how to stay sane when your life has gone a bit crazy

By Andrea Michelle

This too shall pass.

It works for the times when you’re happy, so that you remember to really, fully enjoy it. And it’s a comfort when the shit hits the fan. You know you just have to hold firm and the pounding waves will soon just be lapping at your feet.”


This was what a friend said to me and a few other girlfriends while we were having dinner recently, after we’d all done a bit of a round-table outpouring. Over the past couple of years between us we’d been separated, lost parents, friends and family members, had seriously ill children, struggled with fertility, moved house, moved countries, divorced, endured painful surgeries, and excruciating broken hearts.

Personally, I had ticked four of those boxes.

Yet each of us had managed to remain standing despite those relentlessly pounding waves.

“What got you through?” I asked the group. “Because sure, mantras are great, but what did you DO in retrospect that really, really helped you survive?”

Here’s 8 things that helped us get through some of the toughest periods of our lives. I’d love you to share what’s helped you also, in the comments section below.


Take each minute as it comes

That old saying to “take each day as it comes” just doesn’t quite cut it when your day is filled with moments that are scaring the pants off you. Instead, focus on getting through smaller slices of time, like ten-minute intervals. This approach allows you to appreciate the many tiny pockets of happiness that occur during the day, in turn making it easier to keep putting one foot in front to the other, and move forward.



Give yourself over to the tears (even if the moment seems inopportune)

Recently I was in a florist and saw bunches and bunches of hydrangeas for sale. It was a painful reminder to me of the family home I had just sold, and the care with which my then husband and I had selected the flowers to be planted, which had included a beautiful bank of all-white hydrangeas. Our home used to be filled with them for months on end. I let myself shed those tears in the middle of the florist, unashamed (because who really cares what the dude at the florist thinks anyway?!) and then bought myself a huge bunch, and exhaled. Accepting that, while that beautiful garden and all that came with it was no longer part of my life, those lovely flowers still could be.

8 ways to fix your cried-out face so no-one is any the wiser about your sob fest.


Take up a vice

Taking up something unhealthy may seem counterintuitive when you’re going through a shit time, but if there’s something about smoking a cigarette, eating a tub of ice cream, drinking that extra glass of wine, or watching The Bachelor that makes you feel better, go with the flow and do it without the guilt. You’re an adult, so you know that all these things will only temporarily provide relief. You can quit, stop and delete it all when things are back on track. And they will be.



Practise gratitude

It’s easy to get caught up in the bad stuff, but noting down all of the great things in your life can help to maintain a positive outlook. They may be big things like “My family and I are healthy” or little things like “I ate a delectable chocolate”. I find when I do this it’s hard to stop (the gratitude AND the chocolate).

28 random things to be grateful for.



Keep the happy memories alive

If you’ve lost a loved one, a job, a relationship, or even one of your favourite earrings, it can be easy to focus on that feeling of sorrow or anger or loss. Instead, try to flip it around, and remember the reasons you’re hurting so much in the first place: because they/it meant so much to you in the first place. My friend who lost both her parents within a year shared “…my sister and I laugh quite a lot. We remember something borderline inappropriate about Mum and Dad and then we belly laugh. I think it’s the emotion getting out whichever way it can.”



Schedule in food

I never understood how people could forget to eat, or stop eating, till it happened to me. But when your mind is under onslaught, and your body under stress, it’s even more important to keep your body functioning well. Pre-plan meals. Get nutritious food delivered. Set timers on your phone to remind you to eat. Enlist the help of a nutritionist. Plan meals with friends. Just. Keep. Eating.



Let yourself feel

It’s ok to feel angry or sad – it’s part of the grieving process, and is a natural consequence for having an open heart. Accept that these emotions are part of your journey, and try to find a way to channel these into something productive. Join a boxing class and beat the crap out of that punching bag to release some anger, or watch a tear-jerker movie that you can cry along with.



Remember that everything is transitional

Even dog poo when left out in the sun long enough turns hard and stops smelling. So too will your situation change and transform into something more palatable.


23 more ideas for lifting your mood.
 Super foods that make you feel happier.


And then one day you’ll wake up and won’t need to stand firm against the crashing waves anymore. One day you’ll be strong enough to go body surfing again.


How have you survived the more challenging moments in your life? 

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  • Thanks Andrea. For me, it’s having some close girlfriends who are there for hugs, tears, laughter and wine – in other countries helps as much as it sucks, because there’s ALWAYS someone awake / just finished work etc who can be there. And seeing a counselor. I know it’s not for everyone, but it helps me find a clear path, and sometimes shows me windows of joy I’d not quite seen myself. And… having faith in myself is a biggie.

  • Beautiful. Honest. Perfect.
    I’ve been through some shitty things in my life and all of these things have helped me at one time or another. I also think your intro captured # 9 – spend time with fabulous girlfriends. Even if it’s just a text or phone call, stay connected. x

    • Hey Son, duh how did I NOT list that?! It’s imperative. Especially YOUR texts. Thankyou my dear friend. xxxA

  • Oh boy, I think sometimes we all have or will feel like everything is against us. I have found that just when things are really really bad, something good always comes along, sometimes just in the nick of time. I am 53, and believe me life has really sucked a few times. A gratitude journal is always good, even the smallest things to write down and hold on too. And being kind to yourself – like you would to a friend who was going through a rough patch. Great article, Kathryn

    • Hi Kathryn, Yes, that seems to be true for the most part huh? I think I’ll start one of those journals. I write things down from time to time, but perhaps a running record is a good thing. Thankyou. xA

  • Andrea, such an honest post! We all go through tough times and I agree with you and Nikki, gratitude is key. It’s hard to stop associating things with bad experience so I am glad you bought the hydrangeas 🙂 x

  • What a great post. Honest and raw yet offers hints that are easy to do when the poop hits the fan and it constantly waves the particles in the air so you’re dumped with more crap. I smiled at the dog poo analogy. 🙂

  • Oh wise words indeed. We need to laugh more and hurt less – life is short as they say, AND we live in the lucky country.
    Bravo to you Andrea.

  • I, like most of us, have also been through my fair share of hard times over the years. From being randomly attacked and having to undergo reconstructive facial surgery and many many counselling sessions thereafter, to losing a child, and most recently having undergone breast surgery among other things, I’ve found that you’re not meant to mention anything. You’re not meant to talk about it. You’re meant to bury things down and just keep on keeping on. Instead of using those amazingly trying experiences as perhaps inspiration for others having a hard time themselves, you’re meant to just move on and go back to everyday life. And that’s crap! You should stand proud I say! Stand tall and wear those battle scars like badges of honour. Use it as a driving force to live a life better than you were before. Rear after me- I. Am. Amazing!!!!

    • Wow Kristy, too much! I am so sorry to hear you have endured all of that pain. I agree, stand proud. Wear your bravery as a badge. You ARE amazing! Huge hugs to you. xxxA

      • We are ALL amazing!!! Exactly my point, too many experiences both good and bad happen to us all to not acknowledge them and come out stronger the other side! Just like you have- thanks SO much for this article. It’s been a great reminder xx hugs to you too sweet xK

  • I forgot to eat too. I have been sending good vibes from afar. Mantras that got me through is that everything happens for a reason, and that its always darkest before the dawn. Right when you think you can’t take any more, it lifts. Silly, but they worked xx

  • Thank god for girlfriends… hope that you and your friends have a lot less hard times to discuss the next time you get together! But it’s life, isn’t it… you never know what’s round the corner, and when things are going well, we need to fill the well to be ready for the next inevitable catastrophe. Love these tips.

    • “when things are going well, we need to fill the well to be ready for the next inevitable catastrophe” nice. Thanks Seana. xA

  • It is a good list! All so very true.
    For me it has always been “this too shall pass” – plus understanding that others suffer too and make it out the other end helps.

  • I am late to join this post, but what I have to say might help someone out there … When I lost my gorgeous mum a few years ago to a serious and unexpected illness, I didn’t know what to do with the overwhelming sense of grief I found myself confronted with, so I just started running – I don’t mean jogging, I just jammed my life so full of doing stuff that I didn’t have much time to feel the pain. I even stayed up reading my (and her) favourite author till 3am every morning, despite having older children and teens I had to get up to by about 7:30am. Any new parent knows that you can survive for a year or so on around four hours sleep a night, balancing that sleep debt with cat-naps and relaxed breathing across the day where you can, and so I found myself again in that zone, at an older age, and for a different reason. It was listening to my body, really. It seemed necessary to feel as physically exhausted as I was emotionally, and it worked. I outran the tsunami of grief that was threatening to swamp my sanity. It leaked out in a trickle instead, and still does, in those “hydrangea” moments that catch you by surprise and take your breath away, or under the radar in a sad movie. You are stronger than you know, and your children are watching and learning from how you cope too.

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