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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 October 16, 2018

How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

She could hear her beautiful baby crying but was frozen in the doorway unable to move. The crying got worse and she knew that unless she comforted the infant soon the baby would be inconsolable, and yet her feet wouldn’t move. She didn’t look at the cot but the floor in front, where the venomous hairy monster sat before her…. .okay it was a UK spider so not likely to kill her at all, and yet still her body was frozen as the tears fell down her face. “What a useless mother you are” she berated herself.

That awful mother was me 14 years ago. My fear of spiders had not been controlled for years and I was at the stage where I wouldn’t open a newspaper until my husband had read it and removed the images of spiders. I hated houses that had wooden floors or skirting boards because every knot in the wood could be a spider about to crawl across me.

At the height of my fear, I tried to get out of a moving car. Clearly this harmless 8-legged creature had massive levels of power over me but now that fear is gone, I’m never going to love spiders but I’m not going to leave the room because of one and I can read the word without freaking out and sobbing.

If you think that fear is irrational, what about the fear of going to airports? Or the fear of not asking for help?

Today I want to look at how our irrational fears impact on us, how they can destroy (and I don’t use that word lightly) our success. They can damage our health and even stop us from living our lives. And then I’ll share the benefits of fighting that fear and most importantly how you can fight your fears too.

How irrational fears impact your life

The thing about irrational fears is that we are not keen to look at them. It makes us feel inadequate, weak and daft because we can’t do things that it seems everyone else can. That gives the fear power.

Fear loves negative emotions and saps up yours making your fear bigger and uglier and even more powerful. Not ideal to say the least. Fears can cause us to:

  • Avoid situations where that fear may have to be faced. Dodging parties, new jobs, new experiences where we aren’t sure we will be able to protect ourselves.
  • Stop us from sleeping for fear the thing we fear will “get us in the night.” For me this was massive, and I stopped sleeping which had massive implications when my job was to look after a toddler and a baby. I felt half dead most of the time!
  • Feel ill with the stress. Stress can be the cause of wrong decisions. Drinking alcohol when we shouldn’t, eating chocolate because it makes us feel better, the list of excuses is long that we hold on to so that we can avoid the cause of our stress.
  • Cause more distress as our minds overload us with negative thoughts of inadequacy. This can damage our confidence. Having coached thousands, I know that a lack of confidence is usually the underlining impactor on most people’s success across all areas of their lives.
  • Risk looking aloof or arrogant because we won’t participate like other people. Our fears can even isolate us in our personal and professional lives too.
  • Feel debilitated. Needless to say, these fears may look irrational and shouldn’t exist to the outside world but to the sufferer they are debilitating. Even impacting on their earning potential, love life, hobbies, travels and personal and professional success.

Why bother to fight the fear

Couldn’t you just ensure you live your life in way that you don’t have to deal with your fear?

I had a client that was so scared of flying that they couldn’t even take their partner to the airport, another who had avoided public speaking for over 20 years and yet now at the height of their profession they had no choice, what were they going to do? Quit? There was another who could never ask for help and another who feared people finding out who they really were.

All these fears and many more can be fixed but only if we can appreciate the benefits of fighting the fear.

Let’s look at the benefits of fighting your fears:

If you’re going to change the way you do something, something that has impacted on your life, thoughts and actions for years, it can be hard to believe change is possible.

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The first thing you must do is give yourself a big enough reason why. Go back through your life and remember all the occasions that this fear was there.

I can still see the spider trapped in my hair because it had obviously been on my hairdryer. I also remember that I probably looked ludicrous in the South of France in my underwear running down the lane screaming and flinging my hair everywhere. The poor spider had not only been flung a long way from my head but was probably destroyed in the flight.

Remember the feelings, the actions, the negative feelings you felt afterwards, for me it meant that every time I picked up a hairdryer I could see a spider crawling towards my ear in my hair. Guess how helpful that was for reinforcing my reactions and irrational fear?

Really experience the fear. Make it so painful that you probably notice your heart racing, your shoulders drawing up and your breath changing. That fear is causing physical change in your body, doesn’t feel good does it?

When the irrational fear is challenged and destroyed, it can’t have power over you. So new opportunities can come your way and instead of fearing them and what people will think of you for your choices, you can be open to;

  • New hobbies
  • New travels
  • New opportunities
  • More success
  • Financially more secure
  • Happier
  • Healthier
  • Confident

The list is long so what can you do to get rid of your fears?

How to fight your irrational fears

In my book Fight the Fear: How to Beat Your Negative Mindset and Win in Life, I cover 12 of the biggest fears that I see impact on success and happiness. Not all of these are obvious but they all have far reaching impacts on our lives.

Here are some of those ideas to help you fight your fear and get more of what you want out of life:

Why did this happen?

For some people they really need to know why the fear started, for others all they want is to get rid of it. If you need to understand yours then don’t skip this tip. Learn how your fears are made and appreciate where yours came from. If you don’t care how it arrived, you can jump to top tip 2.

I’ve seen some clients who are not prepared to look at how to get rid of the fear until they’ve understood how it got here in the first place. It’s not my place to tell them that is right or wrong, just to help them find the right steps to lead them to a happy path.

When a fear first starts, we don’t acknowledge a fear has entered our lives. It is only after a few occasions that we begin to notice that there’s a strong negative emotion connected to this “thing”. That’s how fear is allowed to grow because as humans we have in-built responses that have kept us safe for our entire existence. This means we are meant to perceive fear and either run or fight, either way our bodies jump into action creating physical responses to the perceived threat.

Look for when you first noticed the fast heart beat, the shallow breathing, the shaking hands, the redness. You have created an automatic way of dealing with this fear. It could be that it felt sensible to fear this because you had an unhappy outcome, although it is usually the case that your head has the facts and your heart is not prepared to hear them as it creates a version of the event that is far scarier than it actually was.

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Learning how to remove the emotions and feelings will help you to change your body’s response. The first time I fixed someone’s fear of public speaking, they told me that it physically closed their throat, I worried that was it possible with words to change our physicality? The answer was yes! With the tools and techniques I share below.

The tool kit

From the many people that have contacted me after reading Fight the Fear to my clients, I know for even myself creating a tool kit is a must. This is not a bag that you physically must haul everywhere. This is about learning tools that really resonate with you so that when you can feel the fear start to impact on you, you’ve got your kit ready to take it on.

I don’t have the space in one article to share all of those tools so let’s visit a few:

1. Why I’m awesome

Creating a 2-page handwritten document of why you are awesome can help. This document will be packed with achievements, successes, overcoming adversity and all of those will be full of positive emotions, actions and feelings. It is not easy to write, and I get many messages telling me so however it is a powerful reminder that you can stand up and accomplish.

2. Draw out your emotions

Earlier we looked at how irrational fears can damage every aspect of our lives. If you were to follow the negative spiral down you can follow the positive spiral up again.

I draw these individually for clients and with each action, thought or feeling we put an arrow between them. Each arrow is an opportunity to do something different. If we know that irrational fear is an automatic thought process, then we can start to see that we need to think, do or feel something different. Top tip 3 will help with that.

3. Acknowledge that you need to change

It’s not easy to change, and that is a belief that many hold. Top tip 4 could assist further, however for this tip, remember that when you want to do, think or feel differently, you’ve already achieved the first step and that is recognizing something must change (you don’t need to know what). But if you aren’t sure yet if there’s really something different you want to do, this story about Nancy may help you to figure it out.

Then it’s about acknowledging it. That means not only accepting it but feeling that it is yours to take on and change.

Then for 2 weeks, decide that you won’t allow the thought to be in your head. There are usually some negative thoughts allowed to fester in your head. At this stage, just say “No I’d like you to stop.” After 2 weeks choose a new thought that you would prefer to hear in your head, maybe “I can cope with situations that scare me” or “I am stronger than I know”.

There will be times when you fail. Don’t berate yourself because that is another negative thought you are allowing your head to process. Just start again and at times like that have a read of your “Why I’m awesome list”.

4. Choose your words carefully.

I’ve heard many clients tell me that “It’s going to be hard to change” “I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t petrified” or “This is a lot to ask”. Any thought that gives power to your fear takes away power from you to fight it. Therefore, choose how you word your goal to overcome your fear carefully.

Think thoughts like “I remember when I achieved xxxx and that reminds me I’m far tougher and more capable than I give myself credit for”. (Take the xxx from your why I’m awesome document.)

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5. Believe that you have the control power

The only person that can control what we think and feel is us. I know it can feel like other people are impacting on us, however they can only do that if we give them permission to do so.

If you really think about that for a moment, can you see that you have the right to think and feel anything you want right now? I’m certain you wouldn’t choose pain, fear or anxiety. So, what would you choose to think about your fear?

6. Put up physical reminders

Working one to one, I can find the fear, work through it and create a tool kit of thoughts, feelings and actions that will help them fight that fear and get rid of it. For some, they don’t need physical things to help them; others do.

For example, the CEO who was petrified of public speaking but could handle a conference call with 300 without a second thought, imagined the microphone was a phone when they spoke in front of 400 people to help reinforce the positive thoughts and ideas we’d created.

Or the client that always worried that they were an imposter and “someone else can do this better” pinned on their office wall a tag cloud of all the words that made up their “Why I’m awesome document”.

So they had a daily reminder. They were the right one for the job and they could do it. These daily reminders all come down to one key point — help you to Hack the Habit Loop.

What would be your visual clues to remind you that you can overcome this?

7. Physical supports

Music, environment and even smells can impact on us. Know the music that makes you feel alive and ready for anything. Try aromatherapy oils to feel positive and energised. Even choose your work environment or clothing to empower you.

Changing these things is physical and giving yourself physical ideas to action can help power up your emotional state too.

8. Don’t go it alone

The fear to ask for help is very real (and has a whole chapter in my book) so I know people really struggle with this. The fact is we all need people. We are not insular by design and as such it can be tough to admit that you have a fear impacting on you.

However, by sharing your fear with a trusted friend, colleague or loved one can mean that when you are feeling the fear. you can talk to someone. It could be that you share with them the contents of your tool kit and ask their permission to be added to it. That way they know what works for you and how to best support you.

It’s not a sign of weakness to tell people about your fear. It takes massive levels of strength to say, “I have this fear, and I want to get rid of it.”

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9. Get physical

One of the reasons that a fear can escalate is because we have come to accept that response. Our body reacted in a certain way, once repeated the behaviour and it became a formed habit that was accepted.

Challenging a fear can be done using our body too when we appreciate that fear is actually a reaction inside our bodies. We don’t need to understand where in our brains or what chemicals are racing through us to use our physicality to help us challenge our fears.

When I was writing my book, the Cuddy Superhero pose was proved and disproved by various researchers around the world 3 times. Whether it’s real or not, the fact is the way we stand, the way we breathe and even the speed at which we speak can impact on us as well as those around us.

If you have a fear of public speaking or a fear of people thinking you are stupid or a fear of what people are thinking you can look at how you speak, stand and move. If you compare these with people you deem confident and happy in these situations, how do you look? What can you learn?

The research around placebo’s reinforces us that if it feels like it is working, then keep doing it! What could you use to help reinforce your power and fearlessness?

A little fear can be good

As someone famous once says:

“It is not fear, it is performance energy.”

Despite having an absolute hatred of public speaking 10 years ago, I now love an audience and yet I have a healthy level of fear. That level of fear says “Are you well prepared?” “Do you know your audience?” “Have you rested your voice?” “You really want to deliver to this audience what they need” And those thoughts are sensible.

And just remember, it’s never ever too late to face your fear and do what you desire most! It’s even possible to start over your life no matter what stage of life you’re at. Here’s the proof:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

So as you reduce your fear, be aware of a good level of fear.

Featured photo credit: Isaiah Rustad via unsplash.com

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