Being Strong Is Hard, But You Don’t Always Have To Be

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Wouldn’t it be nice if life were all sunshine and rainbows?

That the storms that form on the horizon pass by us instead of coming directly at us?

Unfortunately, we all know that isn’t how life works. You can’t avoid the storms all the time.

In fact, avoiding the storms all of the time would actually be worse for your mental health than better because you’d develop no resilience to the challenges of life.

Strength comes naturally to some people. They just seem to be able to weather the storm without much difficulty. The rain slides off them like water from a duck’s back.

For others, being strong is hard. They may not understand how to navigate the great pains of life or just have a hard time with the emotional weight that comes with it.

That’s okay, though. People don’t often start out strong, and you don’t need to be strong all the time. Sometimes you have to give yourself the freedom to feel the negative emotions trying to get out.

But, of course, most people don’t have time for an emotional breakdown. There are so many things to do! Work to be done! Bills to be paid! Housework to do! This laundry isn’t going to do itself!

But, still, you need to make time. Those negative emotions just build up if you don’t take the time to feel them. And if you shut them down constantly, like over the years, it can be extremely difficult to switch back to allow yourself to feel.

The challenge of getting through hard times while taking care of your emotional health is two sides of the same coin. Here are some tips that will help you.

1. Accept the negative experience for what it is.

That sub-title may be a little confusing given the context of this article. What we’re trying to avoid here is toxic positivity. Instead, we want to practice acceptance for what is.

Sometimes a negative situation is just negative. There is no silver lining in the clouds of the storm. Life is just terrible at the moment, and that’s how it is. That can be severe, like a traumatic experience, a loved one dying, developing an illness, or losing a career.

People will commonly tell you things like look on the bright side, they’re in a better place, at least they’re not suffering, it’s God’s will, and all other manners of unhelpful, bad advice.

So here’s some better advice: it’s okay to let a negative experience be negative. You don’t have to be strong all the time and pretend like everything is okay.

In fact, letting something be negative is often better than trying to reframe it into a positive. The problem with reframing every negative experience into a less negative or positive one is that it deprives you of the ability to emotionally process the experience for what it is.

Instead, you give your brain time to process events when you take the time to cry, feel bad, or otherwise experience those negative feelings. Don’t deprive yourself of this.

2. Accept that some situations are out of your control.

People who are going through a hard time often get hung up on accepting a situation for what it is. They deny that it could happen or that it could happen to them. They will then try to shoulder responsibility for a situation that is not theirs to own.

For example, let’s say you have a depressed loved one that completes suicide. That’s a terrible experience for everyone involved. It’s terrible for the person who completed it. It’s terrible for the people they leave behind.

But then you have additional problems that can roll in with that, like survivor’s guilt. “I didn’t do enough. I should have been there for them. I should have answered the phone. I should have forced them to get help. I should have, I should have, I should have…”

And then the person who feels that guilt gets stuck in that loop of trying to accept responsibility for their loved one’s suicide.

The problem is that they are trying to take responsibility for a situation outside of their control. Mental illness kills people no different than cancer. You can go to chemotherapy, have surgery to remove the cancer, and do everything right to eliminate that cancer, but that doesn’t always work. Sometimes it still kills, anyway.

The same is true for mental illness. Sometimes it’s a matter of an impulse that you act on. On the other hand, it may be a chronic problem that the person just doesn’t have the strength to deal with anymore. A suicide attempt may also be brought on by a hopeless, temporary situation where the person doesn’t feel they have any more control. There are a lot of reasons that people attempt suicide.

And a lot of times, it’s just outside of anyone’s control, much like the effects of cancer. Embracing that will allow you to start accepting and healing from the situation and others like it.

3. Focus on what you CAN control.

Not every situation is so dire that you can only be tossed around by the storms you’ll face. Sometimes you can exert control over a situation. You can find power and strength in identifying where you can take your power back.

For example, let’s consider losing a job and having a shaky future. Losing a job can be scary, especially if you have kids. You have to contend with the fear of the unknown future, but you also have to try to keep taking care of your kids.

You may not be able to control that you lost a job. However, you can control things like applying to new jobs, applying for help, and getting help from a food bank. There are a surprising number of services and resources out there for people who are facing homelessness or poverty, but they aren’t hand-delivered to you. You actually have to embrace your own power and capability to seek them out at homeless shelters, churches, local family service agencies, etc.

The weight of that challenge can be much easier to bear if you look for what you can control.

4. Develop or continue on with your self-care.

Being strong is hard, which is why self-care is an important part of navigating difficult experiences. It provides a time when you are focused on taking care of yourself instead of finding solutions or dealing with the emotional fallout of a problem.

Unfortunately, some problems can arise from trying to take care of yourself amid a crisis. The biggest issue is feeling like you may not deserve it because of what you’re experiencing.

Maybe you feel guilty for not doing enough. It could be that you’re worried about how the experience will affect your kids. Maybe it was a mistake that you made that cost you a job. Whatever the reason, punishing yourself isn’t going to help. On the contrary, it is liable to worsen the negative emotions you’re experiencing.

If you do have a self-care routine, try to keep it going. It will help keep the depression and anxiety at bay. If you don’t have a self-care routine, try to find one. A self-care routine doesn’t have to be excessive. It can be as simple as continuing to shower, wearing clean clothes, and brushing your teeth regularly. These things can be hard to do when dealing with hard times.

5. Readjust your priorities to work on the problem.

Sometimes our priorities can get mixed up when we’re going through a bad situation. For example, maybe we spend too much time engaging in escapism, like watching television, getting drunk, or focusing too much on a hobby instead of dealing with the problem.

Shifting your priorities to the problem and forcing yourself to stay focused can help you feel like you’re not powerless in the situation. And when you feel empowered to deal with the situation, you can keep a stronger mindset on overcoming it instead of succumbing to the defeatism that may otherwise creep in.

Make sure that you’re not losing yourself in escapism. Try to avoid doom-scrolling social media, watching entire seasons of shows, drinking or drugs, or whatever unhealthy coping mechanisms you may have while your feelings are negative. Those actions only reinforce the negative feelings and make things worse.

6. Ask for help and support.

Everyone will experience problems in their life that they cannot overcome on their own. Sometimes you have to ask for help or support from other people.

It could be something like applying for help from an organization that can provide you some additional assistance in your bad situation. Maybe you need to lean on loved ones or a support network to help carry the emotional weight of the problem.

This may be easier said than done. Look, sometimes people burn too many bridges while suffering from whatever problems they have. That’s not unusual. You may not have people in your personal life that you can lean on right now. It may also be that the people in your life are not emotionally equipped or competent enough to provide meaningful support.

A couple of good alternatives are therapy, if available to you, or support groups where you can find strength in being around other people facing similar struggles. However, be forewarned that seeking out mental health care can be a hit or miss right now. Many places have long waiting lists to see a professional.

A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.

7. Look for your inner strength.

Maybe this isn’t your first rodeo. Life is hard, and we sometimes experience more suffering and struggling than we’d otherwise want. However, it can be helpful to look to past experiences to remind yourself that you are a strong, capable person. Life’s challenges may have hit you, but you survived them, got through them, and came out the other side.

But if you haven’t? Maybe you haven’t really faced those kinds of struggles yet. Maybe you’re entirely new to this! In that case, it can help to adopt a problem-solving mindset instead of focusing on negative emotions. Instead of looking at it as this overwhelmingly painful experience, it is a challenge to navigate and overcome.

And what if you’re just tired? The trials of life can just be exhausting when you’ve been through a lot. You may have been hit by problem after problem, trying to find solutions, bouncing from one difficult situation to another. Still, we can’t avoid the other problems that will roll through. All we can do is try to practice gratitude for being able to weather the storm and survive. Frankly, surviving is all you can do sometimes.

8. This too shall pass.

These four powerful words have been remembered during hard times for hundreds if not thousands of years. You can find variations of this phrase in different philosophies and religions. And all it is saying is that this suffering is a temporary thing. The problem will eventually pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will still pass.

Focusing on the fact that this problem won’t last forever can keep you from getting bogged down in all the negative emotions of dealing with difficult situations. Knowing that it will pass can give you the additional strength to get through the situation.

But unfortunately, this isn’t always applicable. For example, maybe you have a chronic illness that you’ll be dealing with for the rest of your life. It won’t pass. It’ll just be challenging and painful for a long time. In that case, and in going through a temporary struggle, all you can do is try to make the most of every day. Try to keep your power by doing what you need to do to stay as healthy as possible. Then try to find or create some joy in your daily life.

9. Try to help others.

One of the greatest things you can do for your own healing and struggles is help others through theirs. But, of course, there are limits to this. Sometimes the load is just too heavy to deal with your problems and those of others. Still, participating in support groups, doing some volunteer work, or even helping out a neighbor who needs some assistance can be a great way to manage stress in a healthy way.

The other great side effect of helping others is that it will make you feel happier with yourself by putting something positive into the world. That can be of great benefit when you’re trying to find something positive in the negative situation you’re currently going through.

Life is difficult sometimes. Being strong through difficult times is challenging when it doesn’t feel like there is an end to the suffering soon. Just keep going. You can get through it one step at a time. Sometimes it’s not about focusing on the future but just getting through the next five minutes.

Each step you take brings you closer to finding your way out of the situation. And if it’s not, it would be a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional.

We really do recommend that you seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to get through the rough patches in life with your mental health intact.

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