Sometimes life is so hard, how do we navigate through the difficult times?
I think that often in our first world lives, we feel like life should be easy and things should always be good. Then when struggles come, we think we have done something wrong. But that is the nature of life. There will be death, there will be sickness. Financial challenges will pop up. Struggles will come our way. The last few months have been like that for us – mentally, emotionally and physically hard. I think that is true for a lot of people these days. We don’t often talk about how to navigate through the hard times, much less teach our teens what to do when they encounter struggles. As a result, a lot of us are woefully unprepared. I have spent a lot of time in recent months thinking about what’s important and how can we best navigate these difficult times. Here are some things that have helped me:
Prepare as best you can
Realize that these challenges will happen. Think about different scenarios and what you can do to make the hard times easier for you and your loved ones. Are you taking care of your one body so it can better handle stress? Are you living on a budget and working towards paying off all your consumer debt? Can you beef up your emergency fund so financial challenges won’t be as hard? Do you have life insurance for the parents in your house so that if something should happen the family can have one less thing to worry about?
I think many people are afraid to consider their own mortality. They think that by talking about death, it will somehow come sooner. Don’t let that irrational fear keep you from making sure your family is taken care of.
Surround yourself with a good support system
We are made for relationships. It is easy to push them to the back burner, but when difficult times come these are the people that are going to be there for you. Make sure that your friends and family are a priority now. Block out time in your calendar regularly to spend with them. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. It can be regular family dinner time or potluck nights with your friends.
We often think that we are so important to our jobs and our careers, but the truth is that if something were to happen to us, the company would find a replacement. To our family and friends, however, we are irreplaceable. Make sure to invest time in those relationships.
Focus on what you can control
It’s easy to get all in our heads and think about all the “What if’s” and things that you really can’t control. That is not helpful though. But there are always some things that you can control. Find those things and start acting on them. Because action will lessen the fear and the worry. Can you make sure you are staying hydrated? Can you go for a walk or do some other exercise? Can you plan some meal or activity? Can you call a friend to come hang out? If you are sick or worn out, can you prioritize just letting your body rest?
Lean into God
I am a God girl, so for me, my faith is an important part of my life. It has truly been an anchor for me during some difficult storms. I believe that God loves me and though I may not understand everything, I trust that all things are going to work out for my good. That doesn’t mean my life is perfect, but it does mean I don’t have to know all the answers.
When we are going through hard times sometimes we want to withdraw from God and people. It’s okay to be mad at God. It’s okay to have feelings. You can tell Him how you are feeling. He already knows anyway. Going through the deep valleys of life can be so hard. It feels like you are drowning in the pain. In the case of loss of a loved one, you want relief from the pain and yet sometimes you are afraid of the pain going away because you fear forgetting your loved one. Friend, that’s not how it works. You will never forget, but the memories will become less painful and sweeter with time. Be patient with yourself and give yourself grace.
Know that difficult times won’t last forever
I have gone through some incredibly tough circumstances in my past, and at the time they seemed overwhelming and hard. Looking back years later, I can see so much good that came out of those struggles and how they shaped me into the person that I am now. But if someone had told me that when I was in the midst of the struggle, I would have probably wanted to punch them in the face. So tread gently with yourself and others in those situations. Be patient and give yourself permission to grieve the losses. Then allow yourself to hope and know that the sun will shine again.
You may be struggling, but that doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong.