Feeling like you’re going backward? Coping on the bad days.

Some days are better than others, for sure. When you’re working towards a goal, whether it be early retirement, making passive income with Real Estate, or hiking up tall mountains, (which are my goals), sometimes things are going to go awry. Sometimes, you can feel like you’re actually going backward.

Here’s some ideas for how to survive those times. Don’t worry…its not all sunshine and roses advice. Notice I said ‘survive’….not something trite like ‘thrive.’ So, if you’re the type of person that feels like punching someone in the face when they say things like ‘problems are just opportunities in disguise,’ then keep reading. Little bonus at the end, I will tell you about an dreadfully bad day I had recently.

Hit the Brakes

First thing to remember, is that in times of high stress, you’re not capable of being your best. Its just not possible. Take your expectations down a notch, be kind to yourself, and just focus on the coping. Hit the brakes on everything going on in your life, and just try to take it easy.

Cancel anything that isn’t essential. Especially try to get all obligations, odious tasks, etc, off your plate. For example, you were going to do your taxes, or make your yearly phone call to check-in with racist uncle so-and-so….not on a bad day! That will have to wait. You were supposed to make dinner, well, now you’re ordering out.

Avoid any major decisions

When you’re feeling low, feeling knocked off course, you may feel pressured or tempted to make some major decision. Resist that urge, if at all possible. Almost anything can wait to be decided until after a night’s sleep.

Your brain is not your friend in these times, and cannot be trusted. The voice in your head will be telling you, “you’re so stupid”, “you can’t handle this”, “things are never going to change.” Now, some people may have suggestions for how to immediately vanquish that negative self talk. On those really bad days, though, your only option may be to wait it out. Let the thoughts go through your head. Try to not dwell on them too much, as you’re eating your take out, not calling stressful family members 🙂

Grab those “Oh Sh*t!” Handles

To continue the driving metaphor, when you’re driving down the road, hit a bump…what do you reach for? That “Oh Sh*t!” handle that comes in every car. If the car is designed well, they are conveniently located right where your hand naturally goes to when your arms are flailing.

Best case scenario, you have a whole tool bag of things you can reach for when you’re in that stressed out, slapped upside the head by life, state of mind. You can take a bath, phone a friend, read your favorite blog 🙂 Physical exercise is amazing in times like these. Take a long walk, sweat it out at the gym, or let it melt off on you on the yoga mat. If you don’t already know what your “oh sh*t” handles are, figure them out and start grabbing for them!

Risk Assessment & Planning Can Help

Now, not to be a pain, because I promised this wouldn’t be a post about how to ‘awesomely’ handle all the stress the world throws at you, but you can actually do a little bit to prepare. If you’re taking on a big goal, you’re going to do some assessing and planning. You can’t account for everything, but a good plan should do its best to minimize down-side risk.

That means you should do your best to identify and insure against catastrophic events. That can literally mean purchasing insurance, or having a sufficient emergency fund set aside. It can mean developing skills or relationships that you know you can access in times of need. You can’t think of, much less insure against, everything that could possibly wrong, but building some room in for things to go wrong in your plan could just help you survive when they do. The “Oh Sh*t” handle that you built for something different might come in handy in a different situation that you hadn’t even considered.

Blue’s Bad Day

Blue had one of those days recently. Stressful day at work, been watching the stock market slowly decline for months, the cat was sick, the house was a mess. And then the plumbing problems!

As a pretty new Landlord, I always feared the clogged toilet call! Well, it came. And this one ended up in extremely bad news about a needed major repair. We’re talking ripping up all sorts of stuff, major inconvenience to tenants, maaaaaaajor big bucks. And to top it off, it was something that existed and could have been caught in the home inspection. Blue was very blue that night.

I had all the thoughts. “You’re such an idiot, Blue!” “You’re just losing money on all these ‘investments’….might as well sell the rental.” “You’re a fool for pursuing this Financial Independence thing.” It was amazing how fast my brain became my worst enemy, and the world was all doom and gloom. I did my best, pulled on quite a few handles, and muddled through the worst of it.

Motivation is a Mover

The real magic bullet for coping on my recent bad day, though, was coming back to my motivation. Why do I get out of bed? I get out of bed because its a big, beautiful world out there, and I want to go, see, and experience all of it. I know that my most meaningful life doesn’t involve traditional employment until I’m 65. There are ways to achieve more independence and be able to do more of what is in line with your personal values and passions. Knowing these things, wanting these things….how can I NOT keep going? What else am I going to do? There is no choice when it is so deeply a part of you.

So, I made it through the night. I had some take out, drank a glass of wine, talked to my favorite person. The house stayed a mess. The cat is better, thank goodness. The stock market is still down, but I don’t care. I’m still investing. The plumbing is still a mess, but I’m working through it, and have already come up with some better solutions than were seemingly available on day 1 of the problem. I have money saved for repairs, although it hurts to spend it…at least its there, thanks to planning.

The bank balance is lower, so I’m technically going backwards on my goal towards a Financial Independence number. But, I’ve never felt more on the path. If you’re really motivated, really invested in the vision you have for yourself, there will be no choice. You will continue on, perhaps even more resolute than ever. AFTER that first couple of days where you just managed to cope and survive.

What’s Your Motivation?

So, what’s your motivation? What gets you out of bed? What do you believe in so deeply that you can’t help but pursue it? Have you had some bad days along the way? How have you coped when you feel like you’re going backwards? Comment below! I’d love to hear about.

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