What to do when life hits you hard? Psychologist Scott Waltman breaks it down

Everyone says that life is all about the ups and downs. They say this momentum makes us appreciate the good times and push through the tough ones, but what they fail to mention is that the high times rarely hold a candle to the low times. And it’s a proven fact! According to a report published by WHO in 2022, 1 in every 8 people suffer from mental disorders globally. 

If you’ve ever faced a situation where you felt like a bystander in your own life, then you know what we mean. Sometimes things happen to us that are out of our control; a religious person would say that God is trying to teach us humility, a rational person would say life is just unfair, while a clinical psychologist would say, get help.

People generally tend to listen to professionals who can back their claims with scientific evidence, but that doesn’t mean that the others are wrong; oftentimes, the solution is an amalgamation of all three.

We sat down with Scott Waltman, a board-certified trainer consultant for the Academy of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, in order to shed light on what individuals should do when life throws a brick at them.

“Everyone has days where things don’t go as planned. I think in those moments; it’s important to slow down and regroup.”

When asked about how he dealt with clients who suffered from severe depression and anxiety, the clinical psychologist said, “I can’t get into the nitty-gritty details due to the confidential nature of my work, but there are a few things that I recommend to people who suffer from chronic mental disorders.”

Put Things in Perspective

“It is important to understand that our mind evolved to keep us alive, instead of to keep us happy. This means our mind is fixated on trying to perceive possible threats and from an evolutionary perspective overreacting is better than underreacting. A lot of times, our mind blows things way out of proportion. Consequenly, the fear of facing our issues can paralyze us and prevents us from moving forward, thus leading to the inability to make wise decisions. To the people I work with, I suggest that they try to evaluate their circumstances by asking themselves three questions, ‘what’s the worst that case scenario?’ ‘What’s the best case scenario?’ and ‘What’s the most likely scenario?’ On average life is very average, and you can try to counterbalance your anxious thoughts with more realistic predictions.

Focus On the Now

“People are usually divided into two groups, those who let the fear of the future control their decisions and those who can’t let go of the past. Though there are a few distinguishable differences between the two, the one common thread is that they can’t live in the moment. The key is to keep yourself present with tasks that are engaging because it doesn’t matter if you take small steps; if you’re not stuck, then you’re doing great. Learning to be present is a skill in itself, every time you gently bring your attention back to the present you are building a mental mindfulness muscle”

Take a Step Back

“The chronicity of stress can wear you down. Part of being a therapist involves sitting with people during the worst parts of their life. Sitting with suffering is just part of the process, which eventually leads to emotional fatigue. This emotional fatigue is a common attribute for many therapists. The tradeoff is we are energized by watching and helping people get better. However, in the meantime it is important to regularly slow down and take a step back. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung famously conveyed that after work, talking was tiresome to him and he just longed for healing solitude. The trick is to pull back to regroup but then re-engage and stay connected.”

Seek Help from Others

“Sometimes people who are hurting prefer to be left alone, and that’s not a bad decision on their part, but the process of healing is often faster with the help of others (who are safe). If you have a close friend or a family member you can open up to, then great. Otherwise, I suggest seeking out professional help.”

Bad Times Don’t Last Forever

“It sounds pretty cliché, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Emotions are powerful but also temporary, which means whatever you feel today won’t stick around forever. Life is full of good times and bad times, joy and pain. The trick is to figure out what you really care about and build a meaningful life that makes it worth experiencing the wide variety of human experiences.”