Difficult situations can sometimes push us into a stressful state, where we experience negative emotions, especially if those times feel unremitting, with no end in sight. We may experience anger, resentment, grief, vengefulness. Sometimes we may even find ourselves acting in ways that are not ‘us’, that we regret and are not proud of.
At these times it’s important to be gentle with ourselves. A tough time will often bring feelings of helplessness, loss of control, frustration. When you think of a loved child behaving in this way you'd most likely reassure it, give it extra attention because you’d understand that the reason for this behaviour was because it felt lost, alone and directionless.
When you’re going through a tough time, pause, reflect and begin by being kind to yourself.
Looking after yourself includes taking responsibility for your health and wellbeing as much as is possible, especially during difficult times. Aim to go to bed at a reasonable hour, manage your alcohol intake, eat nutritious food and avoid unhelpful or destructive behaviour that may tend to reappear at stressful times.
It helps to start by breaking down what’s needed into manageable chunks, things you may be able to accomplish within a shortish period of time. Doing this reminds you that you’re capable, positive and competent. It’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re stressed, overwhelmed or when things aren’t going to plan.
Accept that some days you may not achieve what’s on your list for that day. Appreciate that if you’re busy or have unexpected demands that crop up, you may have to let yourself off the hook and not complete your scheduled plans that day. Deal with what needs to be done, then prepare to start again the following day and get back on track.
Don’t wait until everything’s perfect. Good enough can be just that, good enough! But it’s not uncommon to become sensitive and over-critical during tough times, aware of every little slip-up or flaw. It’s then that even one step in the right direction can be enough to remind ourselves that we’re willing, moving forward and making headway.
Rewards are always good. An afternoon with a friend, a leisurely bath or walk in the park can be a pleasant way to recharge your batteries. But schedule these as treats, earned after you’ve taken some positive steps.
And remember that sometimes a positive step may simply be getting out of bed, showered and dressed. A bonus may be having a shave or applying a dash of lipstick! Appreciate that success during tough times may comprise of a series of very short steps.
Accept help. When we’re feeling low we may feel unworthy, unlovable and undeserving of the help of others. In fact, there are times when we all can feel this way, a little lost, pathetic and frustrated with ourselves. Instead of ignoring or shrugging off those offers, breathe, say ‘thank you’ and let yourself be helped. Those offering will feel good at being in a position to assist. And you know you’d do the same for them if the roles were reversed.
Sometimes professional help may be called for, to help us recognise if we’re being too down on ourselves or need to modify our perspective. Repeating negative patterns or catastrophizing situations can become an unfortunate habit. Utilising the services of a therapist can help us heal that mindset, introduce a more positive approach and improve resilience.
When you’re going through a tough time the ‘sensible’ advice may be to strip out any non-essentials and focus on saving time, money and energy for the really important things that need to be done. But, what if that ‘wasted’ hour over coffee at the mall, morning run, game of football or occasional visit to the nail salon is your beacon of light and sanity? It’s important to keep that in your schedule, really relish and enjoy it. Refuse to feel guilty or apologetic about taking some ‘me time’ and instead treat it as an investment in your health and wellbeing.
Having an upbeat attitude during tough times is the key to getting through those days. It’s often the tough times that teach us the most, that remind us of who and what is the most important in our lives, potentially opening new doors and encouraging our personal development and growth. Be thankful for the opportunities that come your way.
Susan Leigh, South Manchester Counsellor & Hypnotherapist www.lifestyletherapy.net