Sometimes life is unfair, and it is hard to manage. Sometimes life is amazing and wonderful, and it is celebrated.
There is no shortage of either side of the coin for most people, but for many people who live in a constant state of worry or find themselves overwhelmed by what life brings their way, it can be hard to manage.
Getting out of bed in the morning can feel like a real struggle for some people; many people don’t win that struggle and suffer alone for a long time.
I’ve been there myself and It’s never easy to go through.
So if you ever find yourself wanting to curl up and hide in your blankets, remember that this situation will pass and that there are ways to help yourself cope with what is going on in your life.
When life sucks too much, here are 10 things to remember that have helped me in the past and I hope they can help you.
1) Trust the Experience
Whether you like it or not, this situation is happening for you. It’s not meant to drag you through the mud, and it’s meant to help you stand tall and learn something about yourself.
According to Rubin Khoddam PhD, “Nobody is immune to life’s stressors, but the question is whether you see those stressors as moments of opposition or moments of opportunity.”
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but once you get on board with the fact that challenges can also bring about an opportunity, the road forward has more hope.
2) Accept the Facts
Rather than worry about what is coming or surmise about what happened, consider the bare minimum and work with what you have.
Don’t add any unnecessary complications to an already messy situation.
There’s no point in feeling bad about feeling bad, says Kathleen Dahlen, a psychotherapist based in San Francisco.
She says accepting negative feelings is an important habit called “emotional fluency,” which means experiencing your emotions “without judgment or attachment.”
This allows you to learn from difficult situations and emotions, use them or move on from them more easily.
3) Start Where You Are
When things start to slide downhill, start where you are and dig in. Don’t wait until you have a better job or car or more money in the bank.
According to Lisa Firestone Ph.D. in Psychology Today, “many of us are more self-denying than we realize.”
Most of us believe that doing activities that “light us up is seflish or irresponsible.”
According to Firestone, this “critical inner voice is actually triggered when we take steps forward” that reminds us to “stay in our place and not to venture out of our comfort zone.”
We need to let go of this critical inner voice and realize that we can get ourselves out of challenging situations through action.
Make a point to start working your way out of the situation now.
4) Lean on Your Support System
Many people retreat to their dark reaches of their lives when things go sideways, but studies have shown that leaning on our friends and family makes it easier to cope with life.
According to Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D. in Psychology Today, “Relationships can buffer us from the negative effects of these events by providing comfort, reassurance, or acceptance, or protecting us from some of the negative forces of the stressor.”
So rather than hide away, reach out to a friend or someone who can listen while you work through your problems.
5) Count Your Blessings
Instead of focusing on everything that has gone wrong, start focusing on what has gone right.
Or, at the very least, what else has not gone wrong. If you look for hope in an otherwise hopeless situation, you might just find it.
The Harvard Health Blog says that “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.”
“Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
6) Stay Present
It is all too easy to crack open a bottle of wine and drown your sorrows until you reach the bottom, and that is the only outlet many people have.
If you can resist the urge to avoid your problems and start by acknowledging them, you can start to overcome them.
APA (American Psychological Association) defines mindfulness “as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment”.
Studies have suggested that mindfulness may help reduce rumination, reduce stress, boost working memory, improve focus, improve emotional reactivity, improve cognitive flexibility and enhance relationship satisfaction.
[Not only does Buddhism provide a spiritual outlet for many people, but it can also improve your health and wellbeing. Check out my new no-nonsense guide to using Buddhism for a better life here].
Sometimes life is so crazy you just have to laugh. Seriously, have you ever sat back and thought about all the wild things that have happened?
Even if you are in a serious, sad moment, there is laughter to be had: laugh at the confusion of it all. There’s a lesson in everything we do.
Author Bernard Saper suggests in a paper for Psychiatric Quarterly that being able to have a sense of humor and an ability to laugh can help a person cope through difficult times.
8) Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
While most people will think it is helpful to tell you how they handled a similar situation, smile and accept their advice with a grain of salt.
No one can tell you how to handle an event or situation in your life except you.
So don’t get caught up in the fact that Mary found another job in only a week when you’ve been unemployed for six months. You are not Mary.
9) Be Thankful for Unanswered Prayers
Even when it seems like we need something so badly or want something so badly that it seems unfair that we didn’t get it, take time to consider what it means.
Maybe you didn’t get that job because you are destined for better things? Maybe you weren’t supposed to move to New York because you were meant to meet the man of your dreams right where you are now.
There are several sides to every story, and when you start to explore them, things don’t seem quite so bad.
And there’s no point feeling bad about it. According to Karen Lawson, MD, “negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can create chronic stress, which upsets the body’s hormone balance, depletes the brain chemicals required for happiness, and damages the immune system.”
See the good in every situation. As Steve Jobs says, eventually you’ll connect the dots.
10) The Path is Winding
Sometimes, the train doesn’t stop at the right station the first time or the hundredth time. Sometimes, you need to get back on that train over and over again until it finally brings you where you want to go.
Other times, you need to take matters into your own hands and rent a car, so you can drive yourself, rather than waiting for the help of the train.
Steven Covey identified in 1989 that proactivity is an important character trait of highly effective people:
“People who end up with the good jobs are the proactive ones who are solutions to problems, not problems themselves, who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with correct principles, to get the job done.” – Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Remember that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get where you are going, enjoy the journey and learn from every moment of it. Everything happens for a reason.
[Resilience and mental toughness are key attributes to living your best life. To learn how to build your mental toughness, check out my eBook on the Art of Resilience here]
You may also like reading:
- I was deeply unhappy…then I discovered this one Buddhist teaching
- What J.K Rowling can teach us about mental toughness
- How a regular guy became his own life coach (and how you can too)
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