Life can be downright crappy. No matter how hard you try to avoid pain or difficult times, at some point you’re pretty much guaranteed to face some challenges. When things go belly-up (from financial difficulties, illness, loss, relationship issues…you name it), you may find solace in a bottle of wine every night. Or retail therapy may provide a quick fix. Or perhaps you find throwing yourself into working like a demon does the trick. Whilst you may feel these strategies serve as an effective distraction, being able to tackle life challenges head on can enable you to emerge stronger and more equipped to hurdle future obstacles. Read on to discover tips to help you cope with the 10 feet waves that come crashing into your life from time to time.
(Note: whilst some of the suggestions below may provide some benefit to sufferers of grief and trauma, it may also be the case that in such situations, one needs to seek the support of a grief or trauma specialist.)
Cut yourself some slack
Whatever has happened, whether it’s your “fault” or not, whether you find yourself freaking out and reacting in a way that you’re not particularly proud of, remember to cut yourself some slack. See if you can drop the self-blame and judgments, and instead, unleash lashings of love and compassion on yourself. Being extra kind to yourself and tendering to your personal needs in times of difficulty can make all the difference to how you weather the storms of life.
Practicing self-care in this way may require you to carve out time for yourself – this isn’t easy. But when times are tough and you’re under a lot of strain and stress, looking after yourself is a priority.
Disentangling yourself from your inner critic
It can be all too easy for your ‘inner critic’ (that is responsible for beating yourself up at any given opportunity) to hijack your challenges and skilfully enlarge them into something bigger, more dramatic or more distressing than they already are. So for instance, you may find that when your partner walks out on you, your inner critic starts yelling that it’s your fault, you’re not good enough, you’ll NEVER meet anyone else, you’re a failure, you will NOT survive by yourself and so on.
So, start noticing when your inner critic is catastrophising. If it is, then try challenging your inner critic. You have a choice whether you take on board what it is telling you as the absolute truth or whether you can take a different perspective on life.
And remind yourself that your inner critic is not you in your entirety. You are so much more than your inner critic!
Ok, it can be a struggle to disentangle yourself from your inner critic’s downward spiral of woes, gloom and despair. Practicising mindfulness can be an effective way of controlling your ‘monkey mind’ (i.e. the agitated, easily distracted and incessantly moving behaviour of the mind). Even a few minutes can give your mind the respite it needs for you to be able to free yourself from the prison of internal criticism. I have found this simple ‘3 minute breathing exercise’ particularly helpful over the years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOne1P0TKL8
Facing your emotions head on
So when a personal disaster floors you, it is likely that you’ll experience some strong emotions and feelings. Anger, fear, intense sadness, jealousy, and feelings of rejection, guilt or inadequacy, just to name a few, may come and go at different periods.
Holding your anchor in the midst of a storm is not pleasant or easy. Our natural reaction to uncomfortable feelings is to avoid becoming curious about what’s going on for us. Rather than trying to block out your emotions, see if you can observe them and then really feel what you’re experiencing. This takes courage. However, the more we can view and experience our emotions with clarity, the more we can identify their source, understand them, and handle them without being totally consumed by them.
The ebbs and flows of life
I have also personally found that my tribulations in life, no matter how I struggled or despised them at the time, have been the making of me. They have equipped me to deal with future challenges by teaching me invaluable life lessons. They have given me empathy for others who find themselves going through similar experiences. And they have also given me clarity about what is important to me in life, as well as how I can take care of myself better so that I’m in a stronger position to tackle further ‘ebbs’ in my life.
Life is not linear. It is organic. It ebbs and flows. And part of that fluidity is experiencing “good” and “bad” times. It can be helpful and comforting to know that life is ever changing. And that nothing lasts forever – even life itself. So next time you’re faced with a ‘bad patch’, remind yourself that this period is temporary. As wisely expressed by Charlie Chapin: “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world – not even our troubles.”