feeling alone

Stop Thinking You’re Alone, Look for Lessons & Make a Gratitude List: Tips When Life is Tough

All this month we’ve been talking about what to do when life gets tough or you’re feeling alone, and I gave you my top 7 tips for how I deal when I want to give up.  

  1. Stop Asking Why
  2. Hang On

You can read more about these two on this blog post.

  1. Be Kind to Yourself
  2. Change 15 Minutes of Your Day

And read more about these two here! 

  1. Stop Thinking You are the Only One
  2. Look for the Lessons
  3. Make a Gratitude List

Today I’m going to dive deeper into steps 5, 6, & 7: Stop Thinking You are the Only One, Look for Lessons, and Make a Gratitude List. 

Stop Thinking You are the Only One

No, this isn’t like your mom shaming you about eating your broccoli by saying a kid somewhere else has no food.  

This tip is about realizing you’re not the only one who has been through hard things, so other people are probably more willing to listen and help than you realize.  

When things are hard and you’re feeling alone, you might tend to hide.  This can stem from embarrassment, feeling too overwhelmed to know who to reach out to, or the belief that you don’t have anyone to reach out to.  But most people have been through hard things, even if it’s not the same thing you are experiencing.  Most people are kind and willing to do what they can.  

If you’re feeling like everyone is too busy, and like you would be a burden, remember that we are all in different seasons of life.  Keep reaching out and you’ll find the person who is in a great season of life to help, and later when you’re in that season, you’ll help them or someone else. 

You can start by asking for something small: 

  • Call a friend and ask for 15 minutes to brainstorm. 
  • Copy/paste the same email about the situation to 5 people and whoever has time will respond at their own convenience. 
  • Ask one friend for help with X part of the problem, and another friend for help with Y

Who to reach out to when you’re feeling alone: 

  1. Identify your support system.  If it’s not immediately obvious who you should turn to, think about people in your life who have helped in the past, who you have helped, or who might know something about your situation.    
  2. Build your support system.  If you feel like a total island with no one you can identify from tip #1, set a goal to reach out to one new person a week.  Set a coffee date with a co-worker, go talk to that other mom at the park, or knock on your neighbor’s door. 
  3. Get professional help.  Some parents tell their little kids to “look for the helpers” when they are lost.  That advice doesn’t change as you age!  People who have the gift and desire to help others are often in professional positions to do so.  Ask your teacher or professor, school counselor, the HR department at your job, local community center, leaders of non-profit organizations, churches or other religious institutions.  Of course, who is appropriate to ask will depend on your situation, but don’t be afraid to ask in unlikely places- they often have connections to resources or referrals even if they aren’t the right person to help.   

While you’re brainstorming with the people in your support system… 

Look for the Lessons

Saying a life situation has a lesson for you doesn’t necessarily mean it was your fault.  Sometimes really bad things happen and we have no control over them, but even if something isn’t your fault, it is your responsibility to figure out how to live with it.  Only you can choose to survive what happened, and only you can choose to thrive because of or despite what happened.

Ask questions like: 

  • What have I learned because of this? 
  • What new people did this bring into my life?
  • What new experiences did this bring into my life?
  • What other kinds of situations might I now know how to handle? 
  • Have I healed from this situation? 
  • Has healing from this allowed me to address other things in my life that needed healing? 
  • Who do I have more empathy for now that I’ve gone through this?
  • Has my religious or spiritual life changed because of this? 

And lastly…

Make a Gratitude List

I know, right now that might be super hard.  If you haven’t processed through your difficult experience yet, you might not even be ready to do this regarding that situation.  But if you can tap into gratitude for anything at all, it will help expand your capacity to be grateful for more, which will expand your capacity for joy.  Gratitude isn’t about pretending everything is ok when it’s not.  It’s about opening ourselves to the possibility that not everything is bad even if it feels like it right now. 

Questions to prompt a gratitude list: 

(The answer to some of these will be “NO!  That is my hard thing right now!”  That’s ok.  See if there’s anything related or any thing else on the list that applies). 

  • What do I see, hear, taste, touch or smell right now? 
  • Is another other part of my body working well right now?  Do I have strong legs that carry me place to place, hands that can write this list, or arms that help me get things done? 
  • Is there a roof over my head?  Look up at it.  Then look outside at the snow or the rain or the sun. 
  • Did I get to go outside today?  Did I breathe fresh air and feel the sunshine or the wind? 
  • Did someone do something for me today?
  • Did I have the opportunity to do something for someone else today, and use the unique gifts that only I have? 
  • Did I eat something filling or something that tasted good today? 
  • Did I drink water today?
  • Is there something in this room that reminds me of a happy memory? 
  • Did I talk to someone who loves me today?

I hope these tips are helpful when you’re feeling alone!  And I hope your tough situation gets better. 

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