When someone says, “I’m going through hell,” the best response is to tell them, “Don’t stop!” If we see that pain, grief and tough times are a process and that it will get better, we’re less likely to get stuck in the hell. – Douglas Bloch
Imagine that you are preparing to run in a race and instead of starting the race when the gun goes off, you just start doing circles around the starting line. This is sometimes what fear looks and feels like. On one occasion, I was circling the starting line by staring at a wall crying and feeling completely hopeless, when my grandmother looked at me and said:
“We just need to figure out the next step”
In that moment, she reminded me that all I could do was put one foot in front of the other. It felt like I could grab onto something for the first time.
At that point in my life, it was just too overwhelming to think any farther ahead. She sat with me and discussed what the next (healthiest, logical, feasible, and possible) step was. At times, this process was painful and required taking terrifying steps that felt like I was stepping off a into a dark abyss.
Approaching the situation one step at a time made it possible to move forward and eventually through the painful situation. All I ever needed to know was, the next step. When I felt overwhelmed I thought to myself: “This is just the next step, that’s all.”
I credit her approach to surviving an impossible situation. Fear can be paralyzing; especially, when you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. And, the path out a bad situation will include some scary and painful steps. Not all of the steps are painful but some will be.
The only way real way out of a place you don’t want to be is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will need support. You will need people who love you and will keep you accountable in terms of taking each step. You will need people holding your hands and loving you unconditionally as you take each step. I have learned that this approach can be used in any situation where I feel paralyzed by fear or confusion.
I take a step back and ask myself to consider only “What is the next step?”
In terms of this blog and other writing projects, it helps me stay focused and on track. And, in terms of my health, it feels much less overwhelming than setting goals of losing 100 pounds and cutting a 1000 calories. It helps to have the ultimate goal in mind so you know what direction you’re heading but life never goes as planned. And. taking it one step at a time allows for the necessary flexibility when you will inevitably have to re-chart your course due to an unforeseen challenge or barrier.
It is also to be noted that taking a step backwards does not mean you are starting over. It is not a catastrophe to pause or slide back from time to time. In fact, I think it’s inevitable.
My grandmother has taught (and continues to teach) me countless incredible coping skills but this is one of my favorites.