TV or live performances from Chance the Rapper on Saturday Night Live. If I’m honest though, I was processing so many of my losses through a Roku addiction. There were moments of intense rage--screaming into pillows. There were even a few weekends where I smoked endless bowls in an attempt to disassociate from my ongoing pain. I let this go on for weeks...months even, but then I decided I had to start living again.

The key for me was setting time limits. 

After the initial fits of wallowing, I gave myself permission to be as sad as I needed to be only on the weekends. Through the workweek I plastered on a smile and rejoined the daily grind. 

As I started to heal I increased my limits: I could only drink on Fridays and Saturdays. Weed became an end of workweek treat. 

Eventually I stopped needing the time to be bummed out. I stopped needing to disconnect. And I actually wanted to be a part of the world again. 

Lean on your friends, talk about your problems, but let go of the endless loop

I’m thankful to be surrounded by an incredible group of human beings that provide immeasurable support. They invited me on road trips, cooked delicious meals, and bought me cocktails. Most importantly, they listened to my emotional rants and provided much needed advice along the way. 

In the best-case scenarios, they even asked the tough questions, forcing me to acknowledge my propensity for backwards steps.

After talking things through over and over again, I decided it was time to change the conversation. I stopped talking about the breakup blues and directed our interactions (and sometimes even our experiences) to just be about enjoying each other’s company doing something new. 

 

Cut out the things that trigger your sadness 

I genuinely believe that as humans sometimes we fall into the habit of self-punishing: listening to that sad song over and over again because it makes us feel terrible, trolling our exes Instagram account to see who they’re dating, or falling down the Google rabbit hole obsessing over the 45th president’s new scandals. 

Whenever possible, it’s best to let go of those habits that hurt us. 

Sometimes it feels good to have a good cry from a sad song, but maybe listening to your workout playlist instead will set a healthier mood for the day. 


Focus on personal growth 

It feels cliché, but the best time to work on yourself is when you’re not feeling so great. 

In times of trauma, focus on building yourself up. Learn to cook a new healthy meal, set a personal fitness goal, or start a daily meditation practice. 

There is nothing more powerful than feeling more in control of your mind and body.

One of the most important reminders, specially when things feel out of sync is to remember that peace comes from within. You don’t need answers from external sources. Closure talks very frequently end with more pain, more questions, and more time necessary to process. 

 

Let go of emotional weight by decluttering

Everything we own has a certain amount of emotional weight. One of the most cleansing personal rituals is to thoughtfully let go of items that you no longer need. 

Start with your living room and move throughout the space, decluttering and boxing the excess. As you clear space, move to the other rooms of your house, assigning the perfect space for everything you own.  

 

Give yourself a project

Channel your anger, sadness, and pain into something tangible. Make a mosaic from the shattered plates you cracked in a state of rage. Start that podcast you’ve had on the backburner. Focus your energy on decorating your now clutter-free apartment. Challenging times often inspire the heights of creativity. 

---

There are a thousand reasons to want to give up on everything and lay in bed all day eating pop tarts while binge watching “Ugly Betty” for the thirteenth time. But the interesting thing is that despite it all, we all still can make space for happiness. 

The impetus for SoCurious came from the most challenging moment of my life--a period where everything fell apart. But I rebuilt. I refocused. And I started over.

Image via Sebastian Pociecha from Pexels

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