How can we see ahead during difficult times…
During difficult times it can be very hard to see ahead and find ways forward. Many people are suffering right now, and in so many different ways – whether it’s unemployment, isolation and loneliness, sickness, fear or other things.
One of the common emotions in all of these things is grief: grief for what we’ve lost, for what we can no longer do, for the close human contact that is being denied us right now, for all sorts of things.
When we’re all feeling similar emotions at the same time, that can in itself be a kind of comfort. It’s a shared experience. It can be calming.
Difficult times can also lead to new beginnings. I’m no stranger to life’s challenges: the death of both of my parents at the same time and also the suicide of a previous partner are two of those things. However, although I would never want to relive those experiences, they have actually added to my life in positive ways I could never previously have foreseen. What’s more, they have made me who I am today.
The silver linings of adversity are not always easy to see at first, and the things that happen in life don’t always seem to make sense – but difficult times challenge us to find ways forward, to rethink what we do and how we do it, small step by small step.
I remember listening to a conversation online between Oprah and the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. It was a conversation about managing the ups and downs of life. Elizabeth Gilbert said, “I came here to live a life, and I’ll take all of it.” She was ready to embrace the downs as well as the ups.
Here are 3 things that have helped me through the deepest challenges. Maybe they can help you too:
1. Look for meaning in the situation
Easy to say, not always easy to do. If I think about the current situation in the world, I can find some kind of meaning in this for me by looking at how it’s changing what I do day to day. Some of those things are welcome.
For example, I’m thinking more about what I spend money on, what’s most important to me in this life, how I’m nurturing my friends – and those are things that make this current situation a blessing in some ways, despite all the difficulties. It makes it easier to get through each day.
2. Reframe the situation
In difficult times it’s easy for painful thoughts to keep going round and round in our heads like a movie on repeat. We can try to interrupt that process by asking ourselves whether there are some different, less painful, images we can add to the film. It can take a little while to build in those new images, but it’s worth it.
So with the word ‘reframing’ I don’t mean denying the impact something is having. Instead, for me, it’s about finding a different kind of ‘story’ about the situation that is more calming in this moment.
3. Start something new
When my previous partner died I wrote a book. It was a cathartic process and something that helped me express how I was feeling. It gave me a purpose in my grief, and it was something I could focus on each day that not only helped me, but that I knew would help others too.
Writing a book is a fairly big undertaking, but there are also lots of smaller things we can start, to help us maintain a sense of purpose through difficult times. What could you start?
This article from author, Iyanla Vanzant, also talks about 5 qualities that can help get you through the hardest times.
While we’re on the subject of starting something new..
Outwardist originally began as a way to encourage people to explore more of the world, to connect with and learn from the people we meet in new places. However, with the travel world in turmoil right now, I’m adapting Outwardist to suit the times. This new focus about sharing ideas for a better future – a new normal – is something we can all do together to find silver linings in the current chaos. Read more here.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear what kind of things help you through difficult times.