Love And Life Toolbox
When Things Feel Sideways

When Things Feel Sideways

I’ve been feeling a little sideways lately; bewildered, frustrated and a wee bit crazy.  What appears clear as my hand in front of me is reportedly something different to a group of people, unfortunately who have the power to do something about it.  And my lament is accepting the possibility what what seems so wrong will actually go unchanged.  The reality is, these things are part of life but for the moment, I am reminding myself of how to more easily swallow this pill if need be.

Truth is, there are many circumstances that can feel confusing to the degree that you feel sideways.  Unhealthy relationships, dysfunctional families, a toxic workplace are a few examples.  In many cases, you can actually DO something about it and get out of the situation (though this can be really hard for some, especially with trauma histories and self esteem issues).  And there are other cases where you do not have the ability as an individual to change the situation but to simply observe as things unfold.  You are powerless.

We all can have moments where we can sometimes feel “sideways” about a situation.  When it becomes more problematic is when it shifts from periodic to unrelenting and you are living in this state.  If you feels off kilter for too long, an insidious unraveling and questioning of what’s real can occur.  Problems with focus, sadness, worry, preoccupation, fear and general confusion can occur, possibly even leading you to wonder:

“Am I crazy?”

The answer is probably no.  It’s more likely you are responding in a reasonable way to an unreasonable or even toxic situation.  But what you CAN do when this comes up is take responsibility for your emotional health in the ways you are able to.

Here are some things to consider in any situation where you feel sideways:

  • Trust your instincts.  If something feels off, it probably is.  If it gets to the point where you are doubting your thoughts and feelings, it’s time to resource inward and trust your internal emergency alert.  It’s there for a reason and the alarm is sounding.  If there is an opportunity for a choice to be made to course-correct, get the resources you need to do it.
  • Consider what is yours.  Energize your personal agency around the things you DO have control of; your words and actions.  Sometimes helplessness can be part of the story in these situations and this can be hard.  But it’s ultimately what you have.
  • You might have to wait it out.  If you’re not feeling great about a situation involving a larger group of people, where you have no control over the outcome, keep in mind that things do pass.  It might not be comfortable but it will not last forever and maybe it’s time to accept “what is.”  Find ways to be as comfortable as you can be during the time.  Find distractions, connect with loved ones and breathe deeply.
  • Reach out.  Sharing your emotions can help process and validate your experience.  This can be help you feel less alone, alleviate self-doubt and minimize crazymaking.  If your particular situation is literally dangerous, it’s even more critical to let people know what’s happening and develop a support network.
  • Establish boundaries.  The situation will determine what the boundaries will look like but regardless, they will help you have a more reasonable and safer distance from the troubling situation.  If you are in an unhealthy relationship dynamic, it might mean stating what is and is not acceptable.  If it’s a work situation turning you sideways, it might literally mean creating distance by taking periodic breaks away to take a few breaths or a lunch time walk to remove yourself.  If it’s a more collective experience accessible through news outlets, perhaps unplugging from the unfolding story.
  • Prioritize self-care.  The sense of feeling sideways can be consuming and shove self-care to the back seat.  Now more than ever you need to tend to yourself to reduce any feelings of depression or anxiety that might have crept us as a result of your situation.  Do things that feel good to you; exercise, read a book, go for a walk, doodle in a journal, etc.
  • Pull the lens back.  A hyper-focus on anything over time can be detrimental and only invite continued rumination.  While you are attempting to right yourself back up from feeling sideways, practice having a broader perspective of what is good around you, what you appreciate, the things that are beautiful all around that you that go unnoticed.
  • Get help.  This may look different, depending on the catalyst for feeling sideways.  If you have tried to change your situation and feel unable or still need assistance in either processing feelings or receiving help to get out an abusive relationship, do it.  You can find a local therapist or check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline for more resources related to emotional abuse, etc (  You are the last stop when it comes to taking care of YOU!

Final thought

When you feel less sideways and the time is right, check in on your past.  Many have had experiences that help to explain their current vulnerabilities.  Some are prone to be attracted to those who will exploit this.  In other cases, you may too easily blame yourself.  Or perhaps you have a tendency towards anxiety which gets exacerbated in situations where you feel sideways.  Get to know your personal wounds in the event to minimize their impact in the future.











Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in,, and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.