Ways to Cope When Life is Hard

We all go through difficult phases of life. It is par for the course. It might just be one particular thing – being made redundant or the breakdown of a relationship  – or the whole kit and caboodle where all of life’s doors slam shut at once. It can take anything from a few days to a few months before that elusive window the cliché promises will fly open, and you can finally breathe again. It will open eventually, I promise. In the meantime…

1. Wallow. Allow yourself to feel however it is you are feeling. I promise you it is real, it is valid and you are entitled to feel it. Give yourself permission to go with it.

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2. When we’re feeling hurt or vulnerable, we are prone to putting up more shields than the Starship Enterprise. That is 100% fine. It is a survival instinct and will protect you against baddies and their deadly phasers and I clearly do not have enough Star Trek knowledge to continue with this excellent analogy.

3. Take your time. When we are heartbroken or feeling low or fragile, we have to act in the interest of self-preservation, so we check out for a while. This is normal and healthy. No one should make us feel guilty for it. Those who love us should support us unconditionally, not tear us down when we are already in despair by telling us to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘get over it’. The kind of people who say that are thinking only of themselves, and really ought to follow the advice of Susan Jeffers to, ‘hold up the mirror, not the magnifying glass.’

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4. Remember this: “It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.” -Finnick Odair, The Hunger Games. This is one of my very favourite quotes. Reading it for the first time was an epiphany. It ties beautifully with point #3 and shows exactly why it is impossible to ‘get over it’.

5. Take ‘advice’ with a pinch of salt. You don’t have to talk about it (as lots of people will suggest) or you can talk about it until you’re blue in the face, just make sure you’re doing what is comfortable and suits you. What worked for others may not work for you. That includes everything in this blog post.

6. Do the things you enjoy. Walk the dog, do a crossword, call your mum, read a book, write a poem, dance around in your undies to a song that you love – do the things that make you happy and engage your mind and body in positive ways.

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7. Schedule some down-time. It could be an evening, an afternoon or a whole weekend. I suggest keeping mobile phones at bay if you can – put it on silent or leave it in another room – and indulging in total relaxation. My wonderful friend Jess has this theory that humans need down-time in exactly the same way computers need to be rebooted every so often. (“Have you tried turning it off and on again?”) You emerge refreshed and realigned and better able to cope with the demands levelled at you. My go-to ways for down-time are: 1. A long hot bath with a gorgeous-smelling bath bomb from Lush and a good book 2. Curling up in bed or on the sofa for a good old-fashioned Netflix marathon. Find what works for you.

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8. Put things in place so you have something to look forward to. Sign up for a course or class you have always wanted take, book tickets to a concert, organise a daytrip somewhere or arrange a movie night with friends. Planning ahead can help you manage the day-to-day and gives you goals to work towards.

9. Make decisions. This is the hardest thing to do and will take a very long time, but you will know when you are ready. Life in limbo is no picnic, with all those questions hanging over your head, keeping you awake at night and preventing you from enjoying the moment. It takes a lot of careful consideration to tackle life’s big decisions, but you will feel so much better when you finally decide one way or the other.

10. Drink plenty of water. Being hydrated aids concentration, so you can think with clarity and alacrity.

11. Be kind to yourself. Always.

12. Just keep swimming. Sometimes it’s all you can do. Even Bill Clinton agrees, “It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.”

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