From time to time, we all face challenges and struggles. Struggle is part of the human condition and there isn’t a single person walking this planet who is immune. Those of us who’ve faced challenges know all too well how heavy it feels when you’re in the midst of it and how desperately we wish for the pain to go away. I’m not going to play Pollyanna and try to convince you that this process isn’t exhausting and upsetting. I won’t tell you that you’re wrong to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling. Or that I have all the answers. I most definitely don’t.
But I will share a few of the things that I’ve been grateful for and a few of the things that have comforted me during tough times. I believe that there’s a tremendous amount of healing in simply sharing our experience and offering others whatever little bits of knowledge or understanding we’ve gained. I’ve certainly benefitted from the wisdom of others who have faced challenges and, while I’m no expert, I have a few thoughts that I hope might benefit others.
You see, we spend so much time trying to resist struggle and avoid pain that we often overlook the fact that struggle has the ability to lead us somewhere good, if we let it. If we trust it. If we stop resisting, accept what is (even when it sucks), love ourselves through it, and trust that it will eventually pass. Not only will it pass, but it’s likely to leave us a few gifts to take along on the rest of our journey.
I know…this is a major shift in perspective for most of us and I know, firsthand, how difficult that can be. But here are a few things to remember as we move through this process.
- When we face difficult situations, we are often reminded of how many people love and support us. And I’m not only referring to those whom we know we can rely on for support, like family and close friends. My experience has been that people are so good – neighbors, colleagues, even casual acquaintances; when people find out that someone is sad or overwhelmed or just, generally, having a tough time, they’re usually very generous in offering help, support and words of encouragement. It’s a great comfort to know that we don’t have to go it alone and that more people than we realize care about us and wish us well. Which brings me to my next point…
- Challenging times often require that we become more comfortable asking for what we need. This is a big problem for a lot of women, myself included. Most of us are quite good at getting things done ourselves and quite bad at asking for help. However, tough times sometimes leave us no choice. They provide the perfect opportunity for (a) identifying what we need and (b) developing the humility to ask for it. And those are incredible skills to have, during good or bad times.
- When we feel knocked down by life, it’s the perfect opportunity to practice self-love and self-care. There simply is no other way. We can’t beat ourselves or shame ourselves or guilt ourselves into feeling better. As anyone who’s tried this knows, if just doesn’t work. We have to accept that we did our best and honor the choices that we made. We have the chance, in each moment, to treat ourselves with love – go for a walk alone, take a long hot bath, spend time with people who lift you up, feed yourself healthy food and healthy thoughts. And most importantly, allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. Stuffing emotions down is not loving. Cry it out, move it out, talk it out…the important thing is to let emotions come up and out, and continue to love ourselves through it.
- Flex your resilience muscle and develop strong coping skills. Resilience is THE best indicator of who will be successful in life and who won’t (there has been study after study that shows this). But nobody develops resilience without living through struggle. The hard times teach us how to cope. Day to day, we can assess which thoughts and actions feel empowering and which ones don’t. Some days, we may need to go to bed early and have a good cry and other days, it feels better to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and soldier on. Some evenings, curling up with a book and a cup of tea is just the comfort we need and other evenings are better spent having dinner with a group of girlfriends. In other words, take the time to know yourself and “read” what your needs are. That’s what coping is – the ability to deal with difficulties and to soothe yourself in healthy ways. Do that regularly and you’ll become pretty damn resilient (and pretty damn successful at whatever you do!).
- You’ll get a crash course in “surrender” and, finally, learn how to “be present.” I thought I knew what it was to surrender. I mean, I practice yoga, I’d read all of the most popular spiritual/self-help texts, I meditate and drink green juice. Trust me, I can talk the talk. But going through some really tough stuff forced me to walk the walk (some days I walk it and some days it’s more of a crawl, but you get the idea ;). There are points in all of our lives where we must simply recognize that we have no control over anything but our thoughts. Period. And we can allow that stark realization to either take us down or plant us firmly in the present moment. If we focus on the present moment and control the one thing we can – our thoughts – one moment leads to the next and the next and, before long, we feel a bit more peaceful and productive. By no means is this an easy habit to learn, but there’s a reason that every spiritual teacher preaches this – it’s the fastest route to peace.
- Develop confidence in your strength and abilities. You will surprise and impress yourself. I know that’s hard to believe when we feel so emotionally fragile but, inevitably, difficult situations require you to act differently and/or do things you’ve never done before. While it’s scary to navigate the unknown and face uncertainty, you’ll get through it (yes, you will). And each time you do, you’ll feel that much stronger and that much more capable of braving whatever comes your way. Success breeds success, so each small victory over a problem or a fear will make you that much more self-assured.
- Have faith that things are not happening TO you but, rather, FOR you. Each experience, good or bad, provides opportunities for us to learn the lessons we need to learn and each experience moves us further along on our path. Just because we can’t see the final destination doesn’t mean that we aren’t moving forward and making progress. This one can be especially tough when emotions and tensions at running high. For that reason, finding practices that calm the mind and encourage a more positive perspective are essential. i’ve found that it helps to read inspirational books, stories, articles, etc. If you have a spiritual practice like meditation, that helps, as does surrounding yourself with positive people. In other words, the more you work to alleviate stress and ease your mind, the more likely you are to recognize that “fight or flight” aren’t your only options; there is another one – faith.
Life is long and broad and wide. The challenges we face at any one point in time are simply one chapter in a very long story. Rather than remaining focused on the struggle, zoom the lens out and view your struggle within the larger context of your life. I once heard someone say that she likes to imagine her 90 year old self proudly telling her story and sharing the wisdom gleaned from it. I love that idea – the idea that we each have the power to create our own story. Instead of creating a tragedy full of sadness and regret, let’s write a heroine’s journey. Let our story be one in which we face our troubles with grit and grace and emerge fiercer, wiser and more loving than before.
If that’s not Wellegance, I don’t know what is!
Sending love and light,
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