Mindset for a Rough Time

There are times for everybody when life just doesn’t seem fair. Sometimes, we go through long periods of pain, agony, and sadness, and these periods can last for weeks, months, or even years. During times like these, you might feel like you’re trapped in this state, with no way of getting out. 

Often, you have little or no control over what is upsetting you. But even so, there are steps you can take to manage your emotional response to unmanageable external circumstances. Managing your mindset during these times is the most important thing you can do for yourself. While you can’t control your feelings, you can control your thoughts about those feelings. It isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but if you put true effort into altering your mindset, you will be so much happier in the long run. 

Horrible times happen for everyone. Pain is a part of life, no matter if you’re rich or poor, old or young. You are not the first one to experience what you are going through. In fact, there will always be someone who went through the same thing or something even worse and still survived--even came out on top. You may feel that even friends who went through a similar experience  don’t “get it.” You may feel as if the experience is more intense, or worse, or different. Hate to break it to you, but it’s not true. You’re just more aware of your own problems and consider them to be more intense--and more serious--because they’re yours.You’re not as aware of other people’s problems, so it may seem as though they are better off than you. But no matter how terrible you are feeling, other people have felt what you’re feeling, too. Observe your situation as if you’re an outsider. Pretend that your friend is in the situation you are in. Imagine how you would view it and what advice you would give them. Try to view yourself from an outside perspective, and pretend it’s just as easy for you to take your advice as you think it should be for your friends. 

Nothing is forever. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is not always easy during a rough time. It’s likely you won’t get much comfort in saying “I won’t care about this problem in 10 years,” because you are so focused on your present situation. But whatever you are going through and the horrible feelings you feel will end and you most likely won’t even remember the details of this tough time in 10 years. Regardless of whether something is good or bad, it doesn’t last forever. Whether it’s weeks, months, or years, there will be a time in the future when you will wake up and this problem will not matter to you anymore. Life is a journey of ups and downs. When you’re in a low, you have to know there will be a time in your future when you will feel extremely happy and content in life. And at times when you feel extremely happy and content in life, enjoy it, because it won’t be that great forever. Change is the only constant. If you’re miserable for a year, it feels like such a long time because you’re focused on the present, but in 20 years you will look back on the experience and realize it really wasn’t that long. When you feel so stuck in a moment because you’re focused on the present, look at it through a different light and focus instead on the future. 

Acknowledge and feel your feelings. Whatever your problem is most likely isn’t going to change in the short run. Even if there’s a possibility of change, you should still treat the situation as if this is how it is. You’re going to feel what you feel no matter what, but you can be in control of your thoughts about your feelings by acknowledging the reality of them. Sometimes it’s hard to trust the process and to surrender to how you feel. It’s hard to allow yourself to accept your feelings and to accept that you are in control of your thoughts. By avoiding negative thoughts, you are just postponing the suffering, and it will cause a flood of negative emotion when it eventually does hit--and it will...Don’t try to rationalize your feelings or judge yourself for feeling that way. Accept your emotions as a natural component of your lifetime. 

Don’t compare your past feelings to your present feelings. Your feelings are going to change from day to day, even from hour to hour. You could feel totally fine one moment and then find yourself feeling miserable and hopeless. Feelings change, and just because you have one bad day does not mean you haven’t progressed or that you are back at step one. If there’s a time when you feel just as bad as you did a year ago, know that you aren’t in the same place as you were back then, because you have learned so much since then. Also, it is likely that you are misperceiving how you felt last year compared to that moment.

Know that you are learning. While it might be hard to recognize, during a hard time, you are growing and learning more about yourself and others and the world in general. I don’t believe in the saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ because I do not believe that situations get easier just because you go through them. However, I do believe that every tough situation teaches you about how to handle your thoughts better for the next time, which may make it feel easier to manage. We often view something going wrong in our lives as if it indicates we are steering ourselves in the wrong direction. However, every experience is a learning experience that contributes to putting us on the right path. People who have it so easy in life do not learn as many of the most important principles in life. 

Know that you are strong. While it may be hard to recognize, especially during this time, you are strong and you have the capability to bring out those parts of you. You may think you are a bad person or you may have become extremely insecure, but there are so many strengths hidden beneath the surface that you need to be aware of. It may be difficult to see and to feel but you are capable of rising above this difficult time. We all have the strength. Sometimes it is just repressed and needs to be brought out.

Take care of yourself. Prioritizing yourself during a hard time is a must. You need to do things for yourself and put the time in to care for you. Don’t be afraid to eliminate any toxic relationships from your life. Do what you want to do and what makes you feel good. A tough time offers a great opportunity to practice being independent. Take some time to relax. Meditation is great in helping to provide a calm and balanced awareness. It will help you to relieve stress and to be present and aware of what is going on. Stay healthy by exercising and preparing good meals. Writing down your feelings and reflecting is also a good way to stay in touch with yourself and your emotions. 

There are always people around to help you. Everybody has people around them who care about them, whether they know it or not, and being around those people is beneficial at this time. Even just talking to someone and verbally saying what is on your mind or what is making you upset will feel like a release. Don’t bottle up your emotions, and don’t be afraid to express them, because everybody has them, and no one is judging you for them. Don’t be afraid to cry. Talking to others is not only a release, but it also allows you to get valuable feedback from individuals who know you best, and who have likely experienced a similar amount of distress. While others can give you a change of perspective, it is important to avoid getting too dependent on them. A major part of going through a tough time is being able to handle it independently, too.

Think of all the things you have to be grateful for. It’s easy to forget how privileged we are in so many aspects when things feel so bad. But thinking about all that you have that many others in the world don’t have puts things in perspective and makes you feel lucky to have so many of the things in your life. It makes your problems seem so trivial. Things could always be worse. 

Sometimes we are so used to being in our sadness, it feels uncomfortable to let that sadness go. The hardest thing to do, even though you know it’s beneficial, is often to acknowledge an “end to the crisis”. You need to acknowledge that whatever happened happened and there is likely nothing you can do to change that. You cannot let it define your life and you need to move on. There is a reason that you are now in the difficult situation that you are in and you have to own it. Be grateful that you were given a challenge and thus the opportunity to learn from it. When you can truly acknowledge an “end to the crisis” you are allowing yourself to accept the hardest thing to accept, and to redirect your attention to learning from it and moving on. You don’t have to be a victim. It is all in your control and you always have the choice to think positively. You are only hurting yourself by being negative and wallowing in your emotions. It’s a choice.

You will go through tough times for the rest of your life. In every new hard time, things aren’t so black and white, as every time will be different and you cannot predict the feelings you are going to feel and how you’re going to handle them. However, you can take what you’ve learned in the past through other tough times and let that guide you.

I always think about the serenity prayer and I use it to guide my life. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Having this quote ingrained in me allows me to focus on the positive aspects of my life now and in the future, and it can for you too.