Difficult challenges seem to come in bulk- it’s a real phenomenon of life. These strange time periods in which there is a piling of negative events one on top of another is experienced so universally that we all say, “When it rains, it pours.” How do we outlast the down-pour?
Stress is a fact of life. Thankfully, some of it can be alleviated by honestly evaluating our priorities, relationships, behaviors, etc., and making different and healthier choices. But, some of it just has to be lived through. (Example: last week I was dealing with a horrendous tax audit chore when my car decided to break down, expensively. That was chased with an extended family emergency and a two day migraine… You’ve been there, right?) Stress is part of life, but misery does not have to be! If you choose to, you can navigate the rainy times of life healthfully and resiliently. You can, and should, honor your feelings and acknowledge that things suck sometimes. Write it out, talk it out, and don’t pretend everything is okay. But then give yourself a break and navigate the storm with confidence.
Write down as many pleasurable and relaxing activities that you can think of. Many of them should be free, in case of financially stressful times. Use this list to take care of yourself and wait for the sun to start shining again. Worrying solves nothing. Take a break; enjoy something. Get lost in a book. The problem will still be there when you’re done playing with your dog, trust me. Memorize some mantras that are empowering to you for times of emotional overwhelm. Positive self talk is everything when you feel fatigued from life! I’ll let you peruse some of mine if you need some ideas:
It’ll be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
This, too, shall pass.
I’ve survived a lot of hard things, and I’ll survive this, too.
Anxiety won’t kill me, it just doesn’t feel good.
I’m strong enough for this.
Everything changes. This is only temporary.
Finally, a few basic coping skill reminders: Get enough sleep!! Drink water, eat well. Take walks and breathe deeply. Get enough sleep!! Learn how to say ‘no’ to unwise time commitments. And did I mention, get enough sleep?!
Everyone goes through challenging experiences: loss, illness, divorce, and other hardships can take a heavy emotional toll. Resilience is being able overcome these kind of struggles and is the ability to “bounce back.” But you don’t have to wait until the storms hit to develop this skill. Here are 5 ways to build resilience for when you really need it:
1) Seek 3:1 Ratio of Positive to Negative Emotions
Studies about highly resilient people show that they don’t experience fewer negative emotions, but instead experience more positive emotions. In other words, we don’t have to fake anything or pretend that we don’t feel difficult emotions, but we can foster positivity to help balance them. Trying to hit a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions can put things in perspective and help develop resilience (take the test at positivityratio.com to see how you are doing!).
One of the most common issues I see when I first begin meeting with a client is that almost all of them are worn out, and feel like they’re running on fumes. When I ask them what they do for themselves, or what types of activities they enjoy, I usually get one of two responses-either they look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language, or they laugh at me. The truth is, most of us have gotten into the habit of simply trying to survive from day to day. We get so caught up in bills, schedules, and other obligations that we forget that it’s okay to actually enjoy life every once in awhile. If this sounds like it might apply to you, here are a few things for you to think about, and maybe start doing if you want to feel like you’re living vs. simply surviving.
Let’s face it – life is not easy!!! We all face an onslaught of daily challenges that can tax us to the limit. Whether you’re a student struggling to balance an academic load while trying to figure out how to maintain some semblance of a social life and simultaneously coming up with the financial resources to pay for that advanced education or if you’re an empty nester struggling to find your sense of identity now that you are no longer known as “Tommy’s mom,” life is fraught with challenge (and these are just a two of the vast number of possible scenarios that you may be facing!!)
As daunting as all this difficulty may be, there is very good news: it is through facing these very challenges that we grow; these challenges are the very opportunities that grant us the knowledge, experience, maturity and wisdom that makes life meaningful. They deepen us as individuals and broaden our perspective – IF we can effectively rise to the occasion.