5 Steps for Digging Your Way out of Despair

By Michael Anderson, founder of Executive Joy and guest contributor

I hope you won’t ever need this article. But chances are, you will.

The four horsemen of the apocalypse all visited me at the same time: divorce, a really nasty business lawsuit, drugs, and alcohol all hit me hard. It led to depression.

Fortunately, it was right after I joined EO. That might have saved my life. It saved my business, that’s for sure. That experience and my studies in Spiritual Psychology have given me tools to share with others.

As creators, as risk-takers, we’re going to have ups and downs. We gamble. We go for it. And that means winning and losing. If we aren’t ever losing, we really aren’t going for it. So wouldn’t it be smart to have some skills to use when things aren’t going our way?

Here are my five “Pull Here in Case of Emergency” steps:

Be honest with yourself. My first step was declaring that I was feeling low. It’s okay to go through this.

Our lives have high highs, and you can’t have that without low lows. When we admit that we are going through a tough time, then we can move to the next steps. If we try to tell ourselves, “This doesn’t happen to me” and “I’m above all this,” then it’s going to get worse. Maybe much worse.

Make time and space. I cut off all activities that were non-essential (nonprofit boards, committees, etc.) and let my employees know we were focusing on getting through this lawsuit. I let my management team know I was taking extra time to take care of myself. They rallied. They always do.

Look at what’s going on in your life and postpone or eliminate anything that is causing stress that doesn’t need to be there. If you are going through even a minor depression, then you are not making good decisions—and this is not the time to buy a house, sell your company, have your in-laws visit, and so on. Tell the people around you whatever you need to tell them to have support. Have a conversation with your spouse, and maybe your kids, and the people at work.

Make smart physical choices. I stopped my drinking and drugs and made sure every day I ran to the beach and back. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, though it was the best thing I could do.
Now’s the time to lay off the drugs, alcohol, and binge eating. It’s going to be your natural inclination to go and get wasted to forget about your problems. Though after that short period of time, you will be more moody and more depressed. And when you eat, make sure it’s small, healthy portions, because you’re going to want to stuff yourself silly. And get some exercise, preferably outside. Even a 30-minute walk in the sun works wonders. It’s even refreshing in the rain or snow. Ever try yoga? This is a great time to start. Basic exercise and watching what we put into our body works wonders.

“And this too shall pass.” This one mantra was a lifesaver for me. It reminded me that everything is temporary.

I really focused on how much more free I would be after the divorce and after my lawsuit. And also, I told myself that this was what leaders do. Anyone can be successful when things are going my way; a true leader steps up when things are tough. I told myself this is my test, and I’m going to come out of it like a champion. And I did.

For a quick fix, take out a piece of paper and write down everything you’ve accomplished in this life. Keep adding to it. It’s a simple way to get you refocused on the positives. We create so much and always get down on ourselves when it doesn’t go perfect or meet our sky-high expectations.

Reach out to people. My Forum was a constant source of strength. I really don’t know what I would have done without EO in my life at that time.

And one side note: when someone comes to you and they are really down, just listen. This isn’t a time to fix them or solve their problems. When people are in their lower state, they just need people around them that care.

This is why we’re in EO. All the learning events, universities, monthly updates are great. Though the real benefit is to have a group of people that really get you. Be vulnerable—make that phone call to a Forum mate.

When I was going through my depression, what helped me was to realize I wasn’t alone. I followed these steps, no matter how uncomfortable it was, and it saved my business. Both from an operational standpoint, and the person I was in a lawsuit against went the other way. My decision-making was clear; his was clouded with emotion. And I won the lawsuit and saved my business, and maybe my life, because I worked to put myself in a better place.

I hope you do the same.

Categories: Coaching Entrepreneurial Journey Guest contributors Inspirational Lessons Learned

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