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How to Overcome Hard Times in Your Life

How to Overcome Hard Times in Your Life

Let’s face it. Sometimes, life just stinks. Bad things happen. Unbelievable things happen. People hurt other people, jobs are lost and relationships are broken. People die, financial troubles come and important things are forgotten. Sometimes life just seems like too much to handle.

When I first became a single mother a few years back, I thought my world was ending. I did not know how I was going to make it. I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide. There were days I wanted to give up on adulting entirely.

I lost my home due to the abrupt financial changes from the divorce. I believed I would never be able to live a happy or fulfilling life. I would never be able to love again. I’m damaged goods. I’m ruined. My life is over. That is where my mind took me when I was faced with hard decisions in my life.

A few months later I realized that wallowing in a self-pity party was not going to improve my situation. After time passed, things got better. My situation was not ideal and it definitely was not how I imagined my life was supposed to end up.

During those struggles there were still some good times. Positive and hopeful relationships were made. There were laughs and a lot of learning, too.

As  another year arrives and I reflect back on my past struggles, I realized it does get better.  Most struggles have a lesson attached to it and if you recognize what you need to adjust within yourself so that it’s easier to move forward.

I am here to declare for those going through a hard time: there is hope. We can overcome. We can get through it and we will. It won’t be easy and we might need to adjust some core thought patterns, but we can do it.

Fast forward 4 years later. I am now remarried. I have my family back. We are about to build a new home and watch our children grow up in a safe and stable neighborhood. Love received another chance and this time it is sweeter. I am truly committed to my family and marriage. I am attempting to be fully present with this second chance and with this new perspective.

Here are a few ways to overcome those hard times in your life, especially when you feel there is no way around the obstacles in front of you.

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1. It Won’t Always Be This Way

This was my mantra. This statement helped me get through my hard times. I used to fear change, I hated change. I had major anxiety over drastic change. Then I realized change is a part of everyday life.  We can’t stop change so we have to accept it and embrace it.

It also reminded me that because things won’t always be this way, it will get better eventually. If you are going through a really hard time, just remember it does get better.

2. Learn From It

They say that struggling today often gives you strength for tomorrow. I believe this statement is now true but during my struggles I often asked  “Why me?” “Why is this happening?”  or “What did I do to deserve this?” As those thoughts and questions came, I had to truthfully analyze my part in my own life, and in my past situations.  I realized I used to blame my bad luck on everyone else. I used to believe I was a victim. It wasn’t my fault. I realized no one is perfect; we can never be all things to all people and I had many areas where I needed to make adjustments.

It is never easy to identify and recognize your own faults, but once you are aware of them, you are able to change for the better and learn from the struggles you are facing.

3. Ask for Help

I grew up in a generation where you just figured it out—that whole “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” thing. Where did that come from anyway?—Pirates or from a turn of the century book? Who knows, but it’s still relevant today and it’s the best way for me to describe how I viewed what I needed to be in society.

After being self sufficient for so long and then faced with struggles, I finally did ask certain people for help and they helped me. Sometimes asking for help is the courageous thing—as long as your heart is humble and your motive is pure. I struggle with perfectionism so it is hard for me to ask for help. Once I was able to do that and see the kindness in other people it encouraged me to move forward.

4. Forgive or Ask for Forgiveness

So many things have been written about the power of forgiveness. So many quotes, books and articles. It really is a very important part of having more of a stress-free life.

I once was bitter about my past situation. I blamed others and held grudges because I believed it was the other person’s fault and not mine. I then learned this bitterness underlying within me, I was quicker to anger and I did not feel truly happy no matter what I did. After sitting in un-forgiveness for a while I finally realized it was not healthy for me.

Forgiving the other person does not mean that what they did was acceptable. It meant for me that what they did to me no longer had any power over me.

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The anger and bitterness is now released. Their past actions no longer have a hold on my emotions. It’s forgiven and my heart is no longer in turmoil. I feel free.

I also had to forgive myself for past mistakes and ask for forgiveness from friends and family I had hurt during my struggles.

Forgiveness is a process and once you are willing to forgive, life does get better. Anger dissipates. Joy return. (My re-marriage is actually to my ex-husband and the father of my children. There is no way this ever could have been a possibility without the power of forgiveness.)

5. Live in Today

Many days I worried about tomorrow, next week or the next year. Some months I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay the upcoming rent or afford enough groceries until the next paycheck. Worrying about some of those facts got me nowhere.

During my struggles I was always taken care of; we always had just enough. There were times where a random refund check from the prior six months that I had no idea was coming got me through to the next paycheck. One Christmas a dear friend got presents for my children because I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to get them that year and I will never forget it.

As time went on I realized worrying about my tomorrow or my next week did nothing but shoot my anxiety through the roof. It wasn’t worth it. Once I focused on the now, I was able to focus on today and attempt to give my all instead of giving part of my thoughts to the future or past.

6. Find a Strong Support Group

A support group can be friends; it can be family members. It can be co-workers or anyone that supports you in improving your life for the better.

During my struggles I found a support group that truly helped get me through some of my harder times. I have a mentor and she has helped me realize that we are not meant to be isolated or alone. It is so much harder to do life with no one around to help you get through it. I used to isolate because I felt unwanted, believed that I wasn’t worth spending time with or that no one cared to listen to what I was going through. Those were lies.

Eliminate the negative relationships in your life that bring you down. It is very important to maintain relationships and friendships with people that have your back, that will be there for you no matter how hard life gets. Nurture those positive relationships and never let them go.

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7. Control Your Controllables

A dear friend once shared this with me and it stuck. I can only control myself, my actions and reactions. I cannot control others and there is no sense in trying. I tried everything in my past: manipulation, threats, ignoring. I had many scenarios in my head of how to get someone to act a certain way and I failed at every one of them.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result. In a nutshell, that statement describes attempting to control others around you. Just like Meghan Trainor sings in her hit song “NO”: “You need to let it go.”

Once we let go of trying to control others or certain things around us, we can focus inward.  We then can change ourselves and begin to see other people change around us, too. It’s a cool thing to witness, but the key always begins with us.

8. Believe in Miracles

Even during struggles we need dreams and hope. If we don’t accept that sometimes the impossible is possible.

Our thoughts can become a reality. If we are thinking negatively all the time, we could be bringing on negative things in our lives. We all have negative thoughts. The key is if we actually believe them or not. We can choose to filter out the negative thoughts and focus on the positive.

To me, being remarried to the father of my children and having my family back is a miracle. If someone would have told me this would have happened 4 years ago, I would never have believed it.

We need to allow ourselves to dream big so that we can remain hopeful. If you put your life in a box and only believe you can do or achieve certain things, you may be limiting yourself.

9. Laugh

Laughter might be one of the most instant mood lifters outside of having strong and encouraging relationships. A good friend can cheer you up; a hilarious comedy can remind you of how important laughter is.

Some people use laughter or joking to minimize their struggles. Some days when I would come home and had a really trying day, the laughter of my children reminded how important it is to lighten up.

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My kids just asked me the other day why I don’t play outside. My answer was “I’m an adult.” I realized how silly that sounds. Later today I am going to get outside and go play hide and seek with my kids. Sometimes we do need to remember the care-free aspects of our childhood, go have a little fun, and just laugh.

10. Love

Take a chance on love. Again. Even if you have been hurt many times before, do not give up on love.

For a while my heart was closed up. I put up a wall. Of course I still loved my children and family no matter what, but I had given up on finding happiness or love again with anyone.

We do have to take a chance on love. There are no guarantees in life and that needs to be realized. Expectations need to be forgotten. Relationships end even with the best intentions. If I were to have completely given up on love, I would be limiting myself and missing out on the happiness that love can bring. Think about it: if we give up on love completely, who wins? The last person that hurt you? Hate? Negativity? Love certainly doesn’t win.

Be open and willing for anything and see what the universe brings you. You might just be surprised.

I used to look for love in all the wrong places or I forced things to happen because I didn’t like being alone. Once I finally let that go and I started believing in love and happiness in general by gained solidarity in being single, love found me.

Be patient and don’t give up on love.

Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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Wendy Redden

Digital Advertising Account Manager, Music Blogger, Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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