The Pain of Emotional Limbo

Limbo, that state of being in between. You’re not quite in one direction or the other. I have felt that since the pandemic began, BIG TIME, and so have most of you. But, I’ve also felt this at many points in my life. Do you look for a new job or stay in your current one? Do you defer your mortgage and accrue that extra interest or do you stick it out and hope for the best? Do you act like this is the new normal, or do you wait to see what reopening looks like?

There are so many versions of this one foot in one foot out scenario that many of us are in, so those are only a few examples.

Two paths in a wood. Limbo.

Living in the in-between can be anguish for so many. One area that has been researched is those who have lost a loved one, but it’s not confirmed. Children who are kidnapped, soldiers missing presumed dead in war, a parent who walked out for the cigarettes and never came back. The wonder, the uncertainty, it can be debilitating.

Truth talk, I’ve been feeling a lot of that limbo feeling over the past few weeks. I spoke with a friend and business coach this week and I was saying how I’m in such a weird place right now financially. As a Canadian, I count myself incredibly lucky that we have access to the Emergency Response Benefit. It is truly what is keeping our family afloat, but there’s a time limit to that (at least for now).

And so you start to wonder, should I throw myself into finding a traditional job or should I throw myself full force into making my business a success. Same for my spouse – he’s currently been rehired back on the wage subsidy program, but that only extends until August. The looming deadlines of these programs expiring makes you wonder which lane to pick. Or do you straddle both?

Turns out, straddling both lanes is the exact same thing as limbo. It’s torture. Your mind is in both paths so you can’t actually commit to one course of action. Your brain is working overdrive to analyze all the potential obstacles. It’s exhausting.

So, I’ve really been diving deep into the strategies that help me get out of limbo, even temporarily for some relief, and I wanted to share them in case you’re feeling some of the same right now.

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#1 Find Something You Can Control

Limbo feels out of control. You find yourself in a scenario where you don’t know the answer, you can’t control the outcome. Feeling out of control is stressful! Understatement of the year, I know.

So in these times, I really try and focus on where I can regain some control. This past week, I felt like everything was spiraling. Our messy house, our kids that don’t listen, my physical health, my mindset, my business, you name it and I bet I felt like it was out of control.

Here’s the thing, I can’t solve everything in a weekend, or a week, or a month. I can only start to make progress. But if I tried to start making a little progress in every area, I’d probably feel like I was standing still and getting nowhere. So I picked one little project.

On Sunday as I looked around at our messy house, I decided to pick ONE room. One and only one. We had both kids home so it’s not like I had any spare time to do it, but when my daughter napped, I brought my son into my bedroom with his tablet and headphones and he happily plugged into Paw Patrol while I decluttered and tidied a room that has been nagging at me for months.

I had put it off for so long because it felt like something I had no time or energy for. You know how long it actually took me? 30 minutes. Thirty minutes! I’d been putting it off, letting it frustrate me, and it took thirty minutes that I could control beginning to end.

Is the rest of my house a disaster? Yes. But when I walk into that room, I now feel relief. And now I can channel my energy into 30 minutes in another room today or tomorrow. I can build on the control and maintenance.

If the project you’re wanting to make progress on, be it work, at home, with your kids, etc., is a big goal, break it down. Break it down into bite size pieces so you can start and finish something in a short space of time, it will give you a little dopamine kick and help you feel in control. Then build from there.

#2 Put Yourself In Both Shoes

When I have something I’m really debating between, I think of both options and get so caught up in all the details. Well if I take road A, then X, Y and Z will happen. If I take road B then H, I, J and K will happen. It’s kind of like the pro con list.

But have you ever found that you’re still a little lost even when you’ve made that list?

Me too.

I find the real magic comes when you say out loud, “Okay, I’m picking THIS and I’m letting go of THAT.” Then see what comes up.

If you truly imagine that you’re letting go of one alternative, that’s when your gut wisdom really has something to say. It might be “nope, that’s now what you want,” or a sigh of relief. Here’s the thing, that doesn’t mean that your gut wisdom can then tell you how you’re going to make a reality – it’s not a fortune teller, but it does tell you what feels right for YOU. It’s pulling on the wisdom of your values, what you care about, what is meaningful to you above all else.

The pathway there, that comes next in figuring out how to make that happen. But you can’t even get to that pathway without the gut decision. So sit with the decision. How does it feel? Everything else can be figured out, and that’s not to say it’s going to be easy, but it’ll be the right path for YOU.

#3 Pick a Path, Even If Temporarily

Again, limbo friggin sucks. So what would happen if for ONE week you committed to one of the paths? Try it out and truly let go of the other alternative, for ONE WEEK. It’s not that this is your permanent choice, but you need to give yourself some room to sit with it. Maybe for you it’s more than a week that you need, but I feel like most of us can commit to one week.

There’s a relief in making a decision, and there’s also relief in knowing that it’s low risk given the time limit. You’re able to let go of the elephant on your chest temporarily and that can be enough breathing room to give you the clarity that you need.

#4 Focus On Your Metaphorical Four Walls

We cannot control COVID-19. We cannot control politics. We cannot control my idiot neighbour who had 20 people over for a non-socially distanced drunken BBQ this past weekend. We might like to, we might want to, but we can’t.

There are external factors that obviously play a big role in how we work, live and love, but they don’t negate the power that you have within your life, your own four walls, be they physical or mental (or both!).

So what do you actually have control over, if you choose to take it? Inputs – the media you consume, the vibrant foods you consume, the people you surround yourself with (from a safe distance, obviously), the mindset that you develop, the way you talk to yourself when nobody’s around and the care you give yourself. Outputs – the way you talk to others, the work that you deliver, the connections you choose to make, the conversations you have, the asks you need to make.

We actually have a lot of control, and when you take empowered action, you’ll find yourself stepping out of external limbo and into internal resilience.

I hope these strategies are helpful for you. Please connect me over on Instagram @stresslessladies if you need any support or email me.

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