10 Simple Things You Can Do To Get Through Tough Times
“Perseverance in the face of adversity.”
That was the award I received from the principal when I graduated from high school. Needless to say, even by the age of 18, I had experienced some tough times. One thing is for sure – everything is temporary: the good times, the bad times, the challenges and joys of life, relationships, jobs, emotions.
Life is a series of peaks and valleys. Some days we’re up and some days we’re down. And it’s the difficult times where we need a little more support and guidance – but oftentimes we don’t ask for it or focus on healing and getting better. I’m a firm believer that it’s how you respond in your moments of defeat, challenges, heartache, and transition that really defines the type of person you are.
No one is perfect all of the time – so this isn’t about blaming and shaming if you don’t manage a difficult situation as gracefully as you would like. Let’s not go there. It is about learning lessons from each experience and taking care of yourself during challenging times. When you can improve your ability to navigate the difficult times, you not only live a happier life, but you also grow as a person. Here’s are some ways that make getting through hard times less difficult:
1) Stay positive
“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope is what makes the difference.” – Virginia Satir
Now I know this may sound cliché, but the thing about clichés is that they’re typically true. Staying positive is only a small part in getting through the difficult times, but it’s an important part. When you stay positive, you’re putting yourself in the best position possible to not only make it through those bad times but become a better person in the process.
You can do one of two things when life takes a turn for the worst. You can remain positive and remind yourself that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel and that you’ll make it through, or you can curl up in the fetal position and relegate yourself to being nothing more than a victim of circumstance. But there’s a caveat to this – there are things in life that occur that are so catastrophic that the thing we can do is curl up in the fetal position: the loss of a child, a fatal diagnosis, losing a parent. Major grief and loss require time to get through and clichés don’t help in these situations.
I’m not saying that we never have a bad day, or get discouraged, or cry. But I am saying you have to eventually pick up the pieces and start moving forward.
2) Get creative
There are times when you can’t do much to change your situation. Example, you can’t change your boss or a co-worker. Sometimes you just have to deal with it for the time being (example: a boss, another mom on the kid’s soccer team, canceled plans). But there are other times when you can actively work to make the situation better by creating a different mindset. Let me tell you about one of my coaching clients. There I was at a workplace wellness event and she came to my booth and asked me “What do you do?”
I let her know I work to inspire and empower people to live their best lives! That I work with people who may feel stuck or lost, going through some sort of life transition, help them find a healthy work-life balance and to help my clients break through self-limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging behaviors. SHE BURST INTO TEARS. She said “I need to come see you!”
A few weeks later she was sitting in my office, unhappy with her job choice of 20 years and felt stuck. She and her husband had two kids in college and a mortgage and all she wanted to do was go back to her acting career, as she had been a very successful actress. She knew however, this wasn’t an option for her at this time though.
So, in a short period of time of Life Coaching, we worked on self-doubt, negative self-talk and put together a doable plan and now she is staring in her local community theater acting in a play and she no longer hates her job or cries about it! We were able to get CREATIVE and put together a step-by-step plan to get her where she is today. Feeling happy, balanced and engaged in her passion again.
Sometimes the solution won’t be in plain sight, because if it was you probably wouldn’t have gotten in that situation in the first place. But if you can take a step back and see the bigger picture, you may discover something that can help you. This is exactly how my client was feeling. Having someone there to support her, listen, hold her accountable and create a step-by-step plan to get back to on track again (20 years was too long!!)
3) Learn from the difficult times
“Facing difficulties is inevitable, learning from them is optional” ~ John Maxwell
When I find myself in the middle of a tough situation, I have a tendency to pick everything apart and see what I could’ve done differently. I always end up learning something that helps me and I eventually get a really clear picture of what I need to do to make sure I’m not in the same situation again. Or if I do find myself in a similar situation, I know what to do to minimize the challenges of the situation. Again, it’s important to be realistic in looking at the situation and not beat yourself up or stay in that place of blame and shame. Working with a therapist, life coach or talking to a trusted friend can be very helpful.
TIP: Ask yourself these questions when you find yourself in a challenging spot
- What have I learned in this situation?
- If I had to do it over again, are there different decisions I could have made? Be careful to not dwell here though! This is about personal growth, not beating yourself up.
- What did I do right in this situation?
Again, remain positive in all of your responses! It’s easier getting through a difficult time when you’ve learned lessons in the past.
4) Change it up
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ~ Buddhist Proverb ~
After you identify the key takeaways from your difficult time, you just might need to make a change. If it’s a change you can implement immediately, do it. You don’t want to be in the middle of a difficult situation longer than necessary.
If it’s something that you can’t implement right now, take note of it so you can use it when the situation calls for it. But it’s pointless to learn from the difficult times if what you learned doesn’t directly affect your actions. I’ve really come to embrace the difficulties and struggles that life hands me because I know there’s a silver lining in each one of them. Trust me when I say You’re a lot more resilient than you give yourself credit!
Again, find a trusted friend, Life Coach or confidant to talk to about this. It’s important to make sure you are making the change for the right reason.
5) Know what you’re grateful for
Gratitude means showing appreciation for all the good in your life, instead of focusing on the negative. Get clear about what it is that you’re grateful for. Write out everything in your life you can think of that you’re grateful for having or experiencing. An even more powerful exercise is to think of the one person you’re most grateful for and write a note explaining why you’re so grateful for having that person. Then give him or her a call and read that note to them.
TIP: Gratitude is a verb to me. Showing we are grateful – writing a list of the things we hold in gratitude, telling people in our lives we are grateful for them, volunteering some place which holds a special place in our hearts. When we act on gratitude – it’s so much more powerful.
The difficult time you’re going through will start to seem less significant when it’s compared to everything that’s going right in your life.
6) Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t
Some situations are beyond your control and no matter what you do, you can’t change a thing. You’re setting yourself up for frustration when you focus your time and energy on things you can’t control. You’re also making the situation seem even more bleak than it actually is because you’re focusing on the negatives.
Try instead to focus on the things that are within your control because that’s the only way you can make a change that’s actually going to help you. Make a list of everything you can control about the situation and divert all of your focus towards those things. Anything that’s not on the list, doesn’t get any attention.
I often say to my clients (and myself!) “Imagine you have a hula hoop around you. Everything inside that hula hoop you have the ability to change and control (you, your thoughts, your actions, your life). Everything outside of the hula hoop you don’t control.” I know – most people don’t like to hear that – and it’s a reality. The sooner we realize that the more peace and happiness we will find!
7. Realize you’ve come a long way
This is so important!!
Sometimes we get so focused on the road ahead, that we never look back to see what we’ve already traveled. Give yourself credit for everything you’ve already done. Celebrate your accomplishments. Big and small! Write them down – put them in a place where you can see them.
TIP: Having trouble seeing your successes? Ask a trusted friend to help you make a list… I bet they come up with all kinds of things you didn’t think of. You’ll give yourself a confidence boost when you realize that you’ve already made so much progress and the light at the end of the tunnel will get brighter.
8) Build up your community
Having the right people around you is one of the most important things you can do for yourself when the times get tough. You want to surround yourself with people who are loving, caring, honest, and available. You need them to be loving because a little love always makes the bad days seem a little brighter. You need them to be caring because it helps to have someone who cares about your well-being as much as you do.
But you also need them to be honest. You need someone who can look you in the eye and tell you the truth. Their honesty may be that one piece of information you need to get through the tough time. And you need them to be available. Having someone who is reliable and looking out for your own best interest is key. A community can be so many different things. A spiritual community, Life Coach, friends, walking group, etc…
Community is also important because it helps to have someone who understands what it is that you’re going through and can relate to your situation. If you can find a community (or also known as a tribe now) who has been through what you’re going through, you can find out how they made it and then apply that to your own life.
9) Be kind to yourself
You need to care for yourself to survive tough times. Take a walk through the park, lift some weights, read an amazing book. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something that gets your mind and body engaged at a higher level than wallowing in self-pity.
TIP: What are your top 10 things you can do for your own self-care? They don’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Write them down someplace where you can refer back to it easily. And ideally, you do something daily versus waiting until you are stressed out before doing it!
If someone else is at fault for the bad situation you find yourself in, the natural response is to harbor anger or resentment towards that person. But what if instead, you forgave that person. You accepted what happened, but you no longer held it against them – not for them, but for you. You would feel better, because now instead of focusing on the negative feelings you have toward that person, you can focus on moving forward.
You can’t really get through a difficult time when your every thought is about how upset you are with the person who got you into that mess. It just makes things more difficult. Or maybe the difficult time you’re going through is a direct result of something that you did. I’ve been there before, and I know I continually beat myself up about it. I couldn’t forgive myself. I almost felt obligated to be hard on myself.
The problem with that is, it only makes things worse. You get caught in this revolving door of self-hatred and feeling worse, and there’s a swirl of anger and frustration and self-doubt. It’s ultimately a recipe for disaster.
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