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Caring for Yourself During Challenging Times

We all have experienced rough days and bad times in our lives. The reality is that happiness and sadness are momentary feelings, good and bad experiences, and its external events are responsive to our feelings. These things are more about what value we have placed on the situation than what may be happening at the time. We’ve experienced loss, anger, love, etc. and all that background is what makes a person, who and what they are.

Understanding what is happening and why it is happening can sometimes be the last thing that we will experience in any given situation. For this reason, learning to cope with bad feelings and challenging circumstances becomes just as important as staying present and grateful, when we are blessed and full of enjoyment. Both joy and pain are close relatives in everyone’s lives. We only genuinely understanding and appreciate both joy and pain, when we are allowed ourselves the opportunity to experience them fully.

While sometimes one will appear to last longer than the other, joy and pain are vital to the human experience, and when we can sit with them, learn from them, and appreciate their purpose in our lives. Growth will bud from us, like a flower blooming in Spring. I want to suggest a few things to remember, as you journey through these rough times and challenging situations:

Acknowledge and feel your feelings.

You should always speak truth to power, acknowledge “All” feelings, the one you think are positive, and the ones that may feel negative—learning to explore them with your whole body, mind, and spirit, because they are often ques in life. They come to help you navigate your experiences and remember that you are alive and connected to the world around you.

Avoiding negative emotions may feel like an effective stopgap measure, but in fact, it merely postpones, and perhaps escalates and exacerbates, a flood of negative emotions that will sometime show up in the future, at the most inopportune time and most times have nothing to do with what is happening at the moment. Clinical psychologist Christina Hibbert, Psy.D, developed a method called TEARS – “Talking, Exercising, Artistic expression, Recording or writing experiences, and Sobbing” – to help individuals cope with their emotions, particularly with grief or sadness.

Talk About It.

In times like these, a listening ear is always needed, but the right listening ear is most important. We have to find someone who will listen and not judge what we are saying. Unconditional and nonjudgmental support is always good when you are experiencing challenging times. Sometimes all we need is someone willing to just listen to us. I suggested spending less time – or no time – with toxic people. These are individuals who are not supportive or reliable and don’t have your best interest at heart. They don’t listen to you, and might even be critical, judgmental, or demanding. After being with them, you feel drained and depleted. In other words, they make you feel worse. Most times, we do not talk to anyone, and that can be more harmful to us in the long run. When people bottle up challenging situations, the problems grow and mutate into horrible worries and anxieties.

Practice Acceptance

Most times, when facing challenging times, the first thing we do is try to “fix it.” We start to work in overdrive until the situation is resolved or gone. But, sometimes we have to rethink our approach, instead of putting all our energy toward fixing it, “letting go” can be just as important. “Letting go of that which you cannot control,” because we will never be able to control everything we experience. To start, make a list of everything you don’t have control over. These are the things you can stop worrying about practicing “Radical Acceptance” is a good place to start.

Radical Acceptance is a transformative skill we teach in psychotherapeutic groups called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Any kind of therapy is usually focused on “change.” This is typically the reason you come to therapy, to get help with “change.” But sometimes there are things in life we can’t change, or can’t immediately change; sometimes we need to accept what feels unacceptable to lessen our suffering and figure out how to move forward. During a moment of meditation or prayer, visualize yourself handing those things over to your higher power and letting them go, and focusing on what you can control; like your self-care, your words, your actions, and your decisions can help change your expereince for the better.

Figure Out Who You Are

Most of us do not know who we are; as children, we grew up believing who people say we are, but is that really who you think you are? I think the beauty of challenging times are that they allows us the opportunity to make some real decisions about who we are and how we want to show up in the world. Asking the simple question, “ Who am I”? What drives me ? How am I showing up at home, work, etc?

Knowing what drives you, what terrifies you, why you do the things you do, and knowing how others might perceive you is important. Self-awareness can be somewhat paradoxically and in short supply these days. How aware are you of yourself and how you show up in the world? Self-delusion, on the other hand, is what we see most today, especially in social media. But there’s no way to change your life if you don’t know what you’re changing about yourself in the first place.

Focus on Fewer Things and Master Them.

In today, society, everyone is doing everything; the drive is for “more.” Our culture of making more, buying more, doing more, be more, can create an insatiable hole in our minds, bodies, and spirits. Leaving us feeling less feed, more overwhelmed, and insensitive to sharing or caring for ourselves and others.

One of the consequences of living in a time with seemingly endless opportunities is that you have to choose which opportunities to pursue (everything has a cost). My mother uses to tell me, “ Baby, I hate to break it to you, but you just can not have it all, at least not at the same time.” I have learned that in life, for the vast, vast majority of things you do, you will simply be average at them. And, that is okay; you don’t have to be a superstar at everything you do to have a meaningful life.

Less can be better at times, instead of doing a lot of things okay, try doing one or two things well. One of my good friends, Dr. Eric Turner, Ph.D., said: “ Your rewards in life are decided by the kind of problems you are willing to solve for others.” Learning that it is not always in the quantity of what you are doing, but it is more about the quality of what you are doing that really matters.

Self Care Matter

We are often taught that caring for others should be our first priority, but caring and loving your self must become your top priority. If you are going to survive tough times and challenging situations. It’s so important to make sure you take good care of your body, mind, and spirit every day, not just when you get sick. Learning how to eat right, reduce stress, exercise regularly, and take a time-out when you need it are essential principles of self-care and can help you reduce stress, stay healthy, and be resilient.

Always remembering that the one person you will never get away from is yourself and at the end of this journey, we call life, everyone may leave you, but the one person who you will always have ,is yourself. How you treat, love and care for you will be part of our legacy that you leave to others on your journey. Like all storms, challenging times come to pass, so know this too shall pass.

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