Life likes to test everyone. Sooner or later on your journey something (or several somethings) will disrupt your peace of mind. Whether it happens suddenly or you see it coming from miles away, misfortune is usually a shock to the system all the same. Can we prepare for anything that life throws at us? Not really. However, there are certain grounding mechanisms and strength practices that we want to share with you today to help you navigate challenging times in your life.
"You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice." ― Bob Marley
Avoid Forced Positivity
We are all for optimism and positive vibes. However, in particularly trying times, “just stay positive” might be the last piece of advice we want to hear. You can never be entirely sure if somebody you’re trying to cheer up is not currently suffering from depression and your well-meaning counsel does more harm than good by diminishing that person’s pain. Acknowledge all your emotions, accept every single one of your feelings. There’s no healing through neglecting the truth. By numbing your pain you numb your happiness, too.
Rearrange Yourself Into A Butterfly
If you find yourself falling apart, congratulations, you’ve entered the process of rearranging your pieces. Paraphrasing poet Walt Whitman, we contain multitudes and those have to be reorganized and adjusted from time to time. Rearrange all the bits of yourself into mosaics, choose the one you like most, and then put the pieces back together into a stronger whole. Every time a phoenix disintegrates into a pile of ash, it rises from it tougher and more powerful.
This is the time of your metamorphosis. As Jim Kwik brilliantly put it, “It’s the struggle of coming out from a cocoon that gives a butterfly its strength. The beauty of the butterfly is that its growth happens in the cocoon.”
And now on to more practical advice.
Turn To Music
The power of music is truly medicinal. It’s the glue that holds together broken hearts and shattered souls. Music has proven effective in relaxing patients before surgery and helping them control their pain because it can both increase and lower our heart and respiration rates. Music therapy may ease depression and give meaning to our distress. It’s one of the best free tools to get us through the day (and sometimes through sleepless nights, too). As important as scientific evidence is, what you take out of your own experimentation means more. When things get heavy on your heart, listen to your favorite songs, sing at the top of your lungs, dance like nobody’s watching and you might feel that something in you is shifting and unblocking. Getting lost in melodies is mindfulness, too. Relief guaranteed.
Turn To Stories
Once upon a time, somebody somewhere went through what you are going through right now. Whether they’re authentic first-hand accounts of true events or figments of an authors’ imagination, stories in all shapes and forms have been the source of comfort and entertainment to us since the dawn of time. They educate, help us preserve memories, history, and cultural legacy.
We’ve gathered five primary sources of stories below. All of them come with their own set of strong points and merits:
- books – the most grounding form of storytelling, it requires undivided attention, involves fewer distractions, and more sensory experiences, i.e. smelling the pages;
- audiobooks – they free you to perform other activities while listening to stories that stimulate your imagination;
- movies and TV series – a streaming party for one (or more), lengthier story material that can be absorbed in less time, divided into chunks for your convenience, perfect for visual learners;
- friends and family– the most loving and truthful source of verbal storytelling that can also be interacted with;
- support groups – real-life accounts from those who face similar challenges, these stories serve as serious survival strategies weaving into a strong support system for those who suffer.
Their inspirational value is truly priceless. Stories are pilgrims traveling from city to city, village to village, and door to door with the sole intention of making us feel better. Sometimes all it takes to get off the floor is to feel understood by someone on the other side of the world.
Create Your Way To Better Days
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, creativity is the ultimate freedom. No matter your restrictions, you can create your escape. Fashioning a new reality equals taking control when things are out of control. And let’s set the record straight, whether you create top-notch art or au contraire is completely irrelevant. It’s the therapy in the process of expressing yourself that you need to break free of your pain.
Join an online class if you must, but please know, you only need an art diploma if you want to pursue creative activity professionally. Otherwise, grab a pen and draw an object, a person, or a bunch of random lines. Write a short poem and allow it to win the title of the most terrible lyric the world has ever seen. Learn the art of simple origami, try watercoloring, or create a vision board ― no holds barred.
Repainting the room is creativity. Dancing around the house is a creative expression. Rearranging photos in a collage is a creative act. Whatever you create, display it. May it always remind you of a time you turned hardship into something of value, may it serve as a reminder of your strength and resilience.
Journal Your Pain Away
This option is for those particularly stubborn about being unable to create. We get it, you’re a tough cookie, art is not your thing, that’s ok. Nonetheless, you still need an outlet for negative emotions that keep resurfacing prompted by the rough patch you’re going through. Conquering adversity starts within. When you feel glum, do a bit of stream-of-consciousnessing. Open a journal and write about what lies heavy on your mind. If you deem this idea stupid, write about it. If all you muster is one sentence, write it down until you can let it go. Give yourself a chance to unlock your inner warrior one word at a time. You have nothing to lose.
When Nothing Goes Right, Go Left
Here’s a crazy idea, do something you’ve never done before. When writer Elizabeth Gilbert was going through depression, in the midst of darkness and heartbreak her inner voice instructed her to learn Italian. Following her heart, she packed her bags and went to Rome. Of course, not everybody will be able to spontaneously hop on a plane and escape to another country. The point here is, follow your instincts as far as you can. Take improv classes to befriend your stage fright, say yes to a camping trip despite your arachnophobia, or commit to initiatives like The 100 Day Project, in which you choose a creative endeavor and do it every day for 100 days. Break the pattern to leave your comfort zone.
It is doubtful that Elizabeth Gilbert predicted her trip to Rome would put her book on the top of the New York Times bestseller list, but that’s what happened. You never know what awaits you around the corner when you follow a different path.
3, 2, 1 – Sweat!
Moving our body is essential for our health, especially in trying times when we need even more mental and physical stamina. Let’s put the “sound body in a sound mind” motto to the test. No need to run a marathon yet or buy an expensive gym membership straight away. Start with moving a bit more than usual. Unless you’re already an athlete and you’re perfectly aware of all the benefits a workout can bring, baby steps should do the trick no to discourage you before you even put your sports shoes on. Take a longer way home from work or go for a walk in nature. Use stairs instead of an elevator. Start practicing simple yoga for beginners and do stretching breaks away from your desk. Release your endorphins and they will take care of the rest.
Ask For Help And Help Others
As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. However, be careful not to take the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’re able to soldier on through anything, right? Yes. Until one day it gets too heavy and you break down. It’s ok not to be ok. Your life ― your rules, and you can cry whenever you want to (in fact, you should from time to time to relieve the tension). Ask for help if you feel you need it. Seek professional advice or simply invite a friend over for coffee and confide in a kindred spirit. Life is teamwork, you can never do it alone.
This, Too, Shall Pass
Nothing is permanent. While hard times are no joke, misfortune and hardship can be a time of metamorphosis. Remember to be gentle and patient with yourself, find courage to follow creativity, turn to stories and friends for support. Be brave and you might learn something new about yourself in the process. Grow through what you go through.