Embracing Difficulty

Some days, when it is cold, rainy and dark, it can be difficult to be 100% positive. It can be a matter of the environment, health, or circumstances leading us to a place we don’t want to go. We want to be always positive and moving forward but the reality means that life presents us with challenges – we have “down” as well as “up”. We should as much as possible embrace these times and see them not as failure or as an opportunity to berate ourselves but as preparation for our next push to something better – our next move forward. Have you ever noticed that when an athlete wants to jump a long distance that they sink down at the knees as preparation to jump higher or further? It’s like potential energy. When we have these “down” times, we should see them in this light and believe that we will be fine to move forward when the time is right. Sometimes it is having a good night’s sleep or a sunny day to help us move to take the next step. Push yourself when you can but also relax when you know you can’t.

Self-awareness and self-acceptance are important during difficult times almost in balance to our need to try and stay positive. Staying quietly positive can be simply saying that I am not giving up on my progress towards a better life or being a better person but right now I am taking a break to take care of myself. It is an acknowledgement that we cannot be “full-on” as humans on every single day. If we catch a cold or fall ill, we cannot set ourselves the expectation to necessarily carry on regardless. This can be foolhardy not only by potentially extending our own illness but if we force ourselves out into the world, we also risk infecting other people and making their situation worse as well. Often we ask ourselves, “why?” but this can be counter-productive if we find ourselves getting into a mental loop about “poor me” or “life is so unfair”. Avoiding this question and focusing on the situation as it stands can save a lot of internal angst. Accepting that “here is where I am” and figuring out what we need to do next will more quickly alleviate our suffering. In the example of getting a cold, we may need to get more sleep, ask people to cover for us at home or work, or ask for help in getting supplies like tissues and pain killers.

We are often afraid to ask for help in fear of burdening other people. We need to be willing to ask for help but also be willing to offer help in return when asked. Asking for help requires a certain amount of humility and acceptance that we are not entirely self-sufficient. Of course, most people on a daily basis do not need a lot of help and can get on with everything as required. But there are some days where we would benefit from help whether that is reaching out for material help or even just the chance to talk to someone about how we are feeling. People who care about us will take the time to help or listen and it builds our relationships with those around us. In some cases, it actually helps the other person to be able to help you because they feel needed or appreciated. This willingness to ask for and provide help creates a community around us that is about looking out for and taking care of each other.

In the modern world we have become increasingly isolated from each other and perhaps less aware of each other’s needs and difficulties. Social media allows us to paint a rosy picture of our lives and indirectly we are discouraged from sharing less positive aspects of our life experience. While it is a mistake to go all in on the bad stuff happening in our life, it is absolutely appropriate to reach out to others when we are struggling. This is not easy to do, so by preparing ourselves and thinking about our coping strategy when we are feeling good, we will be better able to cope when we are feeling bad. Who in your life can support you and how can you be available to support them? Sharing our challenges can help those around us to see that they are not alone in dealing with difficulties and it can also create gratitude for the good things in their lives.

But what if every day is a bad day and what if we feel bad all the time? If this is the case, then we have to reach beyond our immediate circle and seek help from doctors or counsellors to help us get to a place where we have a better quality of life. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our community of family and friends to get professional help if we are in a serious situation. This can be a scary thing to do but we have to rally our courage and resources and reach out. We cannot give up. You are important and you deserve help. If the first person you speak to doesn’t help the situation, then seek out another. Keep seeking for that better place. Getting ourselves to a better place is not easy particularly if we are not feeling good. But please keep going. Don’t give up.

We all have to make difficult decisions in life to balance between earning a living, providing for family, maintaining our relationships, and taking care of ourselves. It will be rare that we get this right every day of the year or even most days of the year. There will always be compromises. There will always be “not done”. People who live happy lives are not without challenges, they have to make compromises, and they have a long list of “not done” but the difference is that they carry on, keep going, and try to find the next steps to move forward. We have to find a way to be ok within ourselves so that we are able to tackle all the things we need to do outside ourselves. Chronic neglect of our self-care will mean that the things around us will get worse, not better.

We must prioritise our well-being and self-care just as we prioritise other things in our lives. So many people miss this point and put themselves last. This is often for extremely honourable reasons but you must understand that this is not a long term viable option. You will slowly fall apart. Self-awareness is so important and the first step to self-awareness is finding a place of calm and stillness where we can take stock of where we are. Choosing silence is a good first step to this awareness by quietening the mind and body so that we are in a place of relative comfort where we can assess our needs. This does not need a lot of time – just a few minutes of focus on our mind and body can give us a reboot and more clarity about what we need to do next.

For those who have been feeling low on a regular basis, “Sunbathing in the Rain” is an excellent book with very helpful suggestions about how to move forward. I read it many years ago and it has a permanent place on my bookshelf for inspiration when I am feeling down. I don’t think that I have ever experienced the worst forms of depression but the tastes of it I have experienced during bad times were incredibly hard. Be kind to yourself and take care.

When not to choose silence