How to Stay Positive During Difficult Times
Has your life recently taken an unexpected turn for the worst? Don’t worry. I’m unfortunately in the same boat. This past month hasn’t been super great for me. I won’t go into specific details about each and every negative event, because even though I like attention (hey, I didn’t start this site out of modesty), I still don’t like airing dirty laundry on the internet. But it’s been rough, ya’ll.
As you know, I started a Lifestyle Column on this website approximately a year ago. Although this is a travel blog, I’m still a regular ol’ person who deals with insecurities and life surprises just like everyone else. And I like helping you with “normal” problems as well as planning amazing trips.
Now full disclaimer. I’m not an expert on how to stay positive during difficult times. I actually turn into a bit of a brat when things don’t go as planned. However, as I was commuting to work, inspiration struck me. Writing down my thoughts and goals, as well as helping others who might be struggling too, is therapeutic for me. So here we are. Let’s kick life in the teeth.
I Don’t Know What to Do When Life Gets Hard.
Welcome to the club. Neither do I. I mean, logically I know the steps to take for how to stay positive during difficult times, but let’s not kid ourselves either. Implementing practical changes when life throws upper cuts at your face isn’t easy to do. In fact, empowerment feels impossible.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but don’t you feel as if negative events always happen in quick succession? I’m not sure if I believe in the Law of Attraction or not. Still, regardless of skepticism, I wonder if I behave in such a way that attracts this crap into my life. Tell me I’m not alone, haha.
My point is that it’s understandable not to know what to do when life gets hard. Making a move toward change is scary. After all, what if things get worse? Shudder.
However, don’t let your life cripple you to the point of inaction. Maybe its your fault you’re stuck in this lousy position, or perhaps you’re experiencing a streak of bad luck. Doesn’t matter. The worst possible path is doing nothing or staying in a dark place too long.
Why is Life so Hard?
Uh. Because it … just is? I don’t have any answers here either. I’m not a philosopher.
However, despite not understanding why hardships happen, you can’t fall into a trap about how “unfair” your life is and that things will “never ever get better.” Again, this mindset will transform you into a bitter shell of your former self.
Quite frankly, disasters happen to everyone. Misfortune doesn’t care how rich you are, how beautiful you are, how kind you are, or any other arbitrary traits. You can’t avoid it. And yes, it’s massively unfair.
I’ll give you an example of just how much life can suck. Over the weekend, the travel blogging community suffered a tragic blow when Rachel, author of the well-known Hippie in Heels blog, suddenly passed away at her bachelorette party. She was only 29. Like many others, I enjoyed Rachel’s blog and was crushed to hear the sad news. I can’t even begin to fathom the pain her loved ones feel right now.
At the end of the day, you’re not able to control everything that happens to you. But you can still use your personal power to control your reactions.
How to Stay Positive During Difficult Times.
Alright, warriors, now it’s time for practical changes to make when hardships rear their ugly heads.
First and foremost, I wanna say it’s okay to embrace your tears and screams when you’re on the receiving end of setbacks. Only sociopaths don’t care when a relative dies or a friendship ends. As a society, we’ve somehow determined that the “person who cares the least always wins.” And you know what? I think it’s complete and utter garbage that’s created an emotionally stunted and scared population that’s completely out of touch with humanity. Not caring about anything doesn’t make you cool. It makes you an asshole (excuse my language, mom). You have every right to feel betrayed, scared, pissed off, whatever – especially in dark times.
In short, ignoring those tough emotions isn’t healthy. They’ll manifest themselves in other ways anyway.
However, even though I’m all for raging at life’s unfairness, you don’t want to destroy yourself either. A lot of good springs from the bad by letting go and loving yourself. Let’s break everything down.
1. Listen to Empowering Podcasts.
I’m pretty hooked on podcasts, you guys. Especially true crime podcasts. Although I wouldn’t recommend listening to stories about serial killers and unsolved disappearances if you want to brighten your mood. Luckily, you can discover tons of motivational and personal development podcasts online for free.
One of my favorite podcasts is The School of Greatness, which is hosted by Lewis Howes. Every week, Lewis invites a new athlete, celebrity, entrepreneur, intellectual, or author onto his shows and interviews him/her. I’m learning a lot of great life lessons by listening to this podcast once a day. Sure, some of it is a little “self-helpy,” but it still makes me feel better.
By listening to others overcoming hardships and achieving their dreams, you will feel more confident addressing your own problems and cultivating a more peaceful existence.
2. Nourish Your Body, Mind, and Soul.
When you’re not sure how to solve life problems, stress takes its toll on every single part of you. Cherishing your body, mind, and soul is essential to developing a stronger sense of self-love.
Focus on taking care of yourself when you’re not sure what to do when life gets hard. For instance, aim to sleep for eight hours every night. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. You want to soothe your mind too. A great way to do that is to exercise. For example, take up kickboxing if you’re angry. It works, haha.
Furthermore, don’t feel as if your personal situation isn’t worthy of compassion. Telling yourself “it’s not that bad” is another form of denial, which will bite you in the butt. Instead find counseling if you need it. Having a warm and protective space in therapy, for example, will prevent your thoughts from spiraling out of control. Your mind is just as important as your body. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to friends and family.
As for taking care of your soul, do whatever you think will make you feel best. Find support at a volunteer group, club, or church. Try meditation.
3. Discover a New Hobby or Cultivate Old Ones.
Bringing a new hobby into your life works wonders on your self-esteem. Have you always wanted to try hiking? Then do it! Want to join a local writing group? Do it! The world is your oyster. Developing new skills is never a waste of time. Investing in new hobbies brings positive energy into your life, and creates opportunities to make new friends with similar interests.
Don’t forget to nourish your old hobbies either! For instance, I used to love to bake, and I found a lot of great recipes on pinterest to try. It’ll spoil my diet, but whatever, cupcakes taste awesome. Worth it.
4. Remember that People Love You.
Honestly, there’s at least one person in the world who loves you. Don’t take their affection for granted. Call that person. You’ll always feel better.
This love will show up at the most random moments, too. I’ll give an example. This week, during one of my afternoon classes, I was visibly sad and exhausted, even though I was trying my hardest to smile and carry on doing “business as usual.” Immediately, one of my students left, went upstairs to the softball coach’s room, and bought me three bars of chocolate. Healthy? Not really. Appreciated? Very, very much.
People. Love. You. I promise.
And, you know what, if you’re really struggling and can’t think of a soul to talk to, then email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll listen.
5. Read New Books or Re-Visit Old Favorites.
You learn a lot from books. I know I’m stating the obvious, but reading enriches your life so much. Go to goodreads.com and find some new books to devour. Their lists are fabulous. Remember that reading is never a waste of time. Check these books on building self-confidence if you need a place to start on your empowerment journey.
Recently, I took 17 e-books out of the library to keep my mind sharp and focused. I can’t wait!
And if you can’t think of a new book to read, then pick up an old favorite and relax on your sofa. Reading an old book is like going back home. It’s wonderful, and will help you temporarily forget your struggles.
6. Don’t Lash Out in Anger, Embrace Bad Habits, or Burn Bridges.
Time to make a confession. It’s remarkably challenging for me to express anger in a healthy way. I don’t always show my aggravation, actually I’m great at compartmentalizing my emotions, but, oh man, my temperamental side is relentless. I cling to grudges like they’re the finest chocolates. My advice? Don’t be me. Anger is toxic and horrible. I’m doing my best to change for the better.
So, when life is not what it seems, try not to resort to temper tantrums, revenge tactics, jealousy-fueled conversations, and bad habits. Running up a credit card bill at Saks Fifth Avenue or drinking enough beer to run a small craft brewery only numbs you to reality. Bad habits will prevent true healing and happiness.
Furthermore, burning bridges to an ashy wasteland isn’t worth your energy either. Believe me, I understand the temptation. Awful people exist in the world. So do careless people. None of us come out of this game without scars. Lashing at your “enemies” (god, I sound like Cersei Lannister) provides a tempting outlet for your pain. Try to resist it. Even if someone’s hurt you or broken your heart into a million pieces, forgive him or her and then leave it alone. I know forgiveness is hard. I know, I know, I know. But you’re much better off letting go and moving on. Forgiveness is the greatest gift to give yourself. In fact, one of my major goals is to forgive everyone in my past and present. I hope you’ll join me.
7. Practice Gratitude.
Honestly, no matter how bad your life is, try to practice gratitude on a regular basis. You’ll feel more at ease. Write down at least one thing you’re thankful for every single day.
By traveling, I’ve learned to be grateful for the basic things I have in my own life. For example, I can walk a few feet and enjoy a hot shower whenever I want even in the middle of winter. A lot of people in the world would kill for that same luxury. Now I’m not saying to diminish your struggles, but try to remain aware of the positivity still in your life. I promise happiness still exists even if it doesn’t feel like it does.
8. Accept You’re Not Perfect, but Doing Your Best.
This is my final bit of advice for how to stay positive during difficult times, but I think it’s important. No one’s perfect. I’m not. You’re not. Thinking “I’m a loser” one minute and then “Pfft, I’m amazing!” the next minute will give you the emotional equivalent of whiplash after a fender bender.
Simply acknowledge your flaws. Then accept that you’re doing your best in spite of any personal shortcomings. Finding peace with yourself isn’t easy. But I believe it’s possible.
The Big Question: Do Hardships in Life Make You Stronger?
Honestly, I think it’s condescending to claim that hardships in life make you stronger. I’m 99% sure all of us would swap an easy existence with zero pain if the alternative was the destruction of our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves. But we don’t have power over a lot of what happens to us. So we need to deal with it.
However, even if I roll my eyes at the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” I will say my greatest accomplishments have come on the heels of suffering and uncertainty. For example, I began this blog after I was laid off from my first teaching job. Without that loss, I never would have attended travel conferences all over the world, gone on press trips in Sweden, or met some of the greatest friends I have ever known.
I also recently listened to a School of Greatness episode where Lewis Howes interviews Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank. Two traits she looks for in potential investments are exceptional salesmanship skills and past pain or struggles, which are manifested in such a way that the person has something to prove at all costs. If you’re still not sure how to stay positive during difficult times, then use your darkness to fuel a remarkable comeback. Transform your pain into power. You have the ability. I know I do.
I hope my post helped to remind you how to stay positive during difficult times. Most importantly, remember the bad moments never last forever. You got this. What advice would you add to this post? As always, thanks so much for supporting my blog throughout the years! You guys are incredible! xo