HOW TO GET THROUGH DIFFICULT TIMES:
1. Make a gratitude list.
When life becomes difficult, we tend to focus on the negatives. We get so caught up in everything that’s bad that we lose sight of all the good that still exists. If you find yourself getting lost in the darkness, create some light by writing out a list of all the things there are to be grateful for.
Don’t allow the negative things in your life to discount the positive ones. Don’t let a bad day or month or year make you feel like you have a bad life. Instead of fixating on everything that’s going wrong, focus on all the things that are going right. Let the power of gratitude remind you that there is so much to keep fighting for.
2. Focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t.
There is a lot in this world that lies beyond our power, but the one thing we always have control over, no matter what our circumstances, is our attitude and outlook. You can’t go back in time and change the past, but you can choose to start today and create a better present. You can’t control how others act or what they say, but you can choose to be kind and compassionate with yourself despite them. You can choose to see your situation as a curse, or you can choose to see it as an opportunity for learning and growth. You can decide that your life is hopeless and admit defeat, or you can choose to hold onto hope and keep picking yourself back up, no matter how many times you fall.
Every day and each moment, you get to choose how you will treat yourself, what thoughts you will accept as truths, and what perspective you will adopt. When you find yourself feeling helpless and hopeless, remind yourself of this power. Remind yourself that the power to heal lies within you and those choices.
3. Look at how far you’ve come instead of how far you still have to go.
It’s easy to get discouraged when you focus on how much work still needs to be done and how many obstacles still stand in your way. The journey to your destination may be a long and difficult one, but it’s still important to stop every now and then and recognize how far you’ve already traveled. It’s important to use that distance as a reminder of your progress and continued growth.
So when you find yourself feeling stuck and lost and defeated, remind yourself of how much you have overcome to get to this point. The fact that you’re struggling now does not discount your past triumphs and successes. Recognize that although the journey has been slow, you’ve never given up. No matter how difficult things have been, you have continued to push forward. That courage to continue going, despite how dark things have been, is something you deserve to be incredibly proud of yourself for. Even though it may not feel like it, you are making progress. Keep pushing forward and don’t give up.
4. Surround yourself with people who make you feel loved.
When you’re struggling, the worst thing you can do is be alone. Negative thoughts and feelings thrive in isolation. In order to break out of the darkness, you have to surround yourself with positive people and love. Being around others may not cure you of your pain, but it certainly doesn’t hurt and if anything, it gives you the opportunity to get support.
Letting people see you in a vulnerable place can be scary, but struggling in the presence of people who can give you love and support feels a lot better than being alone in your pain. So start bringing down your walls and start letting people in. You can and will heal—but you can’t do it alone.
5. Reach out.
I know that you want to be strong for the people you love. I know that you want to be self-reliant and competent. But I also need you to know asking for help doesn’t make you weak or incapable or inadequate—it makes you human. We all struggle. And at some point, we all need help. You are no exception to that.
Instead of choosing to view reaching out as something bad or shameful, try to see it as a form of self-care. Because by reaching out, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to get your needs met and heal. And that is something that takes far more strength and courage than struggling on your own and denying yourself help.
Whether you text a friend and share how you’re struggling, invite someone to come over and keep you company, video chat withs someone you love, or call someone you can vent to, give yourself permission to get support. Give yourself the opportunity to receive the precious gifts reaching out has to offer.
6. Be kind to yourself.
Beating yourself up for struggling doesn’t help your situation. It makes you feel worse and it keeps you stuck. The truth is that we all struggle. Everyone has a difficult time coping, and everyone goes through periods of hardship. So instead of criticizing and punishing yourself for something we all battle, choose to act in a way that is conducive to your healing. Choose to treat yourself with kindness and compassion.
This means not judging yourself for being imperfect and forgiving yourself for making mistakes. It means not holding yourself to impossibly high standards. It means putting an end to comparing yourself to others. It means challenging the negative beliefs you have about yourself, and adopting new, self-loving and accepting thoughts.
Being kind and compassionate means treating yourself as you would a friend. It means doing self-care when you feel like punishing yourself with self-destructive behaviors. It means resting when you’re tired and saying no to things that would force you to compromise your wellbeing. It means going at your own pace and honoring your process. And it means reminding yourself that you’re doing the best you can given your circumstances, and that’s enough.
7. Do self care.
Sometimes the darkness we’re feeling is so great that we can’t find the strength to counter the negative thoughts we have about ourselves. If you find yourself in this position, don’t judge it. Don’t punish yourself or engage in unhealthy behaviors. If you can’t think nicely of yourself, try doing nice things for yourself. Try using healthy, self-soothing coping mechanisms.
Take a bubble bath, get a massage, cuddle with a pet, make plans with a supportive friend, watch your favorite movie, do something you’re passionate about, go for a walk, journal, get a manicure, listen to calming music, do deep breathing—whatever it is, make sure it’s something healing that helps you get out of your head. If you try one coping mechanism and it doesn’t work, don’t admit defeat. Keep trying. Try different activities. Ask someone to try one with you. Be patient. Don’t give up.
8. Feel your feelings.
There is a lot of built up energy and emotion underlying our current circumstances and struggle. Holding in how we feel and engaging in behaviors to numb out may make us feel better in the moment, but in the long run, it doesn’t remedy the pain we feel. It’s a temporary fix that only perpetuates our pain and keeps us stuck.
In order to heal and move forward, you have to feel our feelings. Whether that means throwing a tantrum on the floor, journaling, venting to a friend on the phone, punching a pillow, screaming in your car, or crying in bed, you need to allow yourself to feel your feelings. Let go of the judgement you have about what you feel and recognize that you are feeling these things for a reason. Give yourself permission to release your emotions and let everything out. Acknowledge the pain, feel it, learn from it, recognize why it no longer serves you, and let it go. It’s the only way.
9. Remind yourself that you aren’t alone.
One of the most healing things we can do is to remind ourselves that we are not alone in how we feel or what we’re going through. To remind ourselves that even when we feel alone in the world, there are so many other people fighting our same fight, and through that shared experience, we are always connected. Just as others have fought our same fight and made it to the other side, we too can overcome this. We are not alone. Not ever.
10. Remind yourself that this will pass.
In the moment, the pain of our struggle feels as though it will last forever. It feels wounding and incapacitating, and the idea of going another minute feeling this pain seems unbearable. But the truth is that like all feelings and struggles, it will pass. Maybe not this minute, maybe not for an hour or for the remainder of the night, but it will eventually subside.
Feelings are like waves. They come in strong, peek, and then fade. Your circumstances are no exception. Just because you’re struggling now doesn’t mean you will struggle forever. Breathe. In and out. Again and again, and remind yourself that this will pass. Remind yourself that you will make it through. Remind yourself that you have struggled before and survived it, and so, you can survive it today. It will pass. It always has and always will.