Activate Your Strength and Coping Capacity During Difficult Times
Facing something hard? If you’ve overcome other tough periods, they can be useful to you with whatever difficulties you are currently facing.
The last few years have been particularly hard. 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 at times. Perhaps you find yourself in a similar frame of mind, or maybe you just feel unmotivated or unsure of how to move forward. Keep reading.
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, 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 can be activated to benefit 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 takes some effort but its well worth it in the end.
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 are some examples to get you started: 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, 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 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, persevere, adapt, 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, forgive, 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 examples: time – just putting one foot in front of the other until it got better, perspective – looking for a different way to see something, dealing with it at my own pace and in my way – allowing myself periods to “escape” with a good book or a walk, 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 needed, 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 you think about the challenges of this current period, remind yourself that you are resourceful and resilient. You’ve dealt with difficulties before, and those situations have activated exactly what you need to deal with what you face right now. You can do the hard thing. You might not like it, but you can manage it until it is not hard anymore. You can be courageous. You can adapt. You will do more than survive, you will thrive.