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How to Be OK When Your Life Isn't

Four things that resilient people do to get through hard times.

In my work as a therapist, people oftentimes present with feeling like nothing in their life is going well. And upon hearing their stories, it is, in fact, the truth. I think we all have had times when things are really difficult and nothing seems to be working out.

So how does one develop the resilience to trudge through and actually thrive when circumstances in your life are really awful? I have found that resilient people who manage to get through the hard times more easily than others have these four things in common in how they cope with difficult times.

  1. They hunker down and do what they need to do to survive. Sometimes that’s more than one can handle but you’d be surprised at the extra stuff we all do that we really might not be up to doing when you’re going through a tough period. Resilient people give themselves permission to do the bare minimum.
  2. They find one thing that they really like to do — and they do it a lot. They are able to take a really hard look at what is it that they really enjoyed doing before this hard period and do it. Not only that, but it's a matter doing it even if you don't exactly feel like doing it. It's a form of self-care. It could be something like listening to music, watching television—reruns, retro TV, marathon series watching, movies, going to the gym, cooking, reading. And they do it more.
  3. They find someone who might be willing to listen and provide support, and they include that person in their life. The tendency is to isolate when things are hard. Instead, resilient people reach out to someone. It might be family, might be a friend, a therapist, a pastor, a rabbi a neighbor or a coworker. You do get through difficult times easier with someone on your side. Someone that’s offered their help in the past, someone that cares. Resilient people are not hesitant to take them up on it and do talk to someone and share their feelings.
  4. They find a way to connect with their spiritual core, whether it’s a faith tradition or their inner philosophical ideology, nature, meditation, yoga or prayer. They collectively have hope and faith that things will get better. That's huge for many reasons. Belief and hope are powerful forces for change and for connecting you to something greater than yourself and your current circumstances.

Coping with difficult times in life is challenging for everyone. Although resilient people function even when times are difficult, seeking professional help should always be an option. Nevertheless, prolonged sadness and not being able to enjoy things that you used to really enjoy is always of concern particularly when you are unable to do the simple and basic things of everyday life.

To that end, it is important to differentiate between feeling sad, feeling overwhelmed, feeling upset and clinical depression. That would require consulting with a mental health provider or at the very least, your family doctor, to rule out clinical depression, which is a condition that is treated with psychotherapy and possibly accompanied by medication.

Things never do stay the same. So when times are particularly difficult, it might be helpful to remember that it won't always be that way. Resilient people know that.

More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
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More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
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