Everybody faces tough times every now and then. It could be the loss of a loved one, challenges at work, or even a broken heart. I’ve been there too, and I understand how hard it can be to overcome those setbacks. But if we want to get on with our lives we have to find ways to avoid getting stuck in those negative emotions. Here’s a list of 10 ways to stay mentally strong in tough times
1. Accept it and move on
I admit, this one is easier said than done. But what does it mean to “accept it”? Essentially, you have to stop denying that it ever happened, and let go of the wish that you could go back and make it different. Make a firm decision to look forward and do your best from here on. Give yourself a defined period of time to process what has happened. Then set an actual date on your calendar for when you will start to move forward and make plans for the future.
2. Embrace change and find the opportunity in it
Sometimes a loss or breakdown isn’t the end of the world. When old things break down, it leaves room for new things. Several years ago I was working in a very stressful job. The pressure got so intense that I couldn’t cope and ultimately left without even having another job to go to. At first I felt like a failure, but it I started to see it as an opportunity to explore new things like entrepreneurship, and a chance to change my lifestyle and focus more time on my family.
3. Don’t focus on yourself
There is an old saying that goes something like this: “I was sad about having no shoes until I saw a man with no feet”. Even though you are in tough times, you can go and spend time with someone else who could use your help. Try visiting a friend who needs help with her kids, or volunteer at a shelter. Believe me, it will give you a fresh perspective about your own situation and give you hope that things can and will get better.
4. Learn from your mistakes
It’s easy to beat yourself up about the things you did wrong, but those mistakes were not a waste. Reflect on what happened and decide to prepare mentally so you can better handle those situations in the future. For example, if you spoke harshly to your child and saw the hurt on her face, decide to take a different approach next time. Maybe cool off before you respond, or use a different tone of voice.
5. Don’t build our life around others’ expectations
We often hear people say “don’t judge me”. What does that even mean? They are actually saying “don’t judge me by your standards”. Most people are struggling with something and doing the best they can under the circumstances. Be kind to yourself and only do what you can manage.
6. Get used to being uncomfortable
One of my favourite speakers and authors is Dr. Brene Brown, who studies people’s behavior as it relates to vulnerability. She once said “chose discomfort over resentment”. Basically, people are so afraid of having uncomfortable conversations that they would rather keep their feelings inside and be bitter for their whole life. Don’t do it! Face up and say what you need to say. It’s the best way to clear the air and leave those feelings in the past.
7. See tough times as temporary
Have you ever had your heart broken? I have. More than once. And not just by a person. Sometimes it was the heartbreak of a missed opportunity. But contrary to how I felt at the time, the world did not end! Time has a way of numbing the pain. And one day you’ll find greater happiness, and even forget about “Mr. So-and-so”.
8. Talk it out with a friend
Sometimes I wish I had studied to become a therapist. They make a lot of money by simply sitting and listening to people talk. (And other stuff too!) At the heart of the matter, people feel better when they talk about things. As humans, we put great value in being heard and validated. Not only that, you may even come to the realization that the situation is not as bad as you thought it was. Talk to a friend. You’ll feel much better!
9. Get a change of scene for a fresh perspective
Over the years I’ve noticed that people who lost loved ones and went on vacation for a little while where more successful at recovering from their grief. There’s something about changing your surroundings that takes the weight off. I don’t know why it works, but it just does!
10. Learn about others’ struggles and how they got through it
Sometimes, you just don’t have any ideas about what to do to feel better, or how to overcome a tough challenge. That’s perfectly normal. So since you don’t have all the answers, get out there and talk to people who have been through what you’re going through. Read a book or watch a movie on the subject. Ask advice from someone older and wiser. Get inspired!