In life, it is guaranteed that we’ll be tested.
If you haven’t had a season of harsh trial, surely you will eventually.
Things may go along quite well; a life of convenience and comfort can even last decades. But in an instant everything can change. Sometimes it’s as if a tarp has been ripped off, exposing layers and layers of dysfunction: a health diagnosis, personal loss, job change, divorce, addiction or substance abuse.
Many things can come crashing into our lives and break up our regular routine.
When crisis hits, we sometimes see unexpected responses from the people around us. Some will show negative, even toxic characteristics that may have been dormant. Others show amazing strength and kindnesses that we didn’t expect. Going through a severe test or trial can also produce great new qualities in all of us, if we go through it with our eyes open.
I experienced an intense test a few years ago in the already tumultuous relationship with my mother, who became even more adversarial as I fought for my son to find his way into recovery. For roughly six years we entered one of the most painful, darkest times of crisis imaginable.
There really is no way to prepare for crisis or trials, but there are healthy ways to endure them. It’s of primary importance to face adversity head on and not avoid or distract ourselves from dealing with what is happening.
But parallel to handling the adversities of life, I’ve discovered a few positive strategies that help ease the way through:
Daily Wellness Rituals.
I follow a routine daily that includes a few minutes of morning meditation, prayer, affirmations and various vitamin concoctions to start my day on a positive note. It’s important to tie mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellness together.
Distractions and mood changers in the most intense moments.
When my brain is blowing fuses and needs a break, I interrupt my overthinking with calming YouTube videos like waterfalls, birds in flight and mandala making. I also find videos of my favorite comedians or competitive tickling to make me smile. These funny videos quickly pull me away for a few minutes and ease the tension.
A rational friend to talk us through the madness.
My smooth-talking friend Mark once described a terrifying moment in his pickup truck on a mountain road. The truck hit ice, and Mark lost control: the truck began to fishtail, swerve and spin out of control. He came super close to other cars and even near the edge of the cliff. Mark’s passenger began repeating in a calm voice, “You’re doing great, we’re fine, we are going to be just fine.”
For what seemed like an eternity, the truck careened unpredictably. His companion spoke these words soothingly, almost hypnotizing time to slow down until the truck came to a stop on its own. They miraculously stopped a safe distance from the other vehicles.
Set a goal in the midst of the chaos.
When my dad was in hospice care and it was obvious I would enter my 30s fatherless, we talked about how I’d handle what may lie ahead.
Striving for a goal when I am working through a problem reminds me that time will pass and so will the struggle or heartache. When I am affected and frustrated by something or someone, I quickly sign up for a new 5K race or set a writing deadline. It has to be something challenging that I have to put real effort into. The time is going to pass regardless, so having a goal insures that when the storm finally does subside, I will have accomplished something in the meantime.
If it’s a person who has afflicted me, I am actually thankful for them in the long run. It’s hard to dwell on how I was wronged when I’m chasing a goal. Having a goal broadens my perspective, quickly moving me away from hard feelings. The offense becomes a launching pad (or starting line) for something I want to accomplish. Having a goal pulls my mind out of negativity and conflict—I reroute myself back to the goal as often as possible. The bigger the offense or difficulty, the larger the goals I set. It’s become such a positive life changer that I no longer stay mad at anyone.
Some trials happen to show us our strength.
When we’re facing a difficult situation or person, it’s possible to come through with new strengths—being made better than before.
“Only the strongest are put through fire…and the forge creates things of great strength and beauty. Then I shall be glorious by the time my tenure ends.” ~ Sharon Shinn
Author: Annie Highwater
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock