Jan 25, 2024

9 Things To Do When Life Gets Hard

There will always be times in life that just suck.

Nothing is going according to plan, everything is getting harder, and situations keep popping up that only make it more and more difficult for you to make significant progress on the ever-increasingly challenging mountain of things that are staring you down.

In times like these, what are we to do?

As someone who has navigated his fair-share of life challenges, and who has also helped thousands of others navigate theirs, these are the places I would most recommend starting with.

9 Things To Do When Life Gets Hard

1. Move your body in ways that challenge you

During an especially tough week I recently had, my friend Ryan reminded me of this point… and it’s an important thing to remember.

One counterintuitive way to make yourself more resilient to stress is to proactively stress yourself (in a controlled manner) by exerting yourself physically. It’s also a great way to get out of your head and into your body.

When it comes to stress-busting forms of movement, you want to aim for something that is a 5 to 9 out of 10 on the difficulty scale. If it’s a 2, it won’t register as much… and if it’s a 10, then it will become its own stressor that might put more load on your nervous system than is beneficial.

This could look like going to the gym and lifting weights. Or going outside and walking at a brisk pace for an hour in nature.

Whatever your body can handle, do that. Make it a priority, get it scheduled, and then do it.

2. Accept it

One of the biggest reasons we can feel so emotionally stuck and awful is because a large part of us resists our current reality.

We might feel like, ‘These things shouldn’t be happening. It shouldn’t be this way!’

And when we fight reality, we’re wrong. But only 100% of the time.

Instead? Accept it.

You can think to yourself, ‘This is shitty because sometimes life is shitty. And that is okay.’

Nothing shifts until we accept it. Being in right relationship with reality is always the first step.

No matter how many awful things are stacked up in your life right now, start with acceptance. Accept that, yes, this is exactly how things are right now, and that is okay.

3. Remember that this is temporary

After accepting what is, remember that what you’re going through is temporary.

Just because it sucks this much today, doesn’t mean it will suck this much forever. It might not even suck this bad for a whole month.

The thing is, we never know how long we’re going to be in any crisis… and so you should probably…

4. Decide on the lessons as you’re going through it

Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”, and I couldn’t agree more.

We’ve likely all heard people say that they learned more from their challenging times than from the times when everything was smooth. And while this makes intuitive sense to us (that of course we would learn more while we’re in the shit), it doesn’t mean that it’s any easier to be fully be with while we are in those times.

One thing you can do while you are in it is decide which lessons you are learning.

Ultimately, there are infinite lessons we can learn from any given moment. And when we’re going through hard times in life, one way to regain a felt sense of control is to choose on the lessons we want to learn.

We can choose lessons like, ‘I am going to get better at asking for help’, or ‘I am going to get better at consistently making my physical health a priority for the rest of my life’. Whatever lessons we choose to take, they’re our decisions to make.

And no matter how much of an epic shitstorm we are in, there is always a positive sense of agency when we choose, for ourselves, what lessons we are most interested in learning.

5. Trade ‘what if’ for ‘what is’

Something I have told my more anxiety-prone clients for years is that when they find themselves spiralling into their worst-case-scenarios, is to trade their ‘what if’ thinking, for ‘what is’ thinking.

So instead of taking a present day worry and catasrophizing it into ‘within a few weeks I will be homeless and alone, or dead’… they should turn their focus towards the present moment, via what-is thoughts. That could look like, ‘What is currently true is that I have a place to live’, ‘What is true is that there are several people who love and care about me and want me to do well’, and ‘What is true is that I have food in my cupboard, a healthy bit of savings, and time to figure this out.’

So if you find yourself spiralling into your mind with thoughts of how bad the future could potentially become… trade those in for a quick round of what-is thoughts, and allow this to right the ship of your looping internal narrative.

6. Laugh at it all (especially the worst parts)

Everything can be made funny. Yes, everything.

And when we lose sight of this fact, it is because our minds are hyper-fixated on a frame size that is too small, too narrowed in.

One of the best ways to get through any challenging season of life is to find a way to laugh at it.

That could look like being extra intentional about meeting up with (or phoning) a friend that you have the easiest time laughing with. Or you could spend more time going to stand-up comedy shows, or watching comedies (sitcoms or movies). And the easiest way is to simply laugh at your current situation, as absurd as it may be.

If you’re navigating something especially hard to find any humor in, then here are two additional resources (that I have referred to many of my clients through the years) that may help drive a sliver of accessibility into your situation: Play It Away by Charlie Hoehn, and Play by Dr. Stuart Brown.

7. Make a plan and stick to it

When we feel like we’re drowning in an exceptionally tough season, sometimes all you can do is make a plan (no matter how imperfect it may be) and then commit to sticking to it.

Similar to point number four (decide on the lessons), when you make a plan and stick to it, you regain a sense of control over a situation that might feel, at times, unending and overwhelming.

The plan could be as simple as, ‘I am going to wake up at 5am every day and move my body’, or ‘Every Monday and Thursday evening, I will make it a point to phone my best friend and talk to them for a bit.’

What matters is setting the course and then following through.

8. Don’t believe your thoughts when you’re at your worst

One of the worst things we can do is buy into the thoughts that our minds feed us when we’re at our lowest point.

The mind can often be like a Pandora’s box of bullshit. It spews complete fabrications and worst-case-scenarios like it’s its job.

‘You’re such a loser.’

‘Everyone else is doing well and you’re the only one who’s fucking it all up.’

‘Nobody even likes you. Why do you even bother?’

Especially when you’re in an exhausted, under-resourced, low-energy state, the mind is not to be trusted.

Whatever it tries to convince you of, just let it go. There’s no need to listen to the inner gremlins when you’re in a low mood. In fact, that’s the last time you should be seeking counsel about who you are and how valuable you are as a person.

What’s the number one way we can safeguard ourselves from falling prey to the non-reality-based noise being spewed forth from our ego-minds?

9. Be connectable

Isolation kills.

We are a social species and nobody thrives in isolation.

And yet, when faced with hard times, many people default to social isolation and will do anything they can to keep from being around people who care about them, and/or asking for help.

Don’t be that person. Let people in. Ask for help.

Let people see you and be there for you, even if it’s just in small ways. It all counts.

Especially on the days when you just want to lay in bed, close the blinds, and binge-watch trash TV… one of the best things you can do is simply extend to someone who cares about you. Better yet, keep extending to people until you either meet up with one of them in person, or you can have an in-depth conversation with them about how you’re feeling.

Chances are, the people who care the most about you are hungry to support you while you’re going through hard things. Not only is it not a burden to these people to support you, it is something that will significantly aid in deepening the relationship, and they will feel honored that you asked… excited for the opportunity to support you and grow closer to you.

And if it’s hard for your mind to wrap itself around that theme, just think about it in reverse. Has someone you care about ever reached out to you for support, and you felt excited to support them, and felt closer to them as a result of being asked to help them? Well then why rob others of that same opportunity to support you while you’re going through it?

I repeat, nobody thrives in isolation.

Remain connectable by reaching out to your people, ask them for support, and then let them support you.

How To Move Through Hard Times

I’ve touched on many things in this piece, so, where should you start?

More likely than not, it would be the most beneficial for you to start small.

Start with one small thing.

When? Ideally today. Like, now. Within the next few minutes.

Whichever of the above things is something that you can begin to make forward progress on within the next ten minutes, I would start there.

Reach out to a friend. Put on clothes you can sweat in and go move your body. Practice what-is thinking out loud.

Whatever you can do now, do that.

I’m sorry you’re going through a challenging time… and I hope there’s even just 1% of you that is excited to meet the version of you that comes out the other side of this.

You’ve grown through difficult times before, and this time is simply another growth opportunity for you to deepen and strengthen as a person.

I wish you all the best in the coming months.

Dedicated to your success,

Jordan

Ps. If you enjoyed this article, you will also love checking out:

All Of Your Suffering Was Worth It

How To Manage Stress (Or How I Weather My Shit Storm Of A Year)

Play Away Your Anxiety with Charlie Hoehn

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