6 tips for tough times

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Life is never a straight line. We take three steps forward and two steps back. We come to a fork and choose the wrong path. Sometimes it feels like we’re not moving at all – especially when we’re going through tough times.

Life isn’t a math problem with a definitive formula. It’s not as easy as “solve for X.” Life isn’t a connect-the-dots drawing with only one right answer. Life is more like an epic novel – a winding and complicated adventure in which you are the hero. There are only two ways for the story to end: suffer or grow. With the right skills, you can learn how to get through tough times and create an extraordinary ending.

1. Express your feelings

Picture a boiling tea kettle. It builds up pressure until finally the steam is released – or the kettle explodes. Emotions are like the steam in a tea kettle: they’re going to come out one way or another. Avoiding your feelings allows them to build up inside you. They mutate into anxiety and depression. They express themselves through bad habits like drinking.

Don’t numb yourself to feelings. Talk about them. Write about them. Cry. Draw. Listen to music. Allow yourself to feel. Letting your emotions out will take away their power. You’ll clear your mind and open yourself to the lesson they’re going to teach you. Only then will you be able to overcome tough times.

2. Change your physiology

When we’re happy, we smile. When we’re going through tough times, we cry. When we’re nervous, we tremble. It seems straightforward: our emotions affect our physiology. But the reverse is also true: physiology can dictate our feelings – our bodies change our minds.

The act of smiling can make us happier. That’s because our brains release feel-good hormones when we smile – even if we don’t mean it. Power posing is another strategy to change your physiology and your mindset. Adopting poses with your hands on your hips or your arms in a victorious “V” can make you feel more powerful. In tough times, any catalyst to recognize your own power and take action is welcome.

3. Focus on what you can control

Everyone who is going through tough times has a choice: What are you going to focus on? There may be plenty of things that you can’t control, but nobody ever got anywhere by focusing on those things. You’re only setting yourself up for frustration and anxiety. You must decide to focus on things you can control.

Get a piece of paper and make two columns. In one column write down all the things you can’t control; in the other, write down what you do have control over. Cross everything off that first column and choose to focus on the second. When you empower yourself to take action by changing your focus, tough times start to seem more like an opportunity than a setback.

4. Change your perspective

Just as we choose what to focus on, we choose what meaning we give to our experiences. In tough times, it’s up to you to decide what it means. You can look at your situation as an end or as a beginning. You can see it as a curse or as a blessing. Tony says that “Every experience of your life has gifts for you.” Believe that, and going through tough times gets a little bit easier.

Practicing gratitude is a proven way to stop dwelling on the negative and start seeing the positive. When you look for what’s right instead of what’s wrong, you’re forced to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Everyone experiences tough times. Everyone feels that life is out of control sometimes. But someone else is happy with less than what you have, and that means you can be happy, too.

5. Prioritize self-care

It’s easy to get burnt out in tough times. Maybe you’ve been laid off and spend your days sending out résumés – but not hearing back. Or your spouse lost their job and now you’re dealing with extra pressure, plus family responsibilities. You don’t even need to have experienced a specific event in order to be going through tough times: Humans experience collective emotions, meaning you could be affected by the mood of society in general.

Taking care of yourself and your loved ones is especially important during tough times. Mindfulness practices like priming or meditation can clear your head and stabilize your mood. Exercise releases stress and increases energy. Dancing along to your favorite song or watching a funny video clip gets you out of your head for a moment, so you can come back even stronger.

6. Find support

Your support system is also a form of self-care: The people you surround yourself with have a real impact on your mood and your mindset. Friends who are there for you in tough times provide a shoulder to cry on and trusted advice. Just make sure you’re not focusing on the negative. The best friends will help you formulate a vision for your life after tough times, too.

Coaching can be an invaluable tool for going through tough times. An honest outside opinion can make you see things the way they really are. A coach will also help you formulate goals and continue to move forward no matter what. Success breeds success – once you start seeing growth, you’ll want to achieve even more. You’ll come out of tough times in a better position and be able to accelerate past your peers.

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