Life is not always smooth sailing. That’s probably not a surprise to most people. Even so, it still seems to knock the wind out of our sails when life gets hard. So what do you do when things aren’t going the way you’d hoped, or you get broadsided by an unexpected event or circumstance?
Let’s take a look at a few ideas for how to weather the storm without sinking your ship.
Expect the Unexpected
Since life is full of ups and downs, it shouldn’t be unexpected when life gets hard. Planning ahead and being prepared may help you to not be caught off guard when problems arise. Saving money for a “rainy day” fund can help with financial pitfalls. Having other safety nets in place might help lessen the blow of things like illness, job loss, or relationship problems.
Life will inevitably throw some challenges your way, so having a plan of what to do can make it easier to navigate unpredictable circumstances. Most people are more upset about things they didn’t see coming. If you can adjust your expectations in such a way that you are aware of possible calamities, then you may find it easier to deal with them when they come.
Author and Motivational Speaker Denis Waitly suggests,
“Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”
What’s in Your Lifeboat?
When putting together a plan to prepare for hard times, what type of preventive or recovery measures would you include? You might consider practices like saving money, guarding your health with reasonable nutrition and fitness, and being accountable in your daily activities and work ethics. Doing your best to stay on top of things and keep them in good working order might help prevent some difficult situations.
But what about the things you can’t control? What if you’ve done all that you can do, but something still happens that rocks your boat? What then? Well, if you’ve taken preventive steps to avoid catastrophe then at least you’ll still be afloat. If you’ve set money aside in the event of a job loss or household repair, you may end up having to use your savings, but at least it was there and helped you get through it.
The same goes for your health. If you have an illness or accident, but are otherwise in pretty good shape, you may likely get through it and can get back on track. Being prepared to the best of your ability can often help you navigate much of life’s rough seas.
But as prepared as you are, unforeseen circumstances may still occur. Having a self-care first-aid kit of sorts, might be one way to help you recover. One thought to remember is that most things are temporary. So don’t allow yourself to spiral into despair. Be mindful of your self-talk and take extra care of yourself. Your kit might also include drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and doing things you enjoy. Self care is not a luxury. Your body and mind are essentials, so treat them well.
When things are out of your control, remind yourself of what you DO control. In a motivational speech to the Cleveland Browns football team, Ryan Holiday reminded them that all they could control is “…how they play.” You can’t control other people, the weather, if life is fair or not, the past, or any other thing outside of yourself. You can only control your own thoughts, words and actions.
Use Your Anchor
When life gets hard it can feel like you’re caught in the middle of a swirling cloud of chaos. Trying to find the ground under your feet, and clarity in your head can be a real challenge. But finding something solid to anchor yourself to can help you stabilize when things seem out of control.
Start by sizing up the situation. Gather the facts and consider possible solutions. By remaining calm in difficult times, you can make better decisions about what to do next. If you’re dealing with something like a sudden emergency, you’ll need to use rational thinking to address immediate concerns. If the situation has to do with emotional and long term consequences, you may find you need extra support for the long haul.
You may have heard the phrase, spoken by American Businessman, Joseph Kennedy,
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Trying to be tough and use sheer willpower to get through something, may be your first reaction. But be aware that willpower is a depleting asset. You may be able to do it for a while but then become exhausted and need something else to hold on to. Being tough may actually look more like having the right attitude, tools, knowledge and support, rather than thinking you need to steamroll over it all by yourself.
Most people are going to need some form of assistance when navigating hard times. For example, if you have a problem with plumbing or electricity, there may be some things you can do yourself, but most likely there will be times when you need help. If you are sick you might need medical assistance. If you lose a job or a relationship, you might need emotional support. Having some idea of who or what is the anchor that holds you in place until you can get back on your feet is imperative to surviving hard times.
Think about who your support people are. Friends and family might be your first line of defense for help when things get hard. Mentors, teachers and counselors are also good resources for more assistance. Professionals like doctors and home repair specialists might also be on your call list.
No one expects you to go it alone in hard times. So make use of the anchors available to you. Allow yourself to accept help from others to lighten your load.
Ride it Out
Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting through whatever it is. Former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill said,
“If you’re going through hell, keep going!”
When times are hard, the last thing you want to do is stay in that situation. Don’t allow yourself to spiral into negative thinking. Just allow it to be and wait for it to pass.
Breathing exercises and meditation can be helpful tools when trying to calm your mind and maintain composure in difficult times.
If your hard time is something you don’t need to do anything about, but you just have to get through it, look for distractions to help pass the time. Watch a movie or spend time with family or friends. Time in nature can often have a healing effect too, as well as time spent with your favorite pet.
Regardless of what caused the hard time you are going through, it may be helpful to remind yourself that you have done hard things before and you can get through this too. Author Jodi Picoult wrote,
“The human capacity for burden is like bamboo. Far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.”
Sail when the Sun is Shining!
Although life can be hard, there are ways to enjoy the moments of sunshine in between. Even if your hard times are ongoing, there is always something you can do to make the best of it. Musician Stevie Wonder said,
“Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes, doesn’t mean he lacks vision.”
He did not allow his blindness to hold him back.
Take advantage of the moments when things ARE going well. And use that momentum to give you a boost. Keep an attitude of gratitude and build your reserves when life feels good.
Yes, life is hard. But you are the Captain of your Life. And when hard times come, it’s up to you to have a plan. It’s up to you to be prepared and informed.
Philosopher Thomas Aquinas stated,
“If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in the port forever.”
But people were not meant to be harbored and kept from the experiences of life. So when hard times come, have a plan, be as prepared as possible, and don’t be afraid to put out your S.O.S. signal for help.
Remember that life is always changing, and watch for better days ahead.