Let me start by saying, you are stronger than you think you are. How do I know this? Struggle is part of life and as a result, no person is exempt. You have tried to get through tough things before, and know how hard it can be. Maybe you are even trying to get through something tough right now. Either way, the mere fact that you want to know how to do it, is an effort born of strength. Although there is no “easy button” for dealing with tough times, there are a few things that can help:
- Pay attention to what you tell yourself. One of the things I have learned over the years is that the story we tell ourselves about our experiences is often more powerful than the experience itself. This is not to say that you should minimize how awful something was, but you should remind yourself of how amazing it is that you got through it. When you think of some of the hurdles in your life, ask yourself how it has shaped you. This internal dialogue can change your perspective from living in the past to feeling like a rock star in the present. It can go a long way to helping you feel good about who you are and your ability to handle whatever comes your way.
- Spend time with people you love. This doesn’t mean you should not meet new people or spend time with new friends, but it means that during tough times make an effort to reach out to the friends and family you love and from whom you feel love. This is good soul food and can help you to remember you are not alone.
- Do something kind for yourself every day. During days when you feel a lump in your throat as you are trying to get through some sadness or stress, think of something kind you can do to nurture yourself. It can be as simple as going for a walk, sipping on a cup of tea, snuggling with your dog or watching your favorite show. It is good, healthy and important to take care of yourself.
- Get a good nights’ sleep. This age old, sage advice still rings true. When you have had a rough day, get a good night’s sleep. It is amazing how much better things may seem in the morning.
- Connect with something that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose. Whether you think of your connection with God, or nature or yoga, remind yourself that this is an amazing world. There are tiny miracles everywhere you look, if only you choose to see them. We are all part of a bigger picture and your place in this world is important. You bring something unique to the puzzle of life that is different from what anyone else can bring.
- Help someone else. I can’t stress this one enough. One of the best ways to ease your suffering is to help someone else. The value of giving is priceless. This is how organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving were formed. Channeling loss into giving and helping others has healed many many people from unimaginable pain. When we give, we feel good about ourselves and we receive far more from it in return in the satisfaction of easing someone else’s suffering. It can be a small kindness such as buying someone’s coffee, or more involved such as volunteering time. Either way, you will most likely feel some relief from your own problems, even if only temporarily.
If the pain is ongoing and your efforts to find comfort feel only temporary, then you should reach out for professional help. Therapy can help you to muddle through your feelings, and put things into perspective both during and after tough times. It can provide you with tools you need to truly heal.
Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC Greenwood Counseling Center