A couple of years ago, not too far back, I went through one of the worst phases in my life. My career was going nowhere, I could hardly make ends meet, my family life was in shambles and whatever I touched seemed to turn to ash.
How did this happen? I had always taken life seriously and worked hard for everything. I took great pains to see that my work/life balance was good and that I spent quality time with my husband and kids. I was definitely not a spendthrift – in fact, I was a bargain hunter and tried my best to save what I could.
At work too, I was conscientious and always worked from my heart. I knew I was putting in more effort and worked longer hours than anyone else in the office, so why was everyone else getting promoted over me?
Why was I feeling so depressed and helpless, so misunderstood? It was a bad time, and we all have them. While the circumstances might differ and the specific problems may be different, this one thing is for sure: everyone has a hard day, or week, or month. The question is how do we go about overcoming hard times without succumbing to them completely?
When we’re in the middle of it, it can really feel like we’ll never see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that both the good times and the bad are always passing away. What’s important is to remember this.
Here are 9 mantras essential to help you in overcoming hard times.
1) You are not alone. It happens to everyone.
“When you are struggling with something, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you are going through.” ~ Nicholas Sparks
This is something so simple and yet so profound. Each one of us tends to think of ourselves as the center of the whole wide universe and we feel we are the reason for its existence — right?
No matter how special we think we are, or how rotten life has treated us, we also have to realize that what happens to us will also be happening to many, many others. So, if we are having bad days, so are others! So is everyone! While they don’t occur all at the same time (thank god) it’s impossible to be human and not experience them.
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
Bad days happen no matter how much we try to avoid them or how hard we plan for that perfect life we have envisaged in our mind. Accept this fact and your road to recovery starts right there.
2) This too shall pass.
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18
Once we accept that bad days happen to everyone, the next most important thing to realize is that all problems are temporary and that this too shall pass.
If you look back at your life and remember some of the most harrowing times you went through when you thought life was absolutely the pits, you will realize that it is now just a distant bad memory and that you survived.
If we hold on long enough, bad days will move on, leading to better times. The secret is in knowing this and plodding on. Never give up, for it is only in stopping to try that we truly fail.
3) Shuffle the ‘C’ in REACTIVITY.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at your life, in order to take a step forward and move on in it.” ~ Rashida Rowe
When we are embroiled in troubles, we often get so caught up in them that we lose our ability to think clearly. We see everything through the lens of those problems and no other way. Just when we need it most, we lose our power to reason properly and succumb to knee-jerk emotional reactivity.
At times like this it is very important to take a step back and view the big picture. That’s what’s meant by ‘shuffling the C’: move it back three letters, to the front of the word, and you get CREATIVITY. Now which of those words feels like it holds more power?
Maybe your problems are indicating something to you, maybe there is a lesson to be learned; and because you are so involved, so inside of it, you’re are not able to see it properly. Take a deep breath and remove yourself from the immediate circumstances; calm down and ‘C’ if you can look objectively at the situation.
Often, when relaxation is achieved in this manner, people report that the solution was staring straight at them, leaving them mind-boggled as to how they weren’t able to see it before. Separate your emotional responses and recovery will be much easier, leaving you to do the work of actually working on the steps. In other words,
4) Divert your attention.
“The 3 Cs of life: Choices, chances, changes. You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.”
Though it is not always possible, one of the best ways to get to the place of objectivity suggested in the last point (in order to see your situation in a clearer light) is to completely divert your attention from it for a while.
This may sound counterintuitive, but it works. You know how they say ‘cram for the exam as long as you can, but leave the day before for daydreaming‘? This works the same way. Just drop everything and engage in some mood-lifting pastimes; something that will take you away from the tyranny of the here and now.
Music is the best stress buster, as it is so emotionally up-lifting, but watching a movie helps too – getting involved in other people’s lives and away from your own for a while. I sometimes watch a really sad and emotional movie and let the tears flow — it helps! All the pent up emotions come tumbling out in the comfort and privacy of your home.
Jogging, gymming, brisk walking – any sort of physical exercise helps too. Just get off the problem for a bit!
5) Train yourself to look for the silver lining — no matter how thin it may seem.
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” ~ Helen Keller
Now that we know that everyone goes through it, it is going to pass, and we may have managed to divert ourselves from the issues for a while, we can slowly move back in and begin ‘looking’ at things with a fresh eye.
An easy place to start is training ourselves to notice positive aspects, no matter how small. Instead of falling back into the trap of wallowing in self-pity and cursing your bad luck — or even trying to pin the blame on circumstances or on others — do your best to count your blessings, however few they may seem at the moment.
Look around you and open your eyes to all the suffering. You will be surprised to see the problems people have. Young children or adults with life-threatening diseases, abuse, abject poverty, orphans, destitution — the list is endless. If they can get through life with hope for a better tomorrow, why can’t you?
Managing to at least find and acknowledge the decent bits, no matter how small (and they’re always there), alongside all the ‘bad’, will provide the strength to move you along, begin feeling a little less depressed, and remind you that ups and downs are simply a part of life — and right now, you’re in a lower level, but it will get better.
6) Get present and work on one solution at a time.
“No matter how much falls on us, we keep ploughing ahead. That’s the only way to keep the roads clear.” ~ Greg Kincaid
Now that we’ve got all that under our belt, and we know we’re not going to give up (giving up because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires because you got a flat) we can begin working on the solutions — one at a time. Focusing on a solution always feels better than focusing on the problem!
Remember to stay present. Problems exist in order for you to puzzle out their solution, so once you’re on to it, the only reason to look back would only ever be utilitarian. Looking too far forward won’t help either. Just like a seed needs time to take root and grow, so also do the solutions you’re working on. If you keep uprooting the sapling to see how much it has grown, there is every chance that the plant will die.
So once you’ve started working on the solution, don’t become overly obsessed with a specific result — just take it step by step, moment by moment.
7) Analyze the situation. Make an action plan.
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” ~ Nelson Mandela
If you managed to find that silver lining from point 5, it should help pull you out of pessimism and a little closer to realism. Now, with a clearer head, you can analyze the pros and cons and begin whittling things down to the relevant parts — let everything else go.
Come up with an action plan and follow it scrupulously – point by point, and remember to be patient! The world wasn’t made in a day and your problems are not going to be solved in one either.
8) As long as you are alive, there is hope.
“However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there is life, there is hope.” ~ Stephen Hawking
What better words of wisdom than these! Though it is often hard to remember, especially on bad days, the fact remains that life is a miracle of all and as long as we are alive, there is always hope for the future – a better future.
Remembering this as often as possible (not just when things are going good for us) will inevitably help us continue working towards success – success at relationships, success at work, success with health and fitness – success at whatever we aim to do.
When milked over weeks, months and years, this simple remembrance has the potential to ongoing, background feeling of joy at simply being alive, and brings in its wake a wonderful strength and ability to see answers in places you never would’ve been able to before. This joy is infectious and soon you will be raring to go, and passing it along as you do.
Gaining momentum in this way, your problems will begin to seem smaller and more surmountable, and bit by bit you’ll begin crossing each of them off your list.
9)You are the master of your own destiny.
“Choose to listen to your inner voice, not the jumbled opinions of everyone else. Do what you know in your heart is right for you. It’s your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one else can walk it for you.” ~ Melchor Lim
In the end, we will all be faced with challenging days and periods of time. This is simply life — there will never be an end to its contrasting elements, and we wouldn’t want there to be! Otherwise, we would never come to know ourselves as capable, emotionally mature people.
When you are faced with one of those days when nothing goes right, remember that if ever you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm. You are the master of your own destiny and what you make of the life served to you is totally your call.