We are adults and can handle ourselves. We focus on the positive and choose to put our energy into what works, what we are good at, the light at the end of the tunnel.
And yet. And yet. Yet there are times when everyone (bar perhaps the most enlightened spiritual monk) goes through heartbreak, mourning, or otherwise challenging periods in life. Sometimes the hardest times are those when only minor things are off, so we feel silly spending a lot of time on it because “there are so much bigger problems in this world”. Then these little hurts are allowed to fester, untended, and can seriously undermine us.
Step one: Recognise what’s going on
Our reactions to hard times are as varied as our personalities: Some of us power through pretending all’s well, some withdraw, some pour their hearts out to friends. Some go off their food and others binge. Some go on shopping sprees, and some do several or all of the above.
The important thing is to learn how to recognise your warning signs and acknowledge to yourself that you’re not well. I spent the best part of six years in a state of mild depression, completely oblivious to it. When I began slipping again recently, I was much faster to catch on and managed to turn it around in just two months. It really is vital to know your pattern so you can react to it accordingly.
In the following, I’ll give you some techniques to help you get through a “dark night of the soul”.
A First-Aid Kit for hard times
1. Like I said above, you need to learn to recognise your warning signs. I just wrote an article on my personal blog about my own red flags; it was important for me to put this down in writing, so I can refer back to it if I’m ever in danger of slipping again. It goes without saying that this requires a lot of self knowledge, but if you are reading this newsletter, I think it’s fair to assume that you practise personal development and know the importance of studying and working on yourself.
2. Know that you don’t always have to “deal with” everything. When a relationship breaks up or someone close to you dies, there’s no recipe to “get over it” quickly. Emotional hurt is as real as a physical injury, and just like a bleeding wound, there are things you can do to ease the healing, but it’ll still take some time in any case. ALLOW yourself the time to be sad, to mourn, to feel awful. You’re not failing at positivity; you are simply experiencing life as a human being.
3. Allowing yourself the time also means taking precautions in the outside world. Many of us feel it wouldn’t be justified to take time off work because there’s “nothing wrong” in the sense of an illness. I say, take your emotions as seriously as your body and make space in your life. Listen closely to your needs: Work, or socialising with friends, can be a balm, but they can also be a way of trying to bury what’s going on, and that never works in the long run. Again it comes down to knowing yourself and recognising your true needs.
4. Reach out to others. Any true friend will be happy to lend an ear or a shoulder when you’re down in the dumps. A “wallowing” session can do you a world of good, being held while you’re crying is an almost miraculous medicine sometimes. Make use of your support system, but at the same time be aware of what is happening. The goal is not to make a habit of complaining or always sharing negativity.
Deal with things as they happen; if you are in the middle of a longer process (such as mourning a deceased loved one), let your friends know that this will likely take a while and allow them to take as much or as little of it as they choose. Continue reaching out, but don’t forget to also do this at times when you feel better – and these always occur in longer coping processes – so your friends will see you smiling, too.
I hope this list will help the next time you are in a bad place in your life! It might be a good idea to save this article for future reference. Above all, cut yourself some slack. Nobody has perfected dealing with hard times. It’s why they are HARD times. Self-Love and Care will get you through.
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