Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

How do you work your way out of an emotional meltdown?

in Spirituality

An appropriate topic for a New Moon in Cancer, don’t you think? 

I’ve been making notes for a couple of weeks on this topic, then yesterday responded to Lunaea’s post along similar lines.

My current anxieties have to do with a new cycle of grief over leaving my island home, as we prepare to put the house on the market for the upcoming holiday weekend.  I’m also feeling the familiar powerlessness and angst over the state of the planet, especially after a scientist friend wrote to a group of us a couple of days ago that the global warming crisis is actually much worse than the general public has been led to believe.  

I’m usually able to keep myself on a fairly even keel, but a couple of weeks ago I completely lost it.

It started when I filled up my gas tank and the bill was $58.62 ($4.25/gallon).  I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.  Now I had a choice at that moment.  I could have said to myself “I’m so grateful I have enough money in my account to pay for this.”  Instead I felt of surge of rage at the Bush administration and Big Oil, accompanied by a flood of despair and anxiety over the state of our personal finances.  And I gave in to it and started down a dark spiral of negative thoughts and feelings.

Not long after I filled up the tank, still feeling extremely cranky, I got a call from Craig.  He told me that he’d decided to lower the price on the Eldridge house substantially, to list it with a realtor instead of trying to sell it ourselves; and that the realtor told him to expect it to take up to six months to sell in this market. That news sent me down even further, as we did not plan on supporting that house for 9+ months, along with our two other houses.  (In retrospect, our timing into the real estate market was lousy. But who knew?)

From there, I went into a panic of overwhelm — feeling overwhelmed at my long to-do list, especially for clients who are struggling to pay their bills on time;  feeling overwhelmed by the struggle to carve out time for my own work;  feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work necessary to maintain the yards and gardens of three homes during the growing season.  “I’m drowning in weeds!” I wailed at one point.

So how did I work my way out of it?  Well, I have to tell you.  I was in so far that none of my normal strategies worked.  This is what did it:  working in the garden, in the fresh air and sunshine, pulling weeds for four solid hours.  (Interesting, yes, that the antidote was in the poison? The weeds, I mean.)

I don’t think I calmed down until I’d been at it for an hour and a half.  But it did the trick.  It brought me into the present moment.  And the physical movement calmed my emotions down.

So this time — as I felt myself slipping into grief and despair over the last few days — I caught myself.  And I found myself formulating the steps I take to keep my head above water, as I commented on Lunaea’s post.

So these are the things I do to keep myself sane and centered.

– I catch myself and notice that I’m running a drama.  I tell myself that I have a choice to continue or to stop.  I remind myself that “worry is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.”  Thank you, Eckhart Tolle.  He says that just the act of noticing a negative thought process will start it to dissipate, and I’ve found that to be true.

– I breathe deeply.  I watch my breath.

– I go outside and spend time with Mama Gaia, even if it’s only a few minutes.  I come into stillness.

– I ask for help. I ask the Great Mystery to help me maintain my peace of mind. (Thank you, Christina Baldwin.)

– I count my blessings, verbally or in a journal.

– I smile (partly: fake it ’til ya make it; and partly releasing the smile-endorphins)

– I talk to a friend, first asking her permission to listen while I discharge my negative emotion. (That one is from holistic peer counseling — thank you Wahaba Heartsun.)

– I get outside and get some exercise, especially walking and gardening.

– I remind myself:  It is what it is.  And it shall pass. (Also from Tolle.)

– And I remind myself to hold on to hope.  (Thank you, Cristina E.)

So what works for you, dear reader, when you need to work your way out of an emotional meltdown?

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .

  • Sharon Tue - Jul 01st 2008 10:19 am

    Hi Joanna,
    I can so relate to your feelings. It’s seems the harder I try to “talk myself out of it”, the worse I feel. I like your idea of going out in nature but it’s so hot here in Texas.
    I have been journaling from my lessons with Eckhart.I don’t want to dwell on past negative experiences or worry about future possibilities. Have you seen the videos of him explaining his new book? Here is the link:
    Take care.

  • joanna Tue - Jul 01st 2008 10:32 am

    Hi Sharon, what a quick response! Thank you. Yes I did read The New Earth and watched the Oprah podcasts with Eckhart and I have to say that applying his principles radically changed me for the better. But we all backslide (well some of us do) and that’s what this post is about.
    I also think that while we shouldn’t worry about future possibilities, as you say, we also should not be in denial about the state of the world. We need to work to change things for the better. I think it’s a delicate balancing act. For if we are not calm and centered, how can we possibly take on the task of changing the world?

  • Lunaea Tue - Jul 01st 2008 11:10 am

    I think the balance must come from something like thinking globally and acting locally, only in a spiritual context. Acting “locally” would be bringing awareness to reality, praying for change, keeping our eyes open. Acting “globally” would be looking at the bigger picture, the perspective of eons rather than years, the cycles of change and growth, and having faith that we can’t understand it all from our limited human point of view. Faith is key, I think. And the difference between Chronos and Kairos — human time and eternity/timelessness. It’s a mystery, and maybe feeling that I don’t have to solve it all *personally* is the way to stay sane.

  • Carol Tue - Jul 01st 2008 12:42 pm

    Emotional meltdown? I’ve been going through that in varying degrees for almost 2 years!! I need to read Eckhart!! The current strategies – after moving 5000 miles – are to connect with my Mermaid self as often as possible and go to the sea, express my creativity through cooking delicious food and focus on my physical health because the emotional is really all over the place right now. Also to keep praying and trust it’s all happening for a reason and I need to surrender and keep believing the force is with me – faith, hope and love will prevail.

  • kerrdelune (Cate) Tue - Jul 01st 2008 1:58 pm

    Sister Joanna, this sounds just like me at the moment, so much so that I had to go back and read your thoughtful post again and again.
    I make a pot of tea, light a beeswax candle and light a stick of good incense like Shoyeido’s Plum Blossom or Flore’s Sweetgrass, then I read something wonderful.
    I go for a long walk and spend time by the pond, just breathing in and out and watching as the ripples form and move outward.
    I have a conversation with Herself (the Old Wild Mother) and ask her to walk along with me for a while.
    I do a reading with your magnificent tarot.
    I remind myself that what I am going through is just a feeling and that it will pass away in time, that I am not alone but part of a vast circle and there is infinite grace everywhere if I will only see it.

  • moiraeknittoo Tue - Jul 01st 2008 3:32 pm

    I’ve had some serious stress going on for quite some time, and wasn’t quite prepared for the huge “detox” time/period/whatever I’m going through at the moment. I usually carry a knitting project with me.
    I often try to buy from small farms and vendors, and a lot of my personal yarn stash was chosen based on pictures of the animals who’s fleeces contributed to the yarns. I buy raw fleece too and process it myself (though I’m way behind in spinning it into yarn). Even just holding a skein or ball or some locks of fiber, letting it run through my fingers will bring me closer to a place of stillness. I can usually get a “third point” perspective on the problems or issues while I knit…there’s my OMGEEE! voice, there’s the other side of the issue, but while I craft the stitches I usually find myself “floating above” the morass of emotion and can look at it in a more objective, less emotional way.
    Handling something that’s often times just a step or two away from a living, breathing animal who thrives outdoors on good green grass or is fed using the best organic methods possible also helps me connect to the earth if I’m stuck inside a conference room with no windows and listening to an endless litany of complaints from other people that I only hear from via phone or email.
    Knitting IS meditation for me, most of the time.

  • Teresa Michelsen Tue - Jul 01st 2008 4:37 pm

    I do think connecting with anything physical – nature, exercise, cooking, or any other task you love that is NON-mental is key. Just give yourself permission to give yourself a break for a couple of hours from worrying about it all, then go off and do something you like 🙂
    One thing I have noticed is that emotional breakdowns for me are indeed cyclical. Was the title of this blog just a coincidence, or something more? Because for me, I tend to have these emotional breakdowns (over-reactions? or reactions?) when my moon is in Cancer. Others of my students get them in Pisces. Like your first remedy (noticing what is happening), it helps to know that some of our emotional responses to things may be shaped or filtered by.. shall we say… external energies acting on us. We’ll feel differently when the moon goes into Leo, even if none of the circumstances have changed. This is not to lessen the reality of what you’re coping with, only to say that it brings different emotional tools and frames of mind to bear. – Teresa

  • Joanne Tue - Jul 01st 2008 5:26 pm

    It also helps me to remember all the personal efforts my partner and I make and encourage our children and their families to make towards preserving our natural resources such as recycling, reusing, freecycling, composting, using less, wasting less, and requiring less. And knowing that these efforts do not go unnoticed. We set an example each and every time we use a cloth shopping bag instead of opting for plastic. Let everyone see how easy it is to make these small changes that will leave less of a footprint on Mother Earth.

  • Shell Wed - Jul 02nd 2008 4:21 pm

    When I have a meltdown, I go get in my bed and lay down for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Snuggling under the sheets works for a while. Then I take a bath with sweet smelling bubbles. At night, I light my candles at my altar and window. Then I blast music to get all that muck out of me. Hendrix is always my safe haven to go, he always coaxes me back to reality.

  • Hecate Demetersdatter, Runnymeade Conspirator Wed - Jul 02nd 2008 5:22 pm

    Pulling weeds. Universal antidote for, well, everything. Damn it, my mother was right about that, damn it.

  • joanna Thu - Jul 03rd 2008 8:38 am

    Thank you all so much for your deep, thoughtful responses . . . you make me think, cry and (Hecate!) laugh. I love all your ideas. Ah, we are a creative bunch, aren’t we?

  • Elaine Mon - Jul 07th 2008 8:40 am

    Going outside to be close to my mother, the Earth is always a good way to work off a meltdown. Just subscribed to your blog and am loving it!!

  • Cynthia Mon - Jul 07th 2008 4:43 pm

    All of that works for me. Wonderful post. And thanks for the update on the new where in the hell is matt! Here in my city it appears!

  • joanna Tue - Jul 08th 2008 12:31 pm

    Thanks Elaine and Cynthia. . . both of your comments are much appreciated!

  • Kate Tue - Jul 22nd 2008 8:11 am

    Hi Joanna,
    Just came across your blog entry as a result of reading your Gaian Tarot newsletter, and found it so helpful – so thanks for sharing!
    I, like many of the other responders, feel like I am going through an emotional meltdown right now. My boyfriend has currently started having fits (reasons as yet unknown) and I’m finding it hard to adjust – especially to the whole tug between wanting to watch him 24 hours a day to keep him safe and being aware that this approach wouldn’t be good for either of us! 🙂
    The quote form Eckhart Tolle – “worry is using your imagination to create something you don’t want” – was very thought-provoking. Especially since worry is kind of implicitly accepted as a good thing in our culture. People tell you not to worry – but they also say – “of course you’re worried – it’s because you care”. But if you go down the route of worry potentially creating an outcome you don’t want (which I guess it can if you allow it to dictate your actions) – then you have an injunction to not worry because you care! Makes trying not to worry seem a lot less selfish!! 🙂
    kerrdelune – I love the idea of knitting as a meditation – I feel the same about cross stitch!! I must make up a small kit I take around with me (I’m currently working on a wedding sampler for my brother – a great project but rather complicated and therefore not so good for whiling away the wee small hours in an A&E department.)
    I hope the cycle turns for everyone soon,

  • Laura Wed - Sep 17th 2008 9:44 pm

    Fingers in the soil makes everything better.
    I’ve just started reading a book that talks about this, The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner