Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM, LMHC. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

Feeling Stuck and Embracing Life’s Vicissitudes May 19, 2010

Have you  recently gone through a life-changing event or period? A divorce, the death of a loved one, unemployment, or an illness? Do you find yourself feeling stuck? As if you were in a perpetual state of emotional inertia? Did you think the worst would be over but feel as if you are flooded with residual anger, anxiety, guilt, resentment, depression, or grief? If so, you are not alone. Once the dust has settled, it is easy to feel smacked upside the head with life’s little 2 x 4, as the enormity of your new state has sunk in.

The good news is, it is all an illusion. You are still making progress, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. For many, the period after the dust settles is harder than the original shock; not because it is more draining or challenging, but because it is so surprising to be spinning in the vortex of adjustment when you thought you would be sailing forth into some stability.

If you really look at your situation, chances are it is more predictable than the initial predicament. You are dealing with other issues. You have landed on your feet and now take that for granted. You probably aren’t ranting, raving, yelling, or crying 24/7 (and you may never have been—outwardly), but you still find yourself wrestling with deep grief. Perhaps, a holiday triggers a flood of tears, or there’s a family celebration and you are excluded because it’s your former family. It could simply be you only see those who appear to be happily ensconced in a relationship while you feel lonely.  Or, everyone seems to have meaningful work but you. It’s anything that pushes your buttons and triggers feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt or self-downing.

Whatever the trigger, you can resist awfulizing. Awfulizing is a word coined by my late mentor, Dr. Albert Ellis. It is the habit of making something worse than it is. The antidote to awfulizing, i.e.. thinking things are terrible, horrible, awful, and you can’t stand them, is to look at the evidence. If you are able to breathe, you can stand whatever is happening. You may not like it, you may even hate it, but you can stand it. We all have some low frustration tolerance (LFT), another phrase Dr. Ellis used frequently. It refers to thinking we must have everything we want when we want it. Of course, we all want what we want, but that is different from leaping to the conclusion we MUST have it, or life is just unbearable. If you have been through any challenge, you may have thought you couldn’t stand it, but you did. No one said everything will be just peachy all the time.

If you want to lessen your suffering, you can practice some anti-awfulizing thoughts, like:

I don’t like this but I can stand it.

Just because I think it’s awful doesn’t make it so.

It won’t last.

I can live with not getting what I want all the time.

I may feel stuck, but that doesn’t mean I am.

Everyone suffers, why should I be exempt?

Sometimes, life is difficult, and that’s just as it should be.

I am here to experience everything, not only the puppies and rainbows.


If you want to take it further, try being happy you can feel anything. Then, invite the demons to tea. Cozy up to them. Discover their wiles so you can recognize when they are toying with you.
In the midst of your most miserable moments learn to be present. Breathe; sometimes, it’s all you can do. You are alive. Dead people don’t feel anything. Your job is to experience exactly what you’re living through right now.

A number of months ago, I was having acupuncture and the needle really hurt. As I was complaining, my sage practitioner said, “What does it feel like?” That got me to really get inside the pain. What was that sensation? Burning? Pressure? By investigating it, and changing my focus away from awfulizing, I gained some measure of control. The same is true with emotional pain. Go inside. Be the witness. Do something radical. Instead of pushing against what is, embrace it. Yes, this goes against your instinct to avoid pain. By doing what feels awkward, new, and scary, you increase your frustration tolerance and enter realms of awareness and acceptance you never knew existed.  Shift your perspective and give yourself the gift of loving what is.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Grounding Techniques To Calm Anxiety & Panic April 22, 2009


When overwhelmed by life, it is easy to feel as if you are walking on quicksand.  One manifestation of rootlessness is depersonalization, feeling separate from your body. It is often a result of post-traumatic stress, but can also be triggered by an abundance of current stress. This disjointed feeling can create a fair amount of anxiety. By using grounding exercises, when managing strong emotions as well as when calm (for extra practice), you can really root yourself in the here and now, alleviating anxiety and feeling more in control. You don’t need to have had emotional trauma to benefit from these techniques.  Anyone feeling off kilter from challenging life circumstances, major changes, or recovering from an addiction can use them to good effect.  In addition, if you suffer from chronic anxiety, these methods will help you feel more in control of your emotions.


The following utilize your ability to actively focus your attention on something external or distracting from your emotional state.  Use these strategies when you are craving your addiction, ruminating, anxious, feeling dissociated, overwhelmed, numb, spacey, or recalling a traumatic event. Remember, the first thing you want to do whenever anything unpleasant arises is allow it.  By making it safe to feel all your feelings you avoid the self-recrimination and self-downing that only add another layer of disturbance to what you are already experiencing.


5-4-3-2-1 meditation.  Wherever you are, notice 5 things you can see, then 5 things you can hear, and then 5 things you can physically feel. Continue with four things in each category, then 3 things in each category, then 2 and, finally, 1.  Allow about 15 minutes to complete one full cycle.  It is preferable to find new things, but not necessary.


Think of all the vocabulary words you can rememeber from another language you studied.


Recall your favorite foods, places you have visited, movies, books, or music.


Recite a poem you memorized as a child.


Describe in minute detail a mundane activity you do every day, like brushing your teeth: I pick up the toothbrush, I turn on the water, I wet the toothbrush, I put toothpaste on the toothbrush, etc.


Imagine a time when you felt very safe and describe it in great detail, using all five senses.


Build a sanctuary in your head, and use as much detail as possible.  See Visualization heading on this site.


Focus on where your body is contacting the floor, a chair, or bed.  Breathe into that place.


Widen and stretch your fingers and toes. Relax them and repeat.


Repeat a prayer, affirmation, or mantra.  See Mantras and Affirmations sections on this site for more ideas. Use a rosary or mala beads to help anchor the repetitions.


Count backwards by threes from 100.


Sing a song, or just la la la.


List how many things you can do, from the mundane to the most sophisticated.


Play old car games in your head, like Geography (where you say the name of a place and use the last letter of that place as the first letter of your next one) or I Packed My Trunk and In It I Put an A (apple), a B (beta endorphin), a C (color wheel), to Z, going through the whole alphabet, starting from A each time you add another letter.


Look out the window and notice subtle color differences in the sky, cloud configurations, trees and branches, or the various shapes and sizes of leaves.


Drink a glass of water. The sensation of drinking and swallowing can bring you into the moment and into your body making you feel more settled.


Feel your breath. Remind yourself that you are alive, and whatever your are feeling is part of life.  You are here to feel it all.  Some times will be easy and others will be more challenging. That’s the nature of existence.  We need contrast to find life perennially interesting.  By experiencing what we don’t want we can more easily craft what we do desire. Allow yourself the full human experience by practicing radical acceptance.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


%d bloggers like this: