Something big and new is starting and I am excited, and nervous, and all butterfly-stomach and obsessive. This endorphin rush is the BEST and I want it to last forever and ever.
I’ve felt this thrill every time I’ve moved to a new place or started a new job. Every new person is the smartest, most amazing individual, and every new street is exciting and full of wonder – and look! Over there is a sparkly unicorn shitting a rainbow that ends in a pot of gold-shaped hearts!
[I will happily draw that image if anyone requests it.]
But then, usually around the one-month mark, all the rosy wonderful new things dim a bit, and I miss my old room/friends/routine/job, and I can’t find the unicorn anymore.
I just really want a grilled cheese with a pickle on it, and my own super comfy pillow, and this new place doesn’t have pickles or my pillow. Or I want my old officemates back, who had their issues, sure, but at least it wasn’t this issue, which I really can’t stand.
In living abroad, this phenomenon of a high honeymoon stage followed by a steep crash to a crisis point is called the U Curve of Cultural Adjustment (according to some old men named Lysgaard and Oberg, among others).
I’m pretty convinced this experience is applicable to more than just moving abroad. Think about it – everything from a new house (beautiful bungalow –> the roof needs repair) to a new city (every street is amazing –> every street is dirty) to a new career (best job ever –> nothing here is functional) requires a similar emotional adjustment process.
As much as I’d like going after my new goal to be rosy and wonderful for the full year I’m pursuing it, I don’t think I can make that honeymoon phase last longer.
But I do think some preparation can make that crisis trough a lot shallower and the recovery a lot speedier.
So here is my recipe for pre-new-thing preparedness:
Know that you WILL hit bottom.
That’s right, just acknowledge that rock bottom is going to happen. You can’t avoid it.
Recognize that this whole experience is helping you grow into a more authentic you. It will hurt at times, it will definitely be hard, and it will put you through the wringer.
When you hit bottom, greet that low point with the wisdom of expecting its arrival, and a Warrior 2 stance.
Get enough sleep.
Studies routinely show we need somewhere around 7-8 hours of sleep as adults. When we get less than that, we start making poor decisions and our focus is compromised.
Meeting your goal is a marathon. You need to be in top shape and not make a sleep-deprived decision to give up when you hit bottom.
Make sure you are making decisions with a clear mind. If you’re having trouble sleeping, ask your friends or family for advice. Or try one of my tried-and-true remedies in the picture below.
Go look at something beautiful.
When you hit bottom, you will need something comforting and completely separate from what you are pursuing. Keep your eye out for this beautiful thing while you are in the honeymoon phase – maybe it’s a sun-filled spot outside your new house, or the tall pine in the town’s park where you feel at peace.
Then when the bottom arrives, head to your beautiful thing as often as you need it. Spend 15 minutes just looking at this beautiful thing, leaving your goal aside.
When you’re ready, head back in, feeling a little bit stronger.
Make an adjustment.
Do you need to move closer into the city, so after you work on your goal all day, you can visit friends instead of commute for an hour? Admit to yourself what’s not working, and fix it.
In looking at my plans, I know where I can be flexible in my budget and timeline, so if I need to adjust, I’ll be ready to do so.
Immerse yourself in at least one fun, social thing twice per week.
I believe satisfaction in life is directly correlated to the friends you have, so nurturing friendships and creating a support group while you pursue your goal should be a top priority. Call your friends to do something you love – biking, hiking, a glass of wine.
Especially when you hit bottom, don’t hide yourself away. Go out with your new or old friends. Call family. You are not alone in your crisis, so lean on your support group.
Be extra conscious of your negative traits.
When you hit the bottom of your adjustment curve, you’ll be in a bad mood, and your negative traits may be amplified.
Being conscious of your negative traits can help you separate out what’s a momentary reaction to hitting the bottom vs. something you actually need to address.
For example, maybe you are an impatient person. So when you hit bottom and you’re in a bad mood, you obsess about how you’re entirely behind on your goal and you’re all snappy and unpleasant to be around.
Fortify yourself against this known upcoming reaction by:
1) finding a gym to work out and pump in positive endorphins;
2) keeping a big calendar of by-the-week plans so you can see you are on track and not behind; and
3) taking an overnight trip somewhere to clear head space.
4) buying your friends drinks to remind them that they still love you, even when you’re snappy.
Write postcards to friends and family.
Especially if you have moved to pursue your goal, writing postcards when you hit bottom is an easy way to reconnect, and give yourself a short boost in mood.
Each part of this will leave you feeling better: Choosing a postcard you know a particular friend will like, spending a moment to write a message just for them, and the satisfaction of dropping it in the mailbox.
Then there’s the extra happy boomerang effect of hearing from that person when they receive your postcard.
While there’s no amount of preparation that can completely erase the low that follows the initial thrill of starting something new, I just need to remember:
As much as it sucks in the moment, rock bottom is the start of a new upward curve.