How to Survive Difficult Times

Clinical psychologist Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D, knows a lot about tough times. Her youngest sister died from cancer at 8 years old. In 2007, another sister and her sister’s husband died within two months of each other. At the time, Hibbert was just several weeks away from giving birth to her fourth child. Almost overnight, she inherited her nephews and became a mom of six.

“I have been a daughter in grief, a sister in grief, and a mother raising kids in grief. I know it is not easy.”

We’ve all had those rough spells in our family (and romantic life) where things seem stressful, chaotic and a little out of control. 

Sometimes these “moments” are caused by challenging events in our lives, like serious illness of a loved one, job loss, or a car accident.

Life gets hard, that’s for sure! And when times are tough, we could all do with a little help in surviving those tough times and getting ‘back to good’. For the most part, none of us like admitting to others when we are facing a tough time in business or in our personal lives. We tend to ‘grin and bear it’ and convince ourselves that the burden is ours to bear. You are NOT alone, and in your darkest times, don’t listen to your fear, listen to hope!
Stay positive

You’ve probably heard a million times to “think positively,” or “just stay positive.” Sometimes, though, that’s easier said than done. Here’s another way to think of being positive.

In buildings, certain rooms are often kept at “positive pressure,” which means air is pumped into the room so that any openings (like doors or windows) cause air to flow out rather than in. Why do this? Well, in a hospital, for instance, patients might be kept in a room at positive pressure to make it harder for airborne bacteria or harmful chemicals to enter.

Honor what you’re feeling right now

Don’t let anybody tell you that your feelings aren’t valid or that you’re dealing with them the wrong way. If you’re depressed, don’t try to force yourself out of it—and don’t try to make yourself write something that you’re not feeling up to. Whether you feel like writing light and fluffy escapist stories, or dark and intense tales of suffering and angst, it’s all good. Whatever you are able to write in this tough time is self-evidently the right project for you.

If you’re angry, stay angry. Hold onto that anger. Anger is the best fuel for writing, emotion, plot, comedy, and everything else. Channel that energy into stories. Use your anger to create something so beautiful, people will cry all over the page.

Remain on course

Pretending nothing is wrong doesn’t work. Facing the challenge, acknowledging your fears and building a bridge to where you want to go by thinking through the outcome you want are resilience building strategies.

When you take the time to see the best possible result you desire, then you know you’re shifting your focus from problem-thinking to solution-thinking.

This is the hallmark of resilient people.

Once you know the outcome you want, then begin by asking yourself what’s one clue you could look out for that will give you the confidence to know you’re on the right path.

Learn From the Difficult Times

“Facing difficulties is inevitable, learning from them is optional” – John Maxwell

When I find myself in middle of an ugly situation, I like to pick everything apart and see what went wrong and what I could’ve done differently. I always end up learning something that helps me and I eventually get a really clear picture of what I need to do to make sure I’m not in the same situation again. Or if I do find myself in a similar situation, I know what to do to minimize the difficulty of the situation.

Rely on your faith and lean on your Higher Power

Whatever you believe in — God, Allah, Buddha or the Spiritual Oneness that binds us all — learn to rely on your faith and remember that this too shall pass. Tough times don’t last, tough people do. But in order to become a tough person, we often need to rely on something far greater than ourselves. This isn’t solely about religion. If you’re not a religious person, rely on your spirituality.

Al Siebert, in his book The Survivor Personality, writes that “The best survivors spend almost no time, especially in emergencies, getting upset about what has been lost, or feeling distressed about things going badly…. For this reason they don’t usually take themselves too seriously and are therefore hard to threaten.”

Write it down

If you’ve suffered an upsetting event, writing about it can actually make you feel better. That’s in part because writing organizes your thoughts, which makes the experience feels less chaotic. Writing also can offer you an emotional release, insight into yourself and the feeling that you can file the problem away.

You might not be able to change a bad situation, but you can change your response to the situation. You have control over your attitude, and ultimately this can make a huge difference in how you weather a difficult situation. 

There are no easy answers, with our existence comes suffering, a suffering that no amount of money, status, fame or popularity can help us escape from.

The only thing we can do is rest in the fact that we have some control over how we react to our low points.

Accept and roll with the ebb and flow of life.

This too shall pass, and before you know it you’ll have slid over this rough wave and you’ll ride high onto the next one.

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