06/26/2014 01:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The 5 Things to Do When Sh*t Hits the Fan

A month ago I was on cloud nine, and then it happened. Like God punishing me for only he knows what, piece after piece of my life started to shatter. Within a week, I was laid off unexpectedly, broke up with the first decent guy I've cared about in much too long, and was not only uninvited from my best friend's wedding as her maid of honor, but as the cheery on top, was uninvited from her life.

The first few days were surreal. I felt out of body, like a lucid dream -- or rather nightmare. Perhaps as a protection mechanism, I wasn't able to fully digest all that just hit. So I strolled around New York, did my usual thing, and went on like nothing happened. It worked at first, but inevitably I started to acknowledge the tip of the iceberg of reality and brought myself to a point where I was over thinking and second guessing myself in a vicious cycle. It was more than I could handle, and I went a little nuts.

I certainly had a few nights during which I had more than enough to drink. Wine-sappily I wrote complete mumble that would probably have me committed to a mental hospital while on the verge of tears. What's more, I almost got a tattoo, saw a physic, read every self-help blog I could find, did every single piece of laundry I owned, even some twice by mistake, ran every errand I could imagine, saw movies I didn't even want to see, worked out to the point I started to get 20-minute long charlie horses, and basically just waited for the phone to ring with a doctor telling me I have cancer, or whatever ball was going to drop next.

Well, eventually I made it out of the woods, tattoo-free I may add, and am in a better place, but it wasn't a walk in the park. I'm still confused and classically lost, but I'm dealing with it and moving forward. I'm interviewing, finally excited about a new job, and honestly now see the lay off as a professional blessing in disguise. I'm also realizing I can't control my love life, but instead of pushing the good guys away to disguise the not-best side of myself beyond, say, what I look like in the morning, I can communicate and vulnerably be honest about who I am, and then not beat myself up over the outcome. And on the same front, I've come to accept I can't take friendships for granted, but I can cherish the good times and good people that do touch my life.

Was any of this easy? Hell no. Do I think any of what happened was fair? Of course not. But it's life. And after going through some of the most challenging 12 straight days I've learned anything in life can be handled with the following steps.

1. Stop Playing the Victim, Immediately


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It's almost impossible to not do at first, but when you can stop phrasing and viewing a situation as "why did this happen to me," you instantly feel better. Why? It's because you regain control of the situation and of your life. Life happens, but it's not happening "to you" without any control of your own. As the saying goes, at the very minimal, you can control your reaction to the situation -- even a terrible one. Likewise, when you blame no one externally, no one else can control how you feel.

2. Be the Best Actor This Side of Hollywood


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Of course I was nervous going to my first interview in years and still felt depressed about everything happening in my life, but showing how you really feel just isn't an option sometimes. On the flip side, if you can fake it until you make it, you naturally feel better. I actively practiced being confident, proud, happy (of course I wasn't actually feeling that way) but after a while it becomes more like learning a new habit than acting.

3. Quit Complaining to Friends


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Yes, it sucks, in fact is almost comically bad, but complaining to someone else doesn't make you feel any better. No one is going to say anything that actually changes the situation, and point blank, sometimes jealousy-inclined or competitive friends don't always want to see you succeed and may even secretly thrive in your misery. It's horrible but true. Sure, take a few days to vent out loud, but after that stop throwing away energy complaining about what happened to people who can't fix it.

4. Give Yourself a Major Break


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When life seems to attack you, you take it personally and internally blame yourself. You may not even know it but you are. "If only I had..." thoughts are about as useful as staring at a job description and thinking up reasons why you won't get it. There's literally no point. Things happened, and at each moment throughout the process leading up to where you are now, you (and everyone else) were simply doing the best with what you had. Once you acknowledge you were doing your best with the information and tools you had back then, you can start to do the same as you positively move forward.

5. Practice Self Love


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I hate typing this because it sounds so corny, but it's true. You have to continue to take care of yourself first and foremost. No one else is going to do it for you, and even if they try, no one else is going to make you feel as good as you can. Personally, I had to drink a bottle of wine and write jargon to myself for a night to clarify my feelings. I had to vent in that way. But then I made a point to go out the next day, get myself a manicure and move forward. Do you what you need to do, but do it with love for yourself.