What To Do When Life Gets Hard
At one point or another, we have all asked the universal question: why is life so hard? Certainly, none of us make it through life without facing a unique set of challenges and struggles — and while there are certainly peaks and high points in every life, the lows can still be crushing.
If you’re currently experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression because of what you’re going through, you might be struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And without the right tools, you might allow yourself to slip into bad habits and behaviors that make an already difficult time even harder. We don’t want that for you and you clearly don’t want that for yourself either.
That’s why we have a series of tips and tools to help you for when life gets hard. No matter what you’re dealing with, these six strategies can help pull you out of a difficult time and recontextualize what you’re going through in order to make the world a little bit brighter.
What to do when life gets hard
1. Collect evidence of others being kind and loving
One of the best ways to help you deal with a difficult time in life is to collect evidence of others showing you kindness and love. This is especially helpful if you’re engaging in a lot of negative self-talk or self-defeating behaviors. You might tell yourself that you’re weak, sad, pathetic or worthless, but collecting words of kindness from your closest loved ones — or even strangers! — is a great way of breaking out of those negative thought cycles.
Recognizing all the ways in which others have been loving to you is also a great way to cheer you up during a hard time. You might be going through an especially difficult breakup or experiencing a rough few months at work, but knowing others still care about you can do wonders for your mental health during those times.
Evidence of others being kind can also help you fight back against black and white thinking. Instead of seeing the world as all good or all bad, recognizing how others have been good to you proves that the world isn’t an “evil” place. Having an optimistic view of the world is essential for getting past hard times, and makes you more emotionally resilient for when difficult times come back.
2. Behave in ways that align with your values
When are we at our best? When we’re behaving in ways that align with our values. When we don’t, we feel “off,” sad and anxious. Why? Because going against what’s important to us makes us feel “out of sync” with ourselves, and that sense of disillusionment pervades our thoughts and beliefs. By contrast, choosing to live up to your values will make you proud of yourself, even if it’s hard to commit to at first.
What does behaving in ways that help you align with your values look like in practice? For some people, that might mean choosing not to resort to drinking, smoking or other substances — even when the world seems very dark. For others, it might mean choosing to end a relationship that’s become toxic. And still for others it might mean being there for friends who are also going through hard times.
Whatever your unique circumstances are, you can learn to live up to your values in a few easy steps. The first step is to write out what’s most important to you — your morals, beliefs and core principles — in a journal. Then, try writing down what kinds of actions will help you reinforce those beliefs and principles.
3. Allow your pain to increase your clarity of what you want
Pain is a difficult part of life, but it isn’t purely a bad thing. In fact, suffering is actually helpful in some ways — much like physical pain, it tells us that there’s something wrong going on. By listening to our pain and trying to understand it, we can gain greater clarity about what might go right for us down the road.
What’s making the world dark for you right now? Is it your job? Your relationships? The news? Whatever’s going poorly right now, that means that somewhere out there, there’s something right for you, too. Suffering highlights what’s wrong in our lives and shows us that the opposite of what we’re currently experiencing is what’s actually right for us.
If your job is making you miserable because you hate the fast-paced, corporate environment you’re in, then it’s worth considering a more laidback working style. Conversely, if you hate how boring and uninspired your job is right now, maybe a position that’s more challenging and engaging is exactly what you need.
Try applying this to your personal life now. Think about what things would look like if you were experiencing the opposite of what you’re dealing with right now. Would that kind of life make you happy? If so, putting in the work now to live the kind of life you’ve always wanted will make your outlook much brighter.
4. Know that it’s not all or nothing
We’ve already discussed black and white thinking in this article, but it’s worth reiterating that life is not an “all or nothing” experience. Despite this, most of us think about our situations in very black and white ways.
Think about it: when we graduate college, most of us decide that our degree defines our career. Or, when we get married, we make the conscious decision that our partner is our partner forever — regardless of their actions. These are good examples of how people very quickly lock themselves into a singular state of mind, even though life is an endless road of possibilities.
How do you break free from this kind of thinking? Here’s one example: if you like your job, but it’s also extremely stressful, you don’t have to take the nuclear option and quit right away. Instead, there’s probably a way you can lessen your workload and responsibilities so that you can keep your job while also making your day-to-day experience more manageable.
The same goes for other major decisions in life. If you’ve had children, you might’ve given up on your creative aspirations, because you’ve branded yourself as a parent first — and a person second. But it doesn’t have to be that way! If you think about it, there’s many ways to still engage in fulfilling creative pursuits while also raising children.
Carving out an hour of child-free time each night, finding a daycare to watch your children at key times, or negotiating caretaking responsibilities with your spouse to free up your schedule are all ways to continue doing what you love while also raising those you love.
These are just hypothetical situations, but the principle is sound: learning how to live with fewer black and white thoughts can open up a world of possibilities that will make your life seem far more limitless.
5. Choose what you do want, instead of what you don’t
In keeping with the concept of contrast we discussed earlier, it pays to invest in what you do want going forward, instead of what you don’t. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t explicitly chase after what they want.
Instead of verbalizing what they want their future to look like and laying the groundwork to create that future, many people get caught up in loops of disappointment and frustration that ultimately lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and desperation.
Next time you’re in a hard place, consider what you’d like your life to look like a year from now. Visualize it, and then visualize the steps needed to get you there. Use that visualization as a roadmap for improving your life slowly but surely — and, once a year has passed, you can check back in and see how much you’ve grown.
6. Work with a coach who can make life less hard
It takes more than a blog to get through hard times. In fact, most often, moving past difficult experiences requires a village of support, advice and reassurance. That’s what we’re here for: to provide coaching for people dealing with difficult situations who are looking to make meaningful changes in their lives.
If you’re a hardworking and ambitious person who has fallen on hard times, we’d love to get to know more about you, your life and your unique struggles. That’s why booking a call with us is, in many ways, the first step toward turning an otherwise dark time in your life into a path toward potential opportunities down the road.
We’d love for you to get in touch with us. Regardless of whether you do or not, you should know that we’re rooting for you — things are going to look up, and someday you’ll be able to look back on this hard point in your life with perspective and pride.