My life recently has felt out of control. Sometimes, things just throw me for a loop. A curve ball comes from nowhere, life gets very difficult, and I don’t know what to do. Sometimes life throws us difficult situations and we feel helpless, or even hopeless. A dear friend or family member dies, a child chooses to go in the wrong direction in life, chronic illness seems to debilitate no matter what one does, or one looses a job. Life can become unmanageable, and decision-making becomes almost impossible. “What do I do now?” is a common question that runs through my mind. I feel helpless to do anything. So how do we cope with times like these? I will give you a list of things that I do in desperate times. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it does make life much more manageable.
- Let Go. The first thing I must do is give my pain and the situation over to God. If I know I am unable to do anything about the situation, worrying about it (despite my talent for worrying!) does nothing for me except rob me of my sleep, and quality of life. I must continually, sometimes minute by minute, ask God to take control of the situation and allow me peace. Unfortunately, I am continually tempted to pick up the illusion of control and continue to obsess about it, but once I become aware of this, I again give it to God.
- Take Care Of Myself. I have a list of things to do for myself that helps me through difficult times. Some of them include, taking a long hot shower, doing my nails, playing with my dog, buying myself chai, and watching a movie. I know many may think, “I don’t have time for that especially during stressful times!” I promise you this: when you flip all the time you take to obsess about an issue into self care, you will be surprised at how much self care you can accomplish. Taking care of yourself, like eating healthy and exercising more during hard times, can truly make those hard times much more manageable. The less you feel like taking care of yourself, the more it needs to happen.
- Journal. Journaling about obsessive thoughts and situations that are out of my control helps so much. Studies show that, when you are feeling anxious about anything, journaling reduces the anxiety significantly. The idea behind this is that, when I am obsessing about something, I can become lost very quickly in my own mind, going from one thing to the next until I believe this will be the end of my life as I know it (known as catastrophizing). When I am able to put my thoughts down on paper, I am less likely to catastrophize and also much more able to think rationally about the situation.
- Call Friends. This one is vital. I am always calling friends who I am able to trust about what is going on in my life and when my life seems to have snowballed out of control. They are able to be with me through the craziness and, most times, they are able to give me helpful feedback on what to do or why I am not thinking about the situation rationally. The outside perspective helps me feel part of a community, and less alone. It can also keep me focused on what is right.
- Take One Day At A Time. All too often, I think, “Well because of this thing that happened, my life will look like this in a year, five years, or ten years and that’s AWFUL!” I jump to conclusions about what the future will hold and I become gripped with sorrow, pain, and fear. In reality, I do not know any time where those awful things actually came true. I need to stay in the present, and only think about today. Today the situation brings sorrow, and I will mourn. I can handle that. My imagination tells me that tomorrow holds all kinds of gruesome horrors. I can’t handle that. In truth, tomorrow may bring more sorrow, it may bring more pain, but it also may bring healing and new opportunities. Either way, “Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
One thing I do know, when life gets hard, it is not the end. It may not seem like the pain will ever ease. But when I take one day, even one hour at a time, I notice that, one day, there is a minute I forget about the pain. Then one day there were several minutes of happiness despite the circumstances. Those minutes turn into hours, which eventually turn into days. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen with time. It takes intentionality, and persistence to move through these times, not move past them.
Comment time! Let me know what you think! Are there ways you cope with difficult times? I would love to hear about it.