5 things I learnt from a major meltdown

Last week I had the mother of all meltdowns. It was to be expected and I could feel it brewing: we're selling our house in Salt Lake City and moving home to Australia. Moving house is officially recognised as a major life stressor – and moving countries takes it to a whole new level. At the time of my meltdown, tradesmen (and mess) were everywhere, the kids were on holidays, Easter was only days away, and I was hormonal.

What a delightful cocktail.

So yes, it was a good and proper meltdown: the gulping for air, the rivers of tears, the tissue bits stuck to my face. The whole nine yards.

I felt like I couldn't manage it all. I couldn't get on top of it all. I couldn't control it all.

Fortunately my husband is a very grounded, very pragmatic, very left-brained engineer who seems to see life through an entirely different lens – a calm, rational lens. I like that lens. And so he flew in with his high-level perspective and reminded me of these things:

1. Every coin has two sides. I tend to view issues rigidly. They're either black or white, positive or negative. And since I (unfortunately) tend towards pessimism, I usually take the negative view. But just because something appears negative does not mean there aren't some positives to be found. Look for those positives. (If you're curious about pessimism and optimism, take Stanford professor Dr Martin Seligman's learned optimism test or read the book by the same name.)

2. Stress can be a motivator as much as a hindrance. This is one of those two-sided coins. My stress and anxiety, which I have always regarded as a negative, also actually help me to get results. My desire to get things done (and done well) drives me forward and helps us achieve things we might otherwise have not pursued (like this two-year adventure to the US). So, stress can be harnessed into a powerful energy so long as it feels healthy. As Brene Brown says, there's a big difference between dedicated striving and fear-driven perfectionism. 

3. One answer to overwhelm is to simply take action. Sometimes the best thing to do is jump up and do something. Any action will help. It's simply about moving away from the self-blame and the self-analysis and the procrastination (also driven by fear), and towards useful actions. 

4. This too shall pass. This one I know, but often forget. The house will sell. The relocation will happen. The re-settling will sort itself out. Will it all be easy? No. Will it all feel comfortable? No. Will it stretch us and test us? Of course. Everything does. As Tony Robbins says, happiness equals growth and progress. But the testing times leading to that growth and progress will indeed pass.

5. All my supposed 'problems' stem from my need to control. I have an iron-vice grip on life and it sometimes makes me crazy. If I could just loosen my grip a bit, I think almost everything would flow better, easier – how it's meant to, no doubt. Letting go is incredibly difficult for some of us (one of those chip-away-at-it-every-day kind of deals), but I reckon it's a game changer if we can get it done. 

Armed with all this wisdom, I wiped away the snotty tears of my meltdown and got moving. I tried to see my stress as a positive propellor towards growth and greater happiness, and my need for control as redundant. I tried to let go. This doesn't mean I won't melt down again (many times), but at least next time the quake might be less severe.

Want more? 

Here's a great article from Tony Robbins: Don't get stressed; get productive.

Here's an excellent 'a-ha' on perfectionism, fear, control and shame from Brene Brown talking to Oprah.

And here's Brene's classic TEDTalk on vulnerability and shame (linked to fear and perfectionism).

Here's a useful podcast from Kelly Exeter and Brooke McAlary from Let It Be

Kelly Exeter also has a book on perfectionism: Practical perfection: smart strategies for an excellent life.

And 'Don't let the fear win' is a short video by productivity expert Brendon Burchard.

What about you? Do you have any lessons from a major meltdown?



Natalie Bartley