Tough times can bring you to your knees. They can also raise you to new heights.
You can be stressed to the max on a bad day, yet, as long as life seems manageable, you don’t usually look for new strategies to get through it. The tendency is to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, grit your teeth and keep on going. During prolonged or sudden tough times, though, normal defense mechanisms are not enough to keep you from feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed.
It’s when events feel overwhelmingly beyond your control, that you either find new ways to cope or are pulled down by the undertow. Your usual defenses are inadequate to protect from overwhelming long-term stress. Stress can build gradually beyond tolerance level, or a surprising turn of events like those recently reported in the news can create the kind of vulnerability that demands openness to change.
The soft inner core of your being feels exposed. This exposure opens a crack in the old armor through which an opportunity for renewed life can shine.
Here are six tips that can help you thrive in tough times.
Nourish Yourself – Let go of the bootstraps for a few moments, acknowledge your stress and be kind to yourself. What nourishes you — inspirational reading, music, a cup of tea …? Are there people or places, a favorite chair or spot in nature that provide sustenance? Make nurturing yourself every day a priority.
Stay Present – Don’t project ahead. Take life one day, one moment at a time. Tough times are more manageable when you pay attention to making decisions and taking action on only the next step. Fearful preoccupation or worries about dire imagined future possibilities can leave you open to illness, accidents and errors in judgment that compound your problems. Scale down, simplify your activities and concentrate your precious energy supply on only what is critically important right now.
Accept Support – This can be difficult for people who prize self-sufficiency. Remember it is as virtuous to receive, as it is to give. Without the receiver, the giver has no way to share their abundant gifts. Don’t deprive your friends and family of the pleasure to help you when you need it. Shared burdens provide opportunities for enhanced closeness and appreciation for one another.
Trust Your Resilience - Chances are you have been through tough times before. What natural strengths did you rely upon in those situations? How did you make it through adolescence, childbirth, marriage, divorce, school, first job? What are your natural inner resources? Trust that you have what you need to see this tough time through.
Visualize Success – See yourself moving into a new chapter of life. How do you want to write that chapter? Creation begins in the imagination. If you can think it, you can create it. In order to be free to dream and hope for something new, you must let go of old visions, descriptions and limitations of the person you think you are or can become.
Forgive Past Errors – Forgive past hurts, and people who may have inflicted them, knowingly or unknowingly. This is not out of kindness to them, rather out of kindness to you. After all, you are the one carrying the burden of these hurts. Forgive yourself for mistakes or paths not taken. Release the burden of the past so you can travel lighter in the present.
In times of crisis and radical change, remember that living means growing. I have never seen anything in nature grow backward. So, as bad as you feel, and as much as you doubt it, if you are alive you are growing.
Growth is creative. So, take advantage of the opportunity in these tough times to re-create your life by nourishing yourself, staying present, accepting support, trusting your resilience, visioning possibilities and letting go of the past and perceived limitations.
Even though tough times are hard, they can also be the best times to explore ways to live more harmoniously with yourself and others.
© 2009 Aila Accad
Aila Accad, RN, MSN ‘Your Stress-Busters Coach’ is an award-winning speaker, author and certified life coach. Learn more and contact her for speaking and coaching at: www.ailaspeaks.com . New book release “34 Instant Stress-Busters, Quick tips to de-stress fast with no extra time or money” coming July 21.