hanging on

Stop Asking Why & Hang On: Tips for When Life is Tough

Last week I posted 7 Tips When Life is Tough, and gave you the top 7 things I do practice when I’m feeling like I just can’t do life anymore. 

  1. Stop Asking Why
  2. Hang On
  3. Be Kind to Yourself
  4. Change 15 Minutes of Your Day
  5. Stop Thinking You are the Only One
  6. Look for the Lessons
  7. Make a Gratitude List

Today I’m diving deeper into tips 1 & 2: Stop Asking Why and Hang On. 

Stop Asking Why

You’ve probably already heard of the 5 Stages of Grief, but in case this idea is new to you, the 5 stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.  These are the stages that most of us go through, in one order or another, when we’ve lost something or someone or when life is hard. 

Any hard situation can cause a grief response, because grief is ultimately about loss.  People usually associate grief with the death of a loved one, which is an enormous loss, but we can also feel grief when lose a pet, get divorced or our parents get divorced, we move, we change schools or jobs, or any other situation where we lose something we love, our routine, our friends, our family dynamic or our stability.

We can even experience a sense of loss when something good happens! 

For example, moving to a new city might be an exciting thing full of hope and possibilities for new friends, a new school or job, and new experiences.  However a good move can still cause feelings of grief as you miss your best friend who used to live next door, or your favorite coffee shop where the barista knew your name, or the family support that used to be close. 

If the situation you are going through is not by choice, and especially if it is something traumatic, it’s totally normal to feel these feelings of loss in an even more profound way.  You might be asking “Is this really happening?  This can’t be real! (Denial)“  And then you may move to asking “WHY?!  Who could do such a thing to another person?  It’s not fair! (Anger)” And  “What did I do to deserve this?  If I did something different, could I go back and change this? (Bargaining)”  Those are totally normal feelings and questions, and it’s ok to even wallow in them for a time (Depression). 

But at the end of the day there may not be a satisfactory answer.  The answer might just be, “because sometimes life is hard.” “Because sometimes people do things that we can’t control.”  “Because we live in a broken world.”  

That is when it’s time for Acceptance.  Stop asking why.  Look at the reality in front of you.  This is what happened.  This is your life now.  You can stay stuck in the questioning and wallowing forever, or you can decide to use this as an opportunity for growth.  

Ask questions like: 

  • Are there any positives to this new reality of my life? 
  • Is there any part of the old situation I didn’t like?  Something from which this new situation has freed me? 
  • How can I get creative about turning this new situation into something good? 
  • What new things has this situation brought into my life- new people, new experiences, new knowledge, new feelings?  
  • Can I treat just one little part of this situation as an experiment?  I can test out if I might like it, and I can always go back to hating it if not.  

If you’ve tried all of that and you just can’t see a way out right now, and if you’re saying “Harriet, there is no opportunity or silver lining in this situation!” then….

Hang On

Sometimes life is a wild ride, but nothing stays the same forever.  

Having a hard time in school?  It won’t last beyond your 18th year. 

Having a hard time with the developmental stages of your child?  They will be a day older tomorrow.  Then a week.  Then a year.  No one stays any age for more than a year. 

Having a hard time with a relationship?  People move, situations shift, and even if you’re stuck with this person right now, you can look for the opportunity to make a change. 

This was not always your life and it will not always be your life. 

Go outside and notice the seasons change.  It never stays winter for more than 3 months (or maybe it feels like 6 months where you live, but it *does* end!) 

If it helps, think of it as a roller coaster ride.  Right now the ride is on the biggest loop, you’re upside down, you’re screaming, you’re gripping the bar with white knuckles, and you feel like you’re going to puke.  

But the ground still exists below you.  It’s still steady and firm.  It hasn’t changed or abandoned you.  The ride will end, you will get off, and you will plant your feet firmly on the ground again. 

While that is metaphorical, you can even apply this as an exercise right now: 

  • Take a deep breath and close your eyes.  Slowly exhale. 
  • Notice the ground under your feet or the chair under your seat right now. 
  • Notice how firm it feels.  Notice all of the places in your body that are fully supported. 
  • Sit with that for a few moments, notice your breath going in and out, and notice how your body feels to be fully supported by the surface beneath you.  

You can access that feeling any time with this simple exercise. 

Hang on and don’t give up!  

Check in next week for my blog post expanding on tips 3 & 4 for When Life Gets Tough: Be Kind to Yourself & Change 15 Minutes of Your Day. 

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