Psych2goers, all of us, at some point in our lives, will go through tough times.
Perhaps your brother died from a terminal illness when he was still young, causing you to experience grief.
Or maybe your parents died within three months of each other due to heart attack.
Or you have experienced a difficult situation of having to be a single mother and raising three children by yourself after a messy divorce with your ex-husband.
Or…maybe you have been laid off from work because your company has gone bankrupt.
All of these difficult situations that we have experienced become important stressors in our lives. They cause us to feel tremendous pain and grief.
Below are 7 simple steps that you can do to overcome difficult situations:
- Acknowledge the situation and feel your feelings
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
When you encounter a difficult situation, acknowledge it, rather than running away from it. Apart from that, it is important to recognize what are your feelings associated with the painful situation. Be mindful of your emotions.
Do you feel sad? Rage? Disappointed?
Like the ebb and flow of water, emotions naturally come and go. Face your emotions and let it flow through you. View them as unexpected visitors to your house. Invite them in, process them healthily, and then let them go. A licenced professional counsellor, Joyce Marter stated that instead of judging or rationalizing away your feelings and thoughts, accept them instead (Tartakovsky, 2016). Recognizing your thoughts and feelings as they come up is known as mindfulness. Perhaps at first, you will feel awkward, however over time and if you are consistent, you will soon see the benefits of engaging in mindfulness (Raypole & Legg, 2020).
2. Limit time with toxic people
You have just ended an abusive 5-year marriage. You go to your mother’s house to simply vent, but she goes on to nag at you and scold you, saying you should be more patient. She criticizes you saying you don’t know how to keep the relationship going, and rant at you about your divorced status. “What will the people think?” she said to you.
Have you ever been in a situation, during your difficult time, instead of receiving support that you really need, you are met with criticism and judgement? You feel that you are more stressed instead of feeling relieved. After going to this particular person, you feel so much worse about yourself and your situation. One thing you need to know, when you are in tough times, you should surround yourself with supportive people who have your best interest at heart. Limit yourself or spend no time at all with people who make you feel drained and depleted (Tartakovsky, 2016).
3. Seek assistance when needed
It was one month after the passing of your wife. You are still grieving. You have two kids, and you are struggling to manage them alone. When your family members ask you if you need any help, you always answer them that you are fine and you can manage your kids well. You think, you can and you should handle this difficult time on your own without burdening other people.
Psych2goers, have you experienced a difficult time, and you have the stoic mindset that you are able to handle it by yourself, without asking for other people’s help? You might think that asking for help is a sign of weakness, because oftentimes admitting that you require help will activate the feeling of shame. However, you need to realize that seeking assistance when you need it is actually an act of strength and bravery.
A clinical psychologist, Dr. Deborah Serani stated that you need to actually be direct when asking for help from other people. You need to tell them what you truly need, such as physical or emotional help, and reveal to them what you don’t really need such as being criticized for taking so much time to heal (Tartakovsky, 2016).
4. Focus on what you can control
For many of us, we feel more at ease when we think we can control the aspects of our lives and feel powerless when we are unable to do anything to change the bad circumstances that we found ourselves to be in. However, here’s the fundamental truth: you have no control over many of the things that happen in your life.
How a person behaves is definitely out of your control, but you can always be in charge of how you respond to it. Instead of ruminating and wishing for things to be different and focusing on the things that are out of your control, try to concentrate on things that you can control.
5. Work on coping skills to help you deal with your emotions
Do you know that there are two important types of coping, which are problem-focused and emotion-focused coping, as defined by Lazarus and Folkman (1984)?
Apart from devising strategies on how to deal with your problems (problem-focused coping) you should also learn the appropriate coping skills to help you deal with your emotions. Efforts to change, reduce the negative emotions, and regulate your feelings to the problem are known as emotion-focused coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, Raypole & Legg, 2020).
Some coping skills you can develop to manage your emotions include journaling, talking it out with a trusted loved one, meditation, engaging in enjoyable pastime, or simply giving yourself a pep talk (Goldman & Morin, 2021).
6. Concentrate on what you can get out of it
Oftentimes, when we are facing failures in life, we will question the purpose of it all, “Why is this happening to me?” However, you need to concentrate on what you can get out of it. So instead of questioning the reason why a certain bad event happened to you, you can ask, “What can I learn from this?” Surviving and thriving difficulty builds your character and strength. When things do not go the way you plan them to be, try to look at them as learning opportunities. Tough times deepen our understanding of ourselves, others, and the world around us.
7. Remember that healing is an open-ended journey
“Time heals all wounds.”
Perhaps for most of us, we are familiar with the above phrase…but is it true though? Does time heal all wounds?
Well, the truth is, it can be a Yes and a No.
Time is definitely a crucial thing when you are on a healing journey. A licensed psychologist, Dr. Heather Z. Lyons, time allows for self-reflection and careful self-scrutiny, which then provides you an insight and the ability to move on.
Healing is also a continuous process. Instead of seeing it as an end goal, what’s more important is to realize that the fact that you are taking the appropriate steps towards healing is already an important achievement and accomplishment.
“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”
When you are in tough times, you may feel that your whole world has shattered into a million pieces. You may feel that there is nothing that can heal your emotional wounds. No bandaids that you can place on your grieving heart. However, know that by experiencing this difficult time, and by having such a wound, it will actually lead you to the best and most beautiful part of you. You will not only survive the difficult time, but you will thrive and flourish. Perhaps due to the tough times that you are in, you encounter psychological struggle. However, know that you are capable of growing out of it.
A psychologist, Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD had developed a theory in the mid 1990-s, known as post-traumatic growth (PTG). It theorizes that people who endure psychological struggle following difficult times can often see positive growth afterward. They will develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life (Collier, 2016).
Collier, L. (2016, November). Growth after trauma. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/11/growth-trauma.
Morin, A., &; Goldman, R. (2020, April 3). Healthy coping skills for uncomfortable emotions. Verywell Mind. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/forty-healthy-coping-skills-4586742.
Raypole, C., &; Legg, T. J. (2020, April 22). Emotion-focused coping: 7 techniques to try. Healthline. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/emotion-focused-coping.
Tartakovsky, M. (2016, May 17). Therapists spill: 14 ways to get through tough times. Psych Central. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/therapists-spill-14-ways-to-get-through-tough-times#1.