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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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