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How to Overcome Hard Times in Your Life

How to Overcome Hard Times in Your Life
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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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