(Estimated reading time 5 minutes)
The last week or two have been particularly hard for me. I’ve felt sad, hopeless and, at times, despairing. Although not easy for me to admit, I found it difficult to see a positive way forward or to get out of it until I did this exercise. Perhaps you find yourself in a similar frame of mind, or maybe you just feel unmotivated or unsure of how to move forward. The COVID-19 pandemic we are currently facing might be new for all of us, but we are not inexperienced in dealing with life’s challenges. We’ve coped with difficulties before. This pandemic is not our first hard-time rodeo.
Think back. I’ll bet you can remember at least one other time you had to face something tremendously challenging. Maybe, like me, you thought of several things. If you’ve overcome other tough periods, perhaps they can be useful to you with whatever difficulties you are currently facing. It doesn’t matter if the details of what you had to go through previously are different than your current tough times. The strength, resilience and coping capacity you developed to overcome other experiences will be beneficial to you now.
Are you ready to be reminded of your ability to overcome tough times? Grab a pen and paper or flip over to the notes section of your phone and open a new tab. Title your page, REMINDERS TO GET ME THROUGH THE HARD TIMES. Full disclosure. This exercise took some effort, but reminding myself of my capacity to get through hard times was well worth it in the end.
Are you willing to push through a bit of discomfort and do some work if it gets you to this point: I’ve got what it takes to deal with this!
If not, that’s okay. You’ll get no judgement from me. Sometimes it’s just not the right time for that kind of reflection. Thanks for reading to this point. I’ll leave you with this quote to ponder before I go on with the exercise.
“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
What can you do with what there is?
If you’d like to try the exercise, jot down some of the most challenging situations you have faced previously in your life. The examples need to be from the past, not the present. For each case, spend a minute or two writing down what was hard about it. (Don’t spend a long time on this part.)
Here is some of what was difficult for me about situations I have faced:
- I felt disconnected and uncertain
- I feared my ability to deal with what I thought was coming
- I felt like my foundation had been removed
- I lost confidence
- I stopped trusting myself or someone else
- The future seemed uncertain
- I felt out of my depth
- I felt like something was wrong with me
- I felt unsafe
- It was new, and I had no idea what I was doing
- I felt overwhelmed, sad and stressed
Now for each situation you wrote down, ask yourself what personal strengths, skills or capacity developed in you during that experience. What do you know about or trust in yourself after getting through that period? (Spend most of your time and energy brainstorming on this part).
Here are some of my examples. I learned that I can:
- Survive having my foundation shaken.
- Come back after feeling utterly lost.
- Rebuild trust in myself, in others and God.
- Know that even though something is hard, I can survive it.
- Figure it out in the end, even if it takes time, and it’s hard.
- Get through more than I think I can.
- Say no to something even when it’s difficult
- Learn as I go
- Talk about what’s hard
- Keep committed to the goal
- Find a new normal.
- Allow myself time to acclimatize to the new thing.
- Do the hard thing – I might not like it, but I can manage until it is not hard anymore.
- Live courageously instead of in fear
- Find a new sense of purpose if I’ve lost what previously felt purposeful
- Learn new skills
- Be adaptable
- Be strong
- Be committed.
- Be fierce.
- Have what it takes.
- Be focused.
- Work hard.
Now ask yourself the question, what helped me get through each situation?
Here are some of the things that have helped me deal with tough situations in the past.
- Time – just putting one foot in front of the other until it got better
- Perspective – looking for a different way to see something, e.g. That’s just one person’s viewpoint not necessarily the truth or the only way to see it
- Dealing with it at my own pace and in my way – allowing myself periods to “escape” with a good book or a walk in the woods. Setting judgement aside as to how well I was coping.
- Making tough choices to help resolve the situation
- Putting boundaries in place to honour what I need
- Perseverance – keeping on with small things to move me forward even when they seemed not to be working wonders, e.g. reading inspirational material, exercising, sleeping enough, eating healthy etc.
- Talking to someone who cares about me
- Practicing being courageous
As I think about the challenges of this current period, I remind myself that I am resourceful and resilient. I’ve dealt with difficulties before, and those situations have given me what I need to deal with what I face today. I can do the hard thing. I might not like it, but I can manage it until it is not hard anymore. I can be courageous. I can adapt. I will
THE EXERCISE QUESTIONS SUMMARY
- Write a list of previously faced challenging situations.
- What skills or capacity developed in you as a result of facing these experiences?
- What helped you get through tough times in the past?
If you’d like to talk about anything related to this blog post or would like help excavating your own tough experiences to find your strength and coping skills, I’d love to help. Let’s have a conversation. I love seeing in others what they cannot see for themselves. You’re stronger than you think!