Emily, a single mother from Northern California, struggled with a difficult decision during the holidays. She was broke and couldn’t afford a gift for her four-year-old son, Tyler. She looked at him while he slept and sobbed silently at the side of his bed. It was one of the toughest times in her life, financially.
As she looked at him sleeping peacefully, she made a decision. She had twenty dollars in quarters that she was going to use for laundry, so she decided to take it to the supermarket and use all the quarters to buy 40 small plastic pop-open capsules, the kind that had different toys inside of them.
It wasn’t much. But it was something. On Christmas day, she gave the 40 gift-wrapped capsules with tiny toys inside of them to Tyler. As he opened each one, he became more and more jubilant. He was ecstatic and thanked his mom profusely. He knew they were struggling, even at such a young age, and was thankful for the small gifts he had received.
Emily cried on Christmas morning right there in front of him. She knew she shouldn’t, but she couldn’t help herself. She had felt like she had nothing. But that joy in her son’s eyes, that excitement for those little gifts, the only ones she could muster up, touched her in an unimaginable way. It was at that moment that she realized the importance of love and the deep-enough reasons for seeing the tough times through.
Over the years, things improved for Emily. She built a successful business, but still purchased two capsules from the machine every Christmas as a reminder of those difficult times. And, Emily isn’t alone in her struggles.
We all go through tough times in life. We all face hardships and immense struggles. And, ultimately, we all endure them over time, and come out stronger and wiser, more empathetic and understanding. Tough times don’t last; tough people do.
If you’re going through a tough time right now, like Emily once did, and like countless others are facing or once faced in their lives, realize that the difficulties won’t last forever. There is light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t see around the bend right now. Don’t lose faith or give up hope in the fact that whatever doesn’t kill you will most certainly make you stronger.
However, sometimes simple motivation isn’t enough. We need some methods to alter our thinking and our approach to the tough times in life to help us see them through. Here are 6 proven methods you can use to get through the tough times without losing all hope.
#1 — Set Goals and Make a Plan
The best way out of a difficult situation, is right through it. To go through it, you need to set a goal and make a plan. As long as you stick to that plan by taking action, little by little each day, you’ll get through it. No matter what you’re going through — no mater how painful it might be — it will get better over time. If you’re reeling from a painful loss or a monumental failure, it will get better.
If you’re struggling to keep your head above water, things will improve as long as you work a plan. They won’t get better on their own. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in misery or a state of despair. Take control of your life and direct your attention towards the greater good. Envision yourself living a better life and seeing those tough times through to the end.
All of us have to start somewhere. The beginning of the road is always in the goal-setting stage, then the planning stage. But first, you need to take an inventory of your life. What ails you? What’s the true source of the problem? If it’s entirely out of your control and you’re powerless to do anything about it, sometimes you just have to walk through the pain.
However, most of the time, it’s not out of our control. There is a way out as long as we work to find the solution. But, if we continue to live in the problem, things won’t change. In fact, they’ll just get worse. So, set some goals. Use the pain to fuel you. What are you no longer willing to put up with? What are you no longer willing to do or accept in your life?
As long as there’s a deep-enough meaning to your goals, you’ll see them through, and those tough times will soon become a distant memory. Overall, ensure that you set SMARTER goals and that you write them out. The act of writing them out is very important. Studies have proven that those who write their goals out are far more likely to see them through than those who simply keep them in their mind.
Once you’ve set goals on paper, create a plan. Your plan should be the roadmap to achieving your goals. While you don’t need to know every step, you do need a general idea of how you’re going to get there. Taking action towards your goals by following a plan won’t take all your worries away, but little by little, it will help to alleviate a difficult situation slowly over time.
#2 — Focus on the Good
It’s easy to get caught up in problems. There are always problems in life. Some are minor, while others are major, heart-wrenching affairs. But, when we focus on the problems, we tend to get more of just that. Often, our minds are steeped in the art of only seeing problems. And as we look at those problems more and more, they simply get bigger.
Life is very much like a camera’s lens in that way. Whatever it is that we focus on, we get more of. We train our minds through our eyes to only see certain things. That’s why when you buy a new car, you instantly begin to see that car everywhere. It’s not because there’s more of that car on the road all of a sudden; it’s because you trained your mind to see that car.
The situation is similar with everything else in life. Whatever it is that we choose to focus on, we’ll get more of. So, while the tough times can seem to overwhelm us, when we shift our focus, we can work towards a more worry-free life. It doesn’t mean that the difficulties in life will evaporate — we need to take some action towards that end to make that happen — it just means we’ll put our mind more at ease.
Since our way of thinking is habitual, re-training our mind to focus on the good rather than the bad is an arduous process. In fact, this will take you at least 90 days to achieve. In those 90 days, you have to essentially retrain your mind, rewire the neural pathways, and undo a lifetime of habitual behavior. It won’t be easy.
However, if you’re committed enough, here’s how you pull this off. Grab a piece of paper or anything else to write with and sit down. Write down the difficulty that you’re facing in just one sentence. Next, write down why you’re worried about it in the next sentence. In the third sentence, write down your biggest fear about what will happen due to that problem.
So, this takes just three sentences. If you’re grappling with multiple difficulties, do it for each one. Then, you’ll need to flip the script — reverse the dialogue. In the first sentence, write the exact opposite — write about how what you’re not worried at all about the difficult situation. So, if you said you were worried about money in the first part, you’ll need to write out that you’re not worried about money in the second part.
Then, write out why you’re not worried about it. Do it in just one sentence again. Then, in the final sentence, use it to write out when you’ll achieve a goal associated with the hardship you’re facing and on what date that will happen. Do this for each of the problems you have in life. So, you’re writing out the antithesis for each one. And, by flipping the script, you have new dialog for your mind.
Keep all of these positive anti-problem paragraphs nearby. Every time you worry, pull it out, and say it to yourself verbally, not just in your mind. If you’re around people, you can skip that step and just keep reading it over and over again. Do this every single time the worry strikes you for at least 90 days. It will take time to change the thought patters and mental habits, but it will happen eventually.
#3 — Express Gratitude
What are you grateful for in your life? Sometimes, the tough times can cloud all of the good things that we have going for us. But, when we express gratitude, we open up the pathways for abundance, and reduce those for lack. While it’s hard to be grateful for things when all we can do is worry and stress, gratitude is the quickest pathway to a more worry-free life.
Why? Gratitude is one of those things that helps to clear the mind of mental clutter. It’s a way of moving through the pain. We all go through tough times. We all face difficulties. But we aren’t always grateful for the things that we have, rather than fretting over the things that we don’t have. Then, when problems do arise, we have a hard time seeing any of the good things in our lives.
Gratitude is also a keystone habit — a good habit that helps to bring on other good habits while eliminating bad ones. They are the most important habits that we can have. If you focus on the keystone habits, other good habits will simply feel like they’re falling into place almost effortlessly. And, they don’t require any additional work to form from regular habits.
To express gratitude, all you need to do is spend 15 minutes every morning writing out all the things that you have to be grateful for. Ignore your worries, and look for the things that you have going for you. You’re six feet above ground. You can reason, you can speak, you can read, you can write. What else can you do? What else do you have going for you?
Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food to eat? Do you have family that loves you? Many people are lacking the most simple and basic things in life. It’s easy to look to what we don’t have and worry about it, or just to see the problems. It’s far harder to look to what we do have, no matter how small or mediocre it might be.
#4 — Learn from the Past
What have you been through or experienced in your life? What have you learned in the past? One of the best ways to make it through the tough times is to look back to your past experiences, and how you were able to get through it, even when things seemed impossible at the time. One way or another you did it before, and you will do it again.
Think back to those situations. Like Emily, the single mother who had to use just twenty dollars in laundry quarters to buy her son gifts one Christmas, only to realize the importance of the little things in life, we ultimately overcome our hurdles. While nothing is ever cut and dry, we can learn from past failures and mistakes to help us through any difficulty or tough time we might be facing today.
They say the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. However, when we can use the past as a tool to learn and grow, remarkable things begin to happen. Use whatever you’ve faced and overcome in the past as a tool. Realize that you did it before and you can do it again.
Take the time to write down a difficult situation you faced. What was so tough about it? How did you feel at the time? How did you eventually see things through? What did you learn as a result of it. Tough times don’t last. But they certainly help to build character. They help to mold and shape us into who we are, growing as a result.
#5 — Seek Help and Support
When we’re going through difficult times in our lives, it’s hard to ask for assistance. It’s hard to tell others how much pain we’re going through. It’s hard to say we need help. It’s a blow to the ego; a dagger to the heart. But we’ve all been there before. You would actually be surprised on just how much people will come through for you when you lean on them for support.
Trying to go through difficulties in your life, by yourself, is one of the most painful experiences. When we don’t share our woes with others, no one can possible imagine what’s going on. But, when we extoll our pain and hardships, not only does it lessen the emotional burden, but people can and do come to the rescue, so to speak.
The difficulty here is having the courage to ask for help. Some people would much rather push through pain on their own than bother someone else with their problems. But this isn’t the best approach. You must find others to help and support you in times of need. In our darkest hours, it’s when true love and contribution shines through from others.
Don’t be afraid to say “I need help.” Those three words can completely turn your life around. Sometimes, we just have to put the pride and ego aside and reach for a helping hand. It doesn’t make us lesser in the eyes of others. We’re only human. And, sometimes, humans need a little help; and sometimes a lot of help.
#6 — Trust Your Faith
While last on the list, it’s certainly not least. Whether you believe in God or a higher power, or not, there is a universal oneness that binds us all. We are all interconnected in this world on a subconscious thought-level. Every living, breathing organism has some connection to one another, whether you can see or feel it, or not.
And, sometimes, we just need to trust our faith. Whether that’s our deeper faith in God, Allah, Buddha, or anyone else, or it’s our faith in better times to come, sometimes we just have to rely on our faith. There is a reason that things happen to us. Even the bad times have a way of helping to illuminate something to us over time.
When we’re going through the tough times, however, we can’t always see the forest through the trees. We can’t always see the greater good in whatever it is that’s ailing us. But one exists. And, by tapping into our faith, we can often find the strength needed to make in through those incredibly difficult times in life that we all face.