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What to Do When Life Gets Hard

Have you ever noticed there are those folks who weather the ups and downs of life better than most? Does it make you wonder what their secret sauce is? Well, here are a few ideas acquired from resilient and optimistic people I admire. And if you don’t have any folks like this in your life, make an effort to find a few for when life gets you by the throat.

“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” 

Pain and affliction are a part of life, yet the degree of suffering is up to the individual. Suffering is a mental fixation. So pain is what is happening, while suffering is all about the what-if kind of thinking. For example, I am feeling the pain of a brushoff from a potential love interest, but I’m suffering because I think I will never be good enough for anyone. The pain is happening now, yet the suffering can go on for a long time. The good news is you can reduce the suffering because you control the story. Your suffering is attached to this story, so take control of the thought to influence the narrative. This is a favorite quote of mine, even if I still don’t know for sure who said it.

You don’t control what happens; you only control how you respond:

Stoicism is a philosophy based on the premise that your mind determines your perceptions. And according to the Stoics, the outer world is not the problem but rather your internal world. You have to differentiate between what you can change and what you cannot, and what you have influence over and what you do not have influence over. So part of the recipe for a happy life involves correctly identifying what you have control over and focusing your energy there while learning to accept what you don’t have the power to change. If you can determine what is out of your control and stop worrying about those things, you will find much more joy in your day-to-day life.

Resisting what you cannot change will create more suffering for yourself. Take responsibility for your mindset because your thoughts and beliefs create your world.

Our minds tend to lean into the negative, but we have the power to shift the direction:

Our primitive brain wants to look for the negative in order to watch for danger. However, our higher cognitive brain can direct a shift toward a better and more realistic mindset.

In the end, the framework from which we see and evaluate everything is an internal one, so this is a place of power if used well. So no matter what is happening, happiness becomes a choice. When we feel like everything is going wrong, we retool the configuration to search for what is going right. This is why gratitude can be a miracle ingredient in our secret sauce. Gratitude helps us train our brain to focus on the good and has been proven to provide beneficial results for depression, our immune system, and overall good mental and physical health.

“This too shall pass” attitude:

Let’s repeat the first point; if you are living, you will have pain. And sometimes, staying positive and not suffering is really hard. But as your elders have probably told you, “Nothing in life lasts forever, whether good or bad.” So happy people will remind themselves that this will pass and a change is coming around the bend. In the meantime, take a deep breath and focus on what you can be grateful for in the present moment. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to get you grounded in the present. In this technique, you find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This will help with your anxiety and rumination and remind you what’s right!

Katherine Jahnke

Katherine Jahnke

ADHD Coach and Life Coach, Executive Skills Coach, Owner/Founder