“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“…plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
The last few years have been tough on everyone in one way or another. One thing for certain is tough times thump each of us regardless of who we are or how perfect we attempt to live our lives. I wish we could avoid difficult stages, but we can’t. Whether it was Covid-19 decisions, job changes, financial stresses, relationships, health issues, or (you fill in the blank) we can find ourselves standing neck deep in them. We may experience being overwhelmed, frustrations, disappointment, guilt, or questioning our faith.
Whether the difficult situation is global, local and/or personal, going through the emotions is like wading through mud. And some tragedies can feel like chasing marbles on a slanted table. These stresses can leave you feeling helpless and overwhelmed. Trauma, loss, violence, stress, anxiety, are upheaving. Difficult times can leave you feeling out of control, conflicting emotions, painful grief, and powerless to move forward in your life.
Thank Christ we have a Father who knows our needs and is ready to stand in the gap with and for us. Here are a few tips to handling tough times:
- Don’t trust your emotions. Emotions are fickle and unreliable. You can’t trust them. When emotions run high due to fatigue, a heated argument, stress, short deadlines, or inexperience, avoid snap decisions. In the heat of the moment, your reaction might feel right, but avoid rash decisions. Take time away from the situation, go to prayer, and revisit the ‘topic’ a day or two later.
- Focus on the Positive. When we focus on the negative and worry, has it ever really helped? In fact, wearing the clothes of a victim can actually alienate you from those who may have a solution. Being negative will attract those with hearts of mercy, which we all need, but they are best equipped to help you like your wounds but not necessarily gifted at strategizing solutions. Look around! Look for the positive. Look for the lessons in the struggle, realizing you may be asked to pass the lesson on when you’re through it. Maya Angelou is quoted as saying, “Every storm runs out of rain.” Look for the rainbow in the rain or the silver lining.
- Calm yourself. Avoid withdrawing but take a moment to just breathe quietly and alone. Sit still. Close your eyes and listen to your heartbeat or birds or the sound of water. Then ask Christ to show you the lesson and the solution. Then trust that you’ve been heard, and the answer is coming. Spend as much time in the arms of the Father as you need.
- Exercise, sleep, hydrate. Prioritize your health so you will be your present best. Often when we’re stressed or going through tough things, it consumes our time and we neglect exercise, sleep and nurturing our bodies.
- Build Resilience. The more resilient you are, the more you will be able to cope with unsettling circumstances. Understanding and naming the emotions you’re feeling helps to construct a strategy out of it. Rebounding from the difficulties takes time. Practicing positivity even when you don’t feel it can trick your emotions into staying out of the counter-productive victim bubble. Don’t numb your feelings. Walk through them. Seek help for tools to pull you out of the depth of trauma.
- Be Confident. Eventually this too will pass. You will find a solution and life will return to a new new. Accepting the situation is a huge step to building a way out of it. Pace yourself. Not every problem is solved immediately. Dealing with the loss of a loved one, a hurricane destruction, a divorce, or financial bankruptcy won’t be resolved in a short span of time; yet eventually it will be unraveled and become a look back at a steppingstone to perseverance.
- Build your relationships. Reach out to others. Build your skill off their experience. Sometimes one golden sentence will be what you need to move forward. Listen for it. Avoid negative people and those that give ‘drive-by cliques’ such as “Just give it to God,” “God moves in mysterious ways,” “Let go and let God.”
- Be Okay with being outside your comfort zone. Allowing yourself to be present in the moment and walk through the tough emotions shines a light into facets of your life you never knew existed. You will find you are stronger than you know, bolder than you thought, and more resilient than you have experienced before. This event may stretch you beyond what is normal for you and build durable muscles necessary for the next chapter in your life.
- Face Fear. Allowing yourself to feel the fear and walk through it, you remove the control fear holds over you. If you are trapped with a phobia, stare it down and kick it out of your life. Doing so bolsters your self-esteem and confidence. You’ll embrace the next new situation with a buoyancy you haven’t experienced in the past.
- Invest in YOU. Self-care is a buzz word thrown around that often loses its affect. But taking care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual health is vital to maneuvering life’s ups and downs. Crisis management takes energy, clarity, and perseverance. Investing in your health ups the capacity you have to draw from. You’ve heard it before: Exercise, eat right, sleep and manage your stress.
We can either allow trauma and tough times to tear us down or build an internal strength and faith on levels better designed to serve us and others. It’s easy to get frightened and overwhelmed by crisis in life but take a moment to look at another perspective; tough times build strong character. Diamonds are formed under great pressure; gold is refined by fire and Christ’s ambassadors are matured by tough times. Shield up, sword in hand, fight the battles that must be won and use your experiences—good and bad—to build the warrior you are destined to be.