One part of life we can be pretty confident of is that occasionally, challenges will get thrown our way. Whether it’s personal trials like a relationship breakdown or global challenges like the COVID19 pandemic, we will all face opposition to our mission in life from time to time. During those seasons, it can be difficult to stay positive – but it is absolutely possible! I want to ensure you that you are well equipped to remain positive and resilient regardless of the challenges you face.
Through my career as a Psychological Practitioner, I have worked with all sorts of people who have faced huge adversity. Some who have lost physical functions (like sight, or movement); lost belongings; lost family members – all sorts of different adversities. YET, despite the challenges they faced, I have seen that it really is possible to stay optimistic, remain positive and continue to get joy out of life during a difficult season.
What can we expect?
Before we look at some techniques you can use to help you face times of adversity, it is important that you understand what you might be likely to experience. Being prepared for how our emotions may change during these periods helps us to prepare our defences better.
- Up-and-down – During the COVID19 pandemic I dubbed this phenomenon the ‘Corona-coaster’ but essentially, when we face frustrating, uncertain, or scary times our mood can become very ‘up-and-down’. One moment you might be feeling “I’ve got this!”, “I can do it!” and then next you might wonder “how am I ever going to cope?”.
- Uncertainty – Opposition and adversity often comes in the form of uncertainty. Being in limbo can be worse than knowing what we definitely can or cannot do. It can lead us to doubt ourselves and question what we are aiming for.
- Wanting to escape – If things feel like they are getting to be “too much” the temptation is often to look for an escape. We might seek to try to ignore the circumstances we are in and avoid doing anything to change them, simply because we do not want to face it.
- Emotions – During challenging times you might face any number of emotions but some of the really common ones are: Frustration, disappointment, fear, lethargy, loneliness & stress.
During challenging times, do not be too concerned if any of this is your experience. Remember, challenging circumstances are not ‘normal times’ so we wouldn’t expect to feel how we ‘normally’ do. Instead, there are some techniques you can employ to help you to change the way you think about the opposition you are facing.
What can we do to stay positive?
Trying to avoid facing up to the way difficult times are impacting you only increases the frustration and pain that it causes. The alternative then, is to face up to it; accept it; and look at what you can do to combat it.
- Acknowledge the challenge – How has this challenging time impacted you? Has it prevented you from achieving any goals you set? Have you learnt anything during this time? Recognise what this challenging period has meant for you and allow yourself a moment of self-compassion. This has been a difficult time. You have done incredibly well to get through it thus far.
- Work out what you value - Behind everything we like to do, there is a personal value. (E.g. – If you like going for a run: maybe you value getting up early, or physical exercise, or the feeling of cool morning wind on your face). Whatever you are trying to do in life – what is the real value behind it? Why have you chosen to be where you are? Why have you chosen the career / hobbies you have?
- Find an alternative - Chances are, if you are facing opposition in life you may have been unable to do things you wanted to – you may have been prevented from working towards your mission. So, once you have worked out the root value behind what you want to do, you can work out how to achieve it by going a different route. (E.g. If I sprain my ankle and can’t run anymore, maybe I could do some gentle morning yoga in my garden to achieve the same values as before).
- Set current SMART goals – You may have had a goal you have been working towards, but for the difficult season you are currently facing it may no longer be appropriate or realistic. Think about setting some new goals that are more achievable and specific for this season. You can then re-visit your original goals once this season is over; (e.g. If my over-all goal with running was to “get fitter”. Perhaps for the time being, I cannot run. But I can set a goal to do Yoga 3 times per week to continue working towards it until I can run again).
- Keep your eye on the horizon – Try to remember that challenging times do not last forever. They are not ‘normal times’. They are simply seasons to challenge us. So, remember to keep your eyes focussed on the horizon. Where are you headed in life? What is the bigger picture? This difficult time is only a slight delay or a minor set-back, but it isn’t going to prevent your life from having value, and it will not permanently prevent you from achieving your goals.
Finally, whatever happens if you are facing challenging times, self-compassion is key. Try not to think about what you “should be doing”, or what “could have been”. These types of thoughts are not helpful. Instead, focus on what strength you have for facing difficult times. Focus on the lessons you will learn from it. And encourage yourself that you are doing a great job.
If you are going through a difficult time, here are some resources that you might find helpful.
- IAPT: National Mental Health Service in the U.K. Find out which one is in your area to self-refer – https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-services/ Search “IAPT” and “your area”
- Get Self Help – https://getselfhelp.co.uk/
- 4 Steps to Maintain Good Mental Health – https://www.worktowellbeing.co.uk/post/4-steps-to-maintain-good-mental-health
- Courses and workshops on wellbeing and mental health - https://www.worktowellbeing.co.uk/courses
- Apps: Calm, Reach Out: Worry Time, Headspace