In these rather trying times that the world is facing in 2020, I speak with and read about a lot of people who are really struggling with the circumstances that life has thrown our collective way. Everyone has a different story, and some have had little to no impact from the pandemic; for others, it has changed their lives completely. For those of you who are doing just fine, congratulations. This blog post is not for you, however…
For those out there that are truly struggling with a new development due to COVID and/or other circumstances, the quote above was for you. Life is never easy; there are times when things are easier than others, but the reality is that life is varying degrees of struggle throughout the journey. That’s the deal. Even someone born into financial wealth has their own set of struggles, they just get drive a better car while dealing with their own set of issues. No one is exempt, and in some ways, you wouldn’t want to be. Struggle and hardship is what helps define your character, make you more resilient, and prepares you for the next round of whatever is headed your way.
With this in mind, let’s talk about how to get through a tough time. Obviously the definition of “tough” can vary from the differences in working from home, to the real stuff like losing a job or worse yet losing a loved one. Resiliency in some cases is just a matter of a shift in perspective. When things get tough in my life, I try to look at the issue through this process:
Am I or is someone I love/care about going to die?
Is someone I love/care about having a major issue?
Am I going through a break up/forced move/job search?
Do I have enough money to solve this issue?
How temporary is this problem?
If the answer is “NO” to the first three on the list, I am in good shape. Whatever I am stressing out about is not likely to alter my life in a dramatic way. This is good news; maybe I am giving more weight to the problem than warranted, which is why I use this checklist in the first place. When a problem first crops up, it tends at first to appear bigger or worse than it really is. If the answer is YES to any other those first three questions, I want to sit down and really think about the issue at hand and what can be done about it. If, for example, I would happen to be dealing with the loss of a loved one, I will at some point want to make sure I acknowledge my feelings and let that emotion out. I have operated far too long under the premise of : “If I pack this down deep enough, I won’t have to deal with it”. Yeah, that doesn’t work….trust me. You can’t run or hide from the things in your head, they follow you everywhere. If I dealing with something like a break up or move, I need to take action to solve the immediate problem(s) if any. If I don’t need to move out, find someone to help pay rent etc. then I just am back to having the emotional side to deal with.
When I can say NO to the first three questions and then get down the list to the next two, I probably have an immediate solution at hand. If I got into a car accident and my car will be in need of two weeks in the repair shop, I either A. have insurance to cover the repairs and a rental car or B. I have the funds to pay for this myself. Now this seemingly major issue is quickly reduced to an inconvenience. No one likes dealing with something like a car accident, but if I wasn’t hurt and the only issue is some needed repairs, this is not a huge concern. If I lost my job for whatever reason, and I have money in the bank to cover my bills for a little while, I am good. If I have a family member who could help me through lean times for a bit, I am also not in danger at that point. I could couch surf with several different friends for a month or two if needed to get by. In that time, I should have resolved the issue in most cases, and be on my way to getting my feet under me again.
If you have the mental toughness to deal with something, it is not going to break you. As the title suggests, the right mental attitude literally can withstand more than your bones can take. If your mind cannot be broken, you can survive almost anything. In an extreme example of this, read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankel which is his account of his time in Auschwitz as a prisoner and holocaust survivor. Yes…there was actually a holocaust, you conspiracy theorist! :-) His main theme was basically this: A person who as a “why”, can survive anything. That WHY is a reason to survive, to deal with the circumstances, and come through any hardship.
Something else I, and many others, suggest is to practice and develop your mental toughness. Any activity that you do that is difficult in some way, physically, mentally, emotionally, is going to deepen the reservoir of perseverance that you have. For example, if you got your ass kicked every week in a martial arts class, the rest of the world’s problems would seem much smaller in comparison. Learning to play an instrument, and dealing with the struggles that go along with it would help to diminish the impact of life’s little irritations.
It is much easier to brush off the headaches life throws at you when you choose to suffer on your own through activities of your own choice.
Inoculate yourself to the coming struggles of life by working to build your resilience and mental toughness through activities you choose. Life throws plenty at you that is out of your hands, but by deciding to suffer to get better at something, to get in shape, etc., you will build your own mental toughness and help make yourself better equipped to handle life in general.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.