September 16, 2013

5 Tips for Getting Through the Most Challenging Times.

When it rains it pours.

Nearly two years ago, I decided to go back to school to get my middle school teaching certification. I also returned to work part-time as a school assistant and was dealing with some relationships issues with my husband when I found out that my father had Stage 4 cancer.

While there is a never a good time to hear that one’s father is terminal, some times are worst than others. On the outside, I kept the facade of calm, cool and collected and chose not to share the information with most of my friends and acquaintances.

Still, there were times inside where I wished I could have checked into a hotel room somewhere and spent a week just sleeping and trying to make sense of everything that was going on my life.

However, like most people, I did not have that luxury. (I also had a then-two year old daughter who needed me both physically and emotionally. Even if I could have afforded full-time help to go on this “retreat,” I probably would not have done so.)

I got through it, but in retrospect, there are some things that I wish I had done differently. Like many who have been in similar situations, I wasn’t even aware of how to begin asking for help or who/where to turn to as I tried to navigate through all this stuff. Along the way, I gathered some useful information that may help others going through their own challenging times or will help me again when/if it seems everything is collapsing at once.

Here are five of the most useful tips I discovered on my journey:

1. Let your feelings out.

When I say let them out, I mean all of them—the good, bad and the ugly. As excited as I was at getting my teaching certification, I was not happy about having to go to classes. At times, it felt like a burden, even though I could rationally see why I had to take them.

Likewise, when I found out my father was dying, I felt a hell of a lot of anger that I was now expected to be there for a man who hadn’t been there for me for the majority of my life.

If you cannot say some of things out loud, then I strongly suggest writing them out. While some may feel that journaling is overrated, there is a reason why self-help and conventional therapy suggest it: it works. Just getting those feelings on paper can be liberating. You don’t even have to go back and re-read them. Burn them if you wish, but get it out.

2. Turn to supportive friends.

When I learned my dad was dying, one of the people I turned to was a man I had dated in my early 20s, whom I kept in contact with on and off over the years.

He lost his father when he was 27 of an unexpected heart attack.

This man turned out to be an incredible resource of information for things like how to plan a funeral, and shared with me the myriad of feelings he felt as he processed the fact that his father was no more. (Like me, he had a less-than-wonderful relationship with his father.)

Other friends who proved valuable were two were Jewish and Indian-Muslim, respectively. Both came from cultures that put a strong emphasis on the importance of family and understood why I could not just turn my back on my dad like some suggested I do.

Then there were those who just lend a helpful ear.

I will always value their support and continue to value it especially since my father is still alive.

3. Know that this too shall pass.

This is hard one. At times, I felt like I was stuck in hole that was so deep that I could not see the sunlight at the top. Still, nothing last forever. This will pass, things will change.

Whether things will change for the better or worst is often unknown, but some people I know who went through similar things said it was better to surrender. Despite what some may think, surrendering did not involve abandoning all hope but rather, it was acknowledging that things were out of their hands in the hands of God, the universe, etc.

4. Treat yourself to a reward constantly.

Your reward may mean treating yourself to a fancy bar of chocolate every week or it may mean having a friend watch your child while you go for an hour walk alone.

Whatever it is, indulge in it. Don’t apologize or feel guilty.

You deserve this. Seriously. You are carrying the weight of more than one person right now, and these little things may be jut the thing to keep your train on its tracks.

5. Get professional help if you need it.

Friends and family are great, but sometimes you face challenges that call for the pros.

If you are feeling suicidal or really feel for long periods of time that the world would be a better place without you, then seek a professional ASAP.

Also, if there are some things that you feel you absolutely cannot discuss with your friends and families, a trained therapist can be a god-send. Even if you are uninsured, some therapists over services on a sliding scale or may be contracted by certain organizations so that you pay little or nothing for their services.

Generally speaking, the sooner you start therapy when you are feeling depressed, the better, so do it now.

In closing, all of us are going to hit speed-bumps on the road of life, but every so often some of us encounter potholes  which feel like they are going to swallow us up and never let us go.

While it may sound like a cliche and you may want to slug the next person who tells you this, but you will get over this.

I speak as someone still going through a lot of challenges, but things are a lot better than they were two years ago. While I am proud of the progress I have made, I wish I had done some things differently and feel that had I been given a pamphlet with the above tips and/or steps to take next, it would have been easier.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with an operating manual, but take some tips from those who have been there.

In the meantime, take care of yourself.

Like The Mindful Life on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photo: via Janell Gable on Pixoto.}








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