In 2012 a series of personal events occurred to me at the same time, which felt as if everything in my life was crashing down on me. I was suffering of a serious illness and one particular day it came to a head. Leaving work to rush into hospital and without preparation, I received surgery the very next day. This occurred three weeks before I was booked and ready to go on a one-month trip around Europe.

After my release from hospital the very next day my then boyfriend of six months informed me that his mother did not condone our relationship. We had a good relationship as far as I knew. I received this news via phone call. I broke up with him a week later and still went on my trip to Europe.

When returning to my job after my holiday, my boss demoted me to part time without a legitimate reason. I had been with the company for four years never taking any sick days. But my sudden surgery and trip (that he blessed when I booked it) most likely triggered his decision. Imagine being told that you need to go part time and that a full time person will be hired, even though you are fine to work as normal. I gave in my two week notice on the spot.

I was on a major downward spiral and I experiences heavy depression during this time. Still recovering from surgery, a broken heart, and no job, I questioned what the heck I was doing in life. It actually felt like everything I had been pursuing was wiped away and I had to start over again. In the middle of this struggle, I found it in myself to focus on an attitude of reason.

Do you know the saying everything happens for a reason? I told myself this daily and really began focusing on taking advantage of the struggle I was in. I learned a few things during this time and I hope by passing them on they will help someone else.

1. First and foremost, get off the mouse wheel

When life throws us situations that cause us to struggle, what can make it worse is our attitude towards it. Like mice go round and round on the wheel, in tough times it is important that we don’t spin ourselves out by limited thinking. Struggles come in many ways and for many reasons, which are unique to the individual. We can so easily become overwhelmed by the pressure and difficulties we are currently facing that we don’t stop and review what is going on. Getting off the wheel allows us to slow down and begin to take steps towards not allowing this struggle to consume us.

“Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation – when you’re in the darkest of darkness – that’s when your priorities are reordered.” – Phoebe Snow

2. Don’t lose sight of who you are

It is so easy to get into the victim mentality in those struggling times. Faced with despair and a lack of hope, the why me? thoughts can begin. We may neglect the very things that can possibly keep us grounded. Don’t forget to take care of yourself no matter how pointless or even draining it may feel. Which leads to the next point: health.

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” – Helen Keller

3. Take care of your health: Mind, Body, Soul

Ensuring that we are focused on our wellbeing is the foundation of rising above struggles. Synchronising the mind, body and soul can bring about strength, health and also a sense of calmness. Even though there is hardship, when we feel well grounded physically and mentally, things are not over exaggerated. Stress can be kept at a minimal as well.

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” - Buddha

4. How you respond can make a difference

As I mentioned I began focusing on the thought that everything happens for a reason. Someone told me during this time that what I am experiencing is not the end it is just the beginning. Whilst I couldn’t see how or what that would mean further down the road, I held onto that belief. For such a massive change to occur, there had to be a deeper meaning. Through invested time in prayer and focusing on my self-awareness, I began to realise that for so long I had wished for more out of life yet wasn’t going after it. I wasn’t truly happy in my job and I was very stressed out, yet I never did anything about it. My relationship was wonderful but I ignored the fact that it was immature and I outgrew it. My health was a reflection of neglecting the heavy stress I was under from work.

I took everything into consideration and turned each part into a powerful lesson. I used those circumstances to fuel my decisions and not settle for anything that wasn’t pushing me to thrive. By viewing the situations as a blessing in disguise, it assisted me towards a better life filled with freedom, health and passion. Therefore, I was able to respond strongly.

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” – Lou Holtz

5. Accept and let go, so you can heal and flow

Without acceptance, it is very hard to move on. People hurt us, we make silly mistakes, and change happens dramatically at times. Life is never fully in our control and we do not know what tomorrow brings. Accepting struggles as they are, learning from them and moving on empowers us. If we are constantly bitter at what life throws our way, we miss the opportunity to live in the moment. I believe that it is totally normal and human to cry, mourn and have a period of being sad. I cried every day for months. People told me to move on and pushed my grieving process.

I knew however that I needed to let it out in order to be free from it. Acceptance isn’t all about sucking it up and getting on with it. One healthy way to accept the struggles we face is by sitting with the uncomfortable reality and feeling it – not avoiding it. If that means sobbing like a big baby (like I did), so be it. It assisted in my ability to remain compassionate, free spirited, and not angry with anyone. Due to experiencing the feelings, bitterness was not enabled. I reached out to both my boss and ex boyfriend some time later thanking them for the wonderful things they bought to my life. I could only do this because I had accepted what happened and I had no room for anger. This helped my process of moving on.

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” – Michael J Fox

6. It is not weak to speak – Talk to someone

Don’t ever be too proud to talk to someone about your struggles and difficult times. You may feel awkward but it is one of the best actions you can do for yourself. Those who muster up the courage to speak up, do themselves and others good. To open up helps with healing, overcoming troubles and also gaining perspective. Sometimes when we keep things bottled up inside, we can overthink and create bigger problems for ourselves. Talking it out invites someone else to be a friend to you and allows you to be yourself – raw and real. Choose someone you fully trust and don’t be embarrassed. If you don’t have anyone, there are many ways you can connect with people. (Your welcome to talk to me if you need too!)

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

7. Turn your struggle into your power

Begin to look for opportunities in the current circumstance you are in. Yes, it is really hard to do this sometimes especially when your confidence has been stripped away. Putting your faith in someone again, a job or anything in a time like this can be so fearful. It is also liberating to realise that at any point in time you can stop what you are doing and start something new if you want to. For a long time I knew I was putting off what I really wanted to pursue and that is my focus on helping other people on a deeper level.

So, I took advantage of the fact that I was incredibly free to do whatever I wanted to do. I started thinking of a business. I worked another awesome job. I did a course and I went travelling. I wasn’t attached to any of those things because I knew that I could never settle again like I did before. Almost two years later I can now say that I am starting to make sense of what I want to do and where I want to go. I feel purpose within my heart and I can help others through difficult times. I now recognize more than I did before when I need to move out of my comfort zone, before it blows up in my face again. That is a powerful place to be in.

“If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.” - Pat Riley

8. Learn from others

Gaining advice and direction from people we trust is very valuable in a struggle. When people open up about a tough time and how they got through, they are most likely saying it to encourage us. In saying that I ensured that I was guarded as to whom I talked to. Not everyone needs to know our struggles, as not everyone can be sensitive about them. Insensitive responses can leave us feeling misunderstood and embarrassed. There are also people who feed our struggles by pandering to us constantly without setting us straight when it’s needed. We need to surround ourselves with people who are honest and will sincerely let us know that there is hope. You know those friends who say the right thing, even though you don’t really want to hear it? Generally those are the ones who encourage you to rise up again and not allow this struggle to take a hold of you. They are sincere but they refuse to see you wallow in self-pity. Learn from them.

9. Set boundaries

Something I am still learning today is setting boundaries for myself. Instead of being someone who always says yes or does things to keep others happy, I have learnt the word no. Setting boundaries is actually living in honesty and representing your truest self. I was always available to everyone with the belief system that I had to drop what I was doing to help others. In the work environment the stress I was under consumed my whole core but I never said no to it. During a struggle it may be wise to review where boundaries may not be set and work towards putting some in place. Say no to the things that hurt you or destroy your health. Speak to your boss or find a job that does not stress you out. Choose a relationship that is enjoyable, not controlling – or be single. Have your own routines and disciplines in place that are focused on health (mind, body and soul). Say what you mean and settle for no less. Set boundaries and protect yourself.

10. And finally…it all happened for a reason.

Perhaps the biggest reason for my experience was that I could write this and let you know that your struggles are not the end of the road. They may just be the beginning of something new, change and a better life. Perhaps you will learn the best lessons that will push you to grow and give you wisdom in your future choices. Maybe you will find purpose, create something new or finally follow your passions. It could be a wake up call to get your body into shape, health into gear, mind re-focused or spiritual life on track. Whatever the reason may be, if you dig deep and allow yourself to be open, the answer will come in the right time and in the right way.

It is not the end – it may just be the beginning.

Featured photo credit: Victor Hugo via photopin.com

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