Whether you lost your business, just got dumped or your car broke down, sometimes it feels like the world is completely crashing down around you.
Former Green Beret Sergeant Major (retired) Karl Erickson has experienced his share of tragedy. “I’ve seen horrible and deeply depressing shit,” Erickson says. But rather than allowing it to make him feel hopeless, he uses those feelings to spur himself into action.
Erickson says there is a mindset that many in the Special Forces community share that helps them deal with personal problems both big and small, and keeps them focused on pushing through adversity. “Oversees we’d have a guy get a ‘Dear John’ letter and someone would walk up and slap him on the back and say, ‘Hey, at least no one is shooting at you,'” he says.
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The idea is simple: focus on the fact that no matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. To that end, Erickson thinks about the things that truly matter to him, and came up with three questions he asks himself to keep sane when things start getting crazy:
- Am I healthy?
- Is my family healthy?
- Am I being shot at?
He has never answered yes to all three of those questions at the same time, he says, and that has a way of bringing him inner calm. “If I was laid up dying of food poisoning in some shithole country overseas, I could at least say my wife and kids are home safe and I didn’t have to run through a gunfight,” he says. “So almost always, things can be worse.”
And if he found himself in an improbably horrendous situation where he did answer yes to all three? “Then I tell myself I’ve got nowhere to go but up,” he says. “Things can only get better!”
To make things better, Erickson says, you have to be active — you need to force yourself to make something happen.
“If a speeding truck were coming at you, what would you do? You’d get out of its fucking way, right? Likewise, if your life just went to shit, change direction,” he says. “Go do something fun. That doesn’t mean go get drunk. Turning to booze or drugs is always a bad idea. I have lost more friends to drugs than I have to gunfire. You need to escape for real, put your mind and body to work doing something you that requires your full attention. Force your mind to think about something else and get out of the way of that fucking truck.”
“If you can’t escape the feeling that you’ve hit rock bottom and there’s no way up, go visit a VA hospital. Spend 20 minutes talking to a 20-year-old who had an IED take both of his legs off,” Erickson says. “He didn’t get that big promotion, his wife did leave him, but he still goes on every day. Trust me, your rock bottom isn’t the rock bottom. No matter how bad you think it is, at least nobody is shooting at you”.
And if you are truly feeling desperate, be sure to seek professional help.