THREE TIPS FOR WHEN LIFE IS DIFFICULT
Life has plenty of ups and downs. Check out this post on 3 tips for when life is difficult and find ways to clarify your thoughts, take action and make sure you honour your priorities.
LIFE’S UPS AND DOWNS
Life can be great. It can be rewarding, fulfilling, happy and joyful. It can be filled with some of the most wonderful highs that warm our hearts and minds.
However, this can be tempered by soul-destroying lows when life appears nothing but sad, difficult, exhausting and unknown. Apart from these peaks and troughs, life just seems to drift along and we drift along with it.
Certainly, there are things that we can do to make that drifting easier and less draining. We can navigate the choppy waters of life more successfully if we make a few changes here and there so we don’t get blown off course too easily!
Here’s a post which can help you make some of those changes – 10 simple living tips for less stress and more time.
WHEN YOU’VE JUST GOT TO GO THROUGH IT
Yet sometimes a storm looms and there’s not a lot that our little personal boat can do to steer round it.
As the children’s book “We’re going on a bear hunt” by Michael Rosen says, there are times when ‘If you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it and you can’t go around it, then you’ve got to go through it.’
Maybe now is one of those times?
If you’re in a tricky season of life, whether it’s of your own making or because of external forces that are beyond your control, it’s important to have some tools and resources to draw on. They’ll keep you as safe as possible and your head above water.
Here are three tips for when life is difficult. Keep them in mind for when and if you need them.
THREE TIPS FOR WHEN LIFE IS DIFFICULT
1. Check-in with yourself
We all react to situations differently. We’re receptive and sensitive to different things, have different triggers and a variety of mechanisms which we use to deal with these situations.
When life is difficult take a moment to reflect on why it is difficult.
Is it something you could have foreseen, prepared for or even avoided?
- What is the situation making you feel? Be specific.
- Why is the situation making you feel like this? Get to the root of the problem.
Describe your difficulty or problem in a single word or short phrase. If you find it’s taking you a whole paragraph to define it, then you haven’t honed in on the root cause yet.
Here’s an example from my own life…
I used to work too hard. I burned the candle at both ends, eager to please my boss and to be seen as a diligent, hard-working and motivated employee. I was all these things but I was also heading for burn-out in the process.
And why was I was working so hard? When I really thought about it, it was because I was a perfectionist over-achiever, desperately wanting recognition and praise. I was so insecure that I wasn’t able to find these things within.
To my mind, it was easier trying to get praise from my boss then giving praise to myself. However, I was making myself ill in the process.
In a nutshell, I felt inadequate.
So, just to re-cap… one of my first tips for when life is difficult is just to assess your feelings and try to define the WHAT and the WHY. This will help you with the next tip.
2. Take action
Now, obviously, the type of action you’re able or need to take will vary depending on the reason why life is difficult.
There are plenty of things in your life (and the world) that you won’t be able to control. However, there are also plenty of things that you can.
Once you’ve defined the what and why of your problems (see tip #1), then this next step is doing something about them. Making a kind of mind map might help…
- Write your problem in the middle of a piece of paper. Draw a circle around it.
- Use the rest of the space to write down possible solutions or things you could do to make that problem easier or less difficult.
Here’s an example…
Imagine I’m in too much debt (write this in the middle and circle it).
Here are some of the things I would write around it…
- Spend less
- Seek professional support
- Chop up my credit cards
- Make a list of what I could do with money instead (donate to charity/save)
- Identify trigger factors that make me want to shop
- Make a list of how I feel when I spend too much
- Stop shopping on my own or only go with a friend
- Find other things to fill my time/make me feel better
- Come up with a savings plan
Brainstorm ideas, choose simple words and short phrases that you can see clearly and easily in front of you.
Writing your thoughts down on paper will help you declutter those whirling emotions and give you clarity.
- When you have clarity then you can find focus.
- Focus means you can take action.
- Action means that, although you might not solve a problem entirely, you can take steps to make it less difficult.
3. Remember your priorities
Life seems terribly unfair sometimes and it feels nearly impossible to find the good in everything. Does every cloud really have a silver lining? For myself, I’m still deciding.
However, going back to my stormy sea analogy at the start of this post, what I do know is that you can learn to swim.
- You can learn to make the most of what you’ve got, to find the good in even the smallest thing.
- To learn that out of challenge comes opportunity and out of bad can come good.
Swim instead of sink.
Instead of dwelling on your difficult situation (the one that makes you sink), write a list that lifts you up and helps you swim.
You could start it with:
- I’m grateful for…
- I’m lucky because…
- I’m proud of myself because…
- I’m hopeful for…
- I’m ready to…
- I’m going to deal with this by…
Your list should be positive, inspiring and motivational.
Write it like you mean it and refer to it when you’re feeling down.
- Your Intentional Life – my free short course to help you get intentional about your life, identify your priorities and find ways to put these first amidst the clutter of your every day.
- How to write a gratitude list – find fulfilment in what you have, instead of chasing what you don’t.
Life has its up and downs and nothing stays the same for forever. How we approach our problems, the words we use on ourselves, our mindset and our intention to challenge negative thoughts and turn them into something positive, all have a part to play in whether we sink or swim.
It’s about doing what you can, when you can, to make changes wherever possible. It’s also important to cut yourself some slack if life is a struggle and making changes is particularly tough.
We talked about three tips for when life is difficult:
- Checking in with yourself to identify your true feelings – the root cause not just the symptoms
- Taking action – simple steps to break down a large problem into manageable chunks
- Revisiting your priorities – reminding us to build on the positives instead of being weighed down by the negatives
Albert Einstein perhaps summed it up more succinctly.
“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”