Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How to Keep Going in Tough Times




Welcome back, Besties.  Yesterday we discussed how we can help a friend who is hurting.  Today I want to put the focus back on us for a bit.  What do we do when the future looks bleak, or we are experiencing tremendous pain?  How can we persevere, find the strength to keep going when it feels like our lives are a cycle of sadness or disappointment?  

First, ask yourself this question:  what story are you telling yourself?    This is a question Brene Brown asks all the time and I find it incredibly helpful, especially when we experience strong emotions.  What is happening, what is the current situation?  Describe it to yourself (or better yet, write it down) as an objective observer.  State the facts - the truth, and nothing but the truth.  Then take it a step further and add yourself into the story.  What are you feeling about what happened?  Are you telling yourself any stories as if they are truth?  

For example, you might have experienced a recent breakup and feel so sad that you could burst into tears at any moment.  You might objectively tell the story as:  "I am feeling sad about the breakup.  I feel like I don't even want to get out of bed today."  But a lot of times, we tell ourselves additional stories, such as:  "I'm such a loser.  What is my problem?  This is the fourth day in a row I have felt so out of control of my emotions about this.  I'm seriously never going to get it together.  No wonder I'm single.  Again."

See the difference?  If you are telling yourself stories that are riddled with shame or guilt, you are going to make whatever storm you are weathering ten times worse.  Instead, stick to the facts.  Notice how you feel, and be ok with it.  You can do this because we all know...

No feeling lasts forever.  Remind yourself of this.  OFTEN.  Better yet, remind yourself of the difficult things you have gotten through in the past.  By and large, when I counsel people who have been through significant trauma or tragedy, I ask them how they coped and they say..."I don't really know...I just did."  Friends, we are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.  It's ok if you have no idea how you are going to make it through your sadness...you don't have to have all the answers right now.  All you have to do is trust that things will get better over time.  You might start feeling better very soon, or it might take a lot longer for healing to occur...that's why it's incredibly important to...

Take it one day at a time.  I tell my clients this all the time, and it never stops being true.  Just deal with today today.  Deal with this moment.  Then the next.  Then the next.  Don't get ahead of yourself.  Don't "dress rehearse tragedy," (again, a phrase from Brene Brown).  Stay where you are, even if that is a hard place to be.  Just for today you can keep going.  Just for today you can persevere.  Just for today you can get through this.  It's often when we think weeks and months and years into the future that we overwhelm ourselves with unnecessary grief and anxiety.  So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today's trouble is enough for today (Matthew 6:34).

Finally, find a way to increase your positive experiences.  What do you like to do?  Who do you like to hang out with?  Make a list of all the ways you can add happiness to your day, just this day.  The goal is to make yourself do something fun or joyful so you can have something good to look forward to in every day.  Here is a short list to get you started:  dance, order take out food, watch your favorite movie, plan a vacation, go shopping, call a loved one, make a list of things you love about yourself, take a nap, visit a new place, enjoy a sweet treat, PIZZA, sit in the sunshine, lounge in your pjs, snuggle with a loved one or pet.

When you start doing things you love, things that make you  happy, you will start to feel better.  That doesn't mean you will never be sad again.  It doesn't mean you won't still be a little sad while you are trying to have fun.  It means that you are giving yourself permission to live and to find bits of joy in the midst of your pain. And that is a very, very good thing.


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