Sometimes life is tough. Like, screaming-into-a-pillow or hiccup-crying-in-a-corner (or even everything-seems-dull-and-gray) tough. Such seasons are part and parcel of being human. But there are some things you can do during these sucky periods to make them just a smidgen easier. Think of these tips as providing a breath of relief and a glimpse of hope when life gets hard.
1) Let yourself feel what you feel–without judgment.
Notice I said, “let yourself feel how you feel,” but not “let yourself act how you feel.” When things stink, you may want to scream, throw things and generally be a jerk. However, it doesn’t help to do these things because (A) they’re unhealthy coping mechanisms and (B) no one will want to be around you.
That being said, it’s perfectly fine to FEEL like you want to scream, throw things and be a jerk. In my own life, I often want to run away–and cry, a lot–during tough seasons. I don’t let myself run away from my problems or cry in the middle of a conference call at work.
But I do let myself feel that way without internally yelling at myself to, “Suck it up!” In fact, I let myself cry as often as I can — even if that means staying longer in the bathroom at work or closing my office door.
Evaluate and process your emotions. But don’t beat yourself up for them. From my experience, all that does is start a shame spiral that leads to despair.
2) Don’t give up on relationships–including your relationship with God.
When things are going south, it’s normal to go into survival mode and focus only on what must be done. There’s a time and a place for that. Yet don’t allow your pain to shut you off from God or isolate you from others.
You may not have the energy to be a social butterfly, but you can stay in touch with one or two friends. Their support will help you feel less alone–plus, it will get you out of your own head.
Even so, the only Person who can be with you at all times is Jesus.
I know how difficult it is to keep seeking after Him when He seems particularly silent. Don’t give up. Habakkuk, David and Job didn’t, even when seeking Him included painful questions and broken hearts.
Come before God with everything in your heart. He can handle it. Trust me, I know.
3) Take care of yourself.
Stress eating is a real thing, and I am well acquainted with it. Healthy eating and exercise often seem impossible in the midst of emotional and physical exhaustion.
But their effects can be truly amazing. Even in small doses.
True, you probably won’t be able to do hour-long workouts or full-on clean eating. But you can start small.
Do 5 minutes of jumping jacks. Pick a salad instead of a Big Mac. Do sit-ups when you want to grab a candy bar. Jot down a “journal” entry on a napkin.
Small, healthy choices matter, and they quickly add up to small moments of relief and a clearer perspective with which to navigate the crazy.
4) Find something to be grateful for, something beautiful and something to make you laugh–every day.
This is my mom’s mantra during one of her toughest seasons of life. She has been struggling with extreme pain and health issues for nearly a year, but still finds a way to do all of these each day.
These small things won’t make everything better.
But they will focus your mind on something GOOD, even if that something good is as small and as fleeting as a shooting star.
If you’re struggling to find any one of these, ask God for help (and don’t judge yourself, see above). Also allow yourself a few seconds each day to examine your surroundings.
It’s easy to look without seeing. Pretend this is the first time you’ve ever seen the world or the space you are in. What would you notice? What would delight you? What are you taking for granted right now in this moment? (If you’re reading this, you can see, so that’s one small/big thing!)
5) Remember that your life is fleeting.
For me, the most difficult thing about tough times is the NEVER-ENDING feeling of it all. But that feeling is not reality.
There is an end to our pain and suffering–and as believers, it will be a glorious end.
It may sound counter intuitive, but remind yourself that you are dust. One day you will be gone. The pain you’ve suffered will end; all that will remain is the legacy of how you lived your life.
To keep my perspective through this latest season, I figured out how much of my life has been spent here. It’s only been 1% of my entire life up to this point!
Friend, I know life can be incredibly, achingly difficult at times. These tips won’t evaporate your pain or make everything better. In fact, you can do everything “right” in life and still experience intense pain and suffering.
But for myself during tough seasons, these five things have taught me how to survive without descending into full-on despair. They propel me forward, slowly, even when everything around me seems to suck. I hope they help you, too.
How do you cope when times are tough? I’d love to hear your tips below (and how I can be praying for you!).