When Hanging in There Hurts

Sometimes simple phrases aren't enough to bring us peace.

Posted Mar 19, 2018

If there’s one thing we can count on in this world, it’s change. However hard we may try to keep things consistent, we can’t contend with the fundamental nature of life, which is to remain in a perpetual state of transition and transformation. It’s easy for us to embrace this reality when the changes are favorable. We love seeing the clock strike 5:00 on Friday.  We get really excited about getting stronger, losing weight, earning fancier titles, and making more money. We celebrate births, graduations, and all manner of new beginnings. But when it comes to the difficult periods of transition, we tend to be much less willing to lean into the change.

There’s a certain expression in our culture that people often use when someone’s going through a painful or difficult time of transition: “Hang in there.” It’s a way of saying, “I know this isn’t easy, but don’t give up. Soon you’ll be on the other side of this dark episode.” The expression conveys empathy and compassion; it’s intended to be comforting. But what if those words aren’t enough to sooth something that feels unmanageable or overwhelming? What do you do when hanging on starts to hurt?

1) Breathe and meditate. Breathe with intention, and practice centering your mind on the present moment. When we’re going through dark times, it’s easy to get carried away and create catastrophic stories about what the future will hold. It will serve you to develop a practice of anchoring your attention back in the present moment whenever your mind begins to wander. Continue to remind yourself that you will get through this—one moment, one breath at a time.

2) Take care of yourself. Manage your stress and find ways to unwind and decompress. Maintain a balanced and consistent routine as much as you can. Attend to your food, exercise, and sleep habits. It’s easy to neglect your needs and break routines when times are tough. But you’ve got to be well to manage your challenges, get through the tough stuff, and overcome the obstacles in your way.

3) Recall other difficult periods of your life that you’ve gotten through. Remind yourself that there was another time in your life when you felt confused, afraid, uncertain, or desperate for things to get better. Remember that things eventually changed, and you stopped feeling as awful as you once did. This, too, shall pass.

4) Call on your faith and courage. Whatever spiritual or religious convictions you might have, this is the time to lean on them. Trust that no matter how difficult your present circumstances may be, they are molding you into a stronger, wiser, more understanding version of yourself. Access your inner courage and fortitude, and know that you will get to the other side of this, whatever it is.

No matter what you’re going through or how painful it may be, it won’t last forever. Nothing does. Keep these tips in mind, and know that you can make it through anything that comes your way.