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How to Cope When Hard Stuff Happens

And it will.  Let’s face it.

There are no free rides in this world.  Potholes appear out of nowhere sometimes, and there’s just no way to go around them.

But if we prepare ourselves for that eventuality, we can have a plan in place to help lessen the jolt.

1.  Know your support system.  Who are the people there for you when life gets bumpy?  Mom, dad, brother, sister, friend, pastor or counselor.  We all need someone to talk to, someone who will take the time to hear us, really hear us, sympathize and strategize when we need it most.  Just saying things out loud can lessen the weight of the cloud, lighten the sky a bit.  Maybe it’s not as bad it seems.  Even if it is, sharing the sadness, fear or trauma transfers some of the weight to someone who cares about us and what happens to us.

2.  Change your location.  Take a vacation – even if it’s just a mini one.  Getting out of your daily routine, changing the scenery, just for a day or two, can provide a much-needed reprieve from daily pressures.  Choose something opposite of what you’re used to.  If you live in a place where it rains a lot, go somewhere sunny.  If you live in a big city, try a small town.  Give yourself a little stretch of time to see something different, consider things in a different light.  When life gets hard, we need to change our focus, switch tracks like a train setting off for a new destination.  Seeing other places, other sights can change our outlook, open our mind to thoughts, solutions we may never have considered before.

3.  Exercise.  There’s nothing like it for diluting stress, building up reserves, both mental and physical, for the times when we need them most.  Make it something you like to do.  If it’s running, great.  If it’s cycling, great.  If it’s walking, great.  Or maybe it’s taking a class with other people that gets you cranked for the day.  Whatever it is that releases those endorphins for you, gives you a daily boost of good chemicals, stick to it.

4.  Set goals.  We all need to know we’re going somewhere.  That what we’re doing every day matters.  Maybe it’s a 5K.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a book.  Build a house.  Paint an oil of your old home place.  Take your mother to Paris.  Whatever your life goals, map them out.  Record your daily progress.  When things get hard, and it feels like you’re just treading water, it’s easy to think you’re not accomplishing much.  But if you have a hard copy of what you’re accomplishing each day, it can help neutralize that temporary sense of hopelessness that comes with dealing with something difficult.  Checking in with your roadmap gives you visual confirmation of progress and purpose.  And if you keep this roadmap long enough, you can look back and see the hard points, times maybe when your progress decreased because of a temporary refocusing of energy and effort on one of those potholes.  But you can also look back and see where pace and progress picked up again when the road smoothed out, and the sailing wasn’t quite so rough.

5.  Put yourself in someone else’s place.  We all know we can’t really do that.  We’re here for our own walk, our own journey.  But we can put ourselves in a position to offer help and kindness to someone who may be dealing with something more difficult than what we’re dealing with.  Visit your local homeless shelter.  Help feed an evening meal to folks coming in maybe for the only meal they’ve had that day.  It’s a humbling experience and an opportunity to see our circumstance as that person might see it.  Maybe you have a teenager who’s giving you a fit with her rebellion.  And maybe the woman standing across the counter waiting for you to dish out her supper doesn’t have a home to provide for her teenager.

Pain is pain.  And we’re all going to feel it on this earth.  But we do have the ability to lessen its hold with our thoughts and actions, to prevent it from swallowing us whole, to find ways to swim through it until we get to the other side.

There’s always the other side.