We’ve all struggled at some point in our life (most likely multiple points) you might even be facing a difficult situation as we speak. Unfortunately it’s inevitable. At varying degrees and relative to our own experience sometimes life just plain (for a lack of a better word) sucks. From a young age there has been something we’ve had to battle or struggle with, a sibling, competitive teammate, girlfriend/boyfriend, parent, boss, loss, disappointment, physical pain, etc.
Not only that but because of Life’s constant battle of survival of the fittest we’ve been inundated with topics on overcoming our obstacles and facing our fears that at some point they might even become redundant. All ultimately irrelevant for our own experience. To me, embracing these obstacles is not just about moving forward it can also be about going back.
Don’t worry, I won’t keep you there for long but the importance sometimes with remembering our past, recalling difficult experiences from our history can give us necessary information for what we might be struggling with today. It’s not always the case and a lot of the times our obstacle just doesn’t make sense. However, for those that might be repeated patterns or dynamics that we’ve possibly felt before, taking a look at where the root lies can be a powerful way of disengaging from the constant disappointment or let down when we find ourself there again.
Whether the obstacle is big or small (relatively speaking) we learn ways to cope and adapt them to any circumstance and without knowing it we rarely slow down enough to consider just what it is we are doing with these feelings and emotions. Where do they go? What happens as we move forward or if we stay stuck? The answer is nowhere. They stay right where they are until we experience something remotely similar. At which point the feelings can become even more intense because we’re not only dealing with the current obstacle, but we’re also carrying around the baggage from the previous ones too, they all end up bleeding together, indistinguishable and even more intense than ever.
Understand where your feelings are coming from
This provides new meaning and information about how to embrace and overcome them. These powerful feelings, if left ignored will just get louder and gain power, but if they are acknowledged, shared and felt, they will naturally run their course and decrease in intensity. Just as it is difficult to understand a puzzle that is missing pieces or label an object that isn’t recognizable, left over emotions can cause confusion. One way to find out where they belong is by asking yourself “where have I felt this before?” When you can identify a time go another step further and ask yourself “does this remind me of anything?” You’ll know when you’ve reached the beginning because you’ll have the “ah ha!” moment where everything just makes sense. From this point on, just by categorizing this feeling you’ll notice yourself recalling it more readily and the emotion will subside where it doesn’t belong.
Embracing obstacles is not just about the event itself
It’s not just about choosing a new path or facing something head on. It’s about paying attention to our emotions and giving them the attention they are desperate for. You know the feeling when someone really gets where you’re at or shows just the right amount of empathy to leave you feeling understood, cared for and seen? Consider extending the same amount of empathy towards yourself. Really seeing yourself for who you are and validating your own experience. It’s powerful. Self-validation is an important aspect of positive self-esteem and creates an internal confidence that encourages growth and forward momentum. It can be reassuring in times of insecurity when you feel like you are barely making it and reminds you of all the times you got back up again, turned a new leaf, or chose a different and more positive direction when one path ended abruptly.
Give yourself permission to feel
When you’re struggling let yourself feel your feelings. Saying that you are “FINE” is just a mask for the true feelings underneath. Be choosy about who you entrust your vulnerabilities with and recognize that true unfiltered airtime with a close friend or loved one is therapeutic – it relieves the soul. So many just want to move on to the next thing or throw in a new distraction to lessen the intensity of the pain, but really all that you are doing is putting off the inevitable. The more you ignore your emotions they louder they can become. Think about that sweet little 4 year old who desperately wants their mother’s attention when she is obviously busy talking on the phone, “Mom, Mom, Mom, MOM, MOM, MOMMA, mommy,” he just keeps getting louder and louder. It’s a cute analogy but when it’s your own feelings the intensity can build and the smallest, insignificant event or word can send you straight over the edge into weepyville, regardless of your audience.
Resist the urge to just let it go
Likewise, when we continue to stuff our feelings over time they all clump together in one huge ball of emotional mess and chaos, so entangled that we can’t distinguish what exactly is triggering our short fuse. Taking the time, in the moment, to acknowledge your feeling and surrender to what is happening within you is gradually allowing the intensity and pressure to decrease, relieving you of the burden that can build over time. Emotions are a big part of who we are, they dictate our reactions and responses, connect us with others, they allow us to live authentic and meaningful lives and make life worth living.
Stay close to those you love
One of the worst things you can do in a time of need is disconnect from those you love and who love you.
Isolating perpetuates the feelings of defeat and negative self-talk by taking away the voices that are there to help you see the other side. Our minds are our loudest critic, the last thing you want is to only hear that voice when you feel as though you have done something wrong or something you could have done would have prevented the struggle. Staying here too long creates even more distance between reality and our perception of what happened, leaving little room for repair and inner reconciliation. Supportive loved ones will provide the reassurance, validation and space for you to process through your feelings without falling too far into the “what ifs” and “should have beens.” Don’t be afraid to ask for help and communicate about how you feel. If all you need is a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen, tell them. Ask for what you need and even how you might need someone to respond. Doing this doesn’t negate the help, if anything it gives those around you what they need to be the help that they really want to be.
Focus on gratitudes
Often times when we’re experiencing something difficult its easy to be consumed by what is not going well. We’re not this, we don’t have that, we’re far from where we want to be or someone else has it all together (I’ve seen it on Facebook). We’re inundated with what life could be like and it’s challenging to remember that for someone else we too just might be that person that appears to have it all. We have a job, a car, maybe own a home or at least have a comfortable living space and healthy body. You get the picture, it’s just hard to not let our focus go to the things that we’re missing. Gratitude has a powerful affect on the body and can physiologically change our mood just by actively recalling or writing down what it is you are grateful for. Try it.
Lastly, set small attainable goals
An important step in moving on is moving. Feeling a sense of accomplishment by setting and achieving small attainable goals, you’ll instantly notice a stronger urge to complete something else. Even with a small goal, feeling like you’ve completed a task or have done something positive boosts self-esteem.
Feeling accomplished will remind you that not everything has been lost. Long drawn out goals can get old, they lose their drive simply by just delaying the gratification of accomplishment for too long. It’s great to have long-term goals, just make sure there are smaller ones and plenty of them, to encourage you to keep going.