This too shall pass.
It works for the times when you’re happy, so that you remember to really, fully enjoy it. And it’s a comfort when the shit hits the fan. You know you just have to hold firm and the pounding waves will soon just be lapping at your feet.”
This was what a friend said to me and a few other girlfriends while we were having dinner recently, after we’d all done a bit of a round-table outpouring. Over the past couple of years between us we’d been separated, lost parents, friends and family members, had seriously ill children, struggled with fertility, moved house, moved countries, divorced, endured painful surgeries, and excruciating broken hearts.
Personally, I had ticked four of those boxes.
Yet each of us had managed to remain standing despite those relentlessly pounding waves.
“What got you through?” I asked the group. “Because sure, mantras are great, but what did you DO in retrospect that really, really helped you survive?”
Here’s 8 things that helped us get through some of the toughest periods of our lives. I’d love you to share what’s helped you also, in the comments section below.
Take each minute as it comes
That old saying to “take each day as it comes” just doesn’t quite cut it when your day is filled with moments that are scaring the pants off you. Instead, focus on getting through smaller slices of time, like ten-minute intervals. This approach allows you to appreciate the many tiny pockets of happiness that occur during the day, in turn making it easier to keep putting one foot in front to the other, and move forward.
Give yourself over to the tears (even if the moment seems inopportune)
Recently I was in a florist and saw bunches and bunches of hydrangeas for sale. It was a painful reminder to me of the family home I had just sold, and the care with which my then husband and I had selected the flowers to be planted, which had included a beautiful bank of all-white hydrangeas. Our home used to be filled with them for months on end. I let myself shed those tears in the middle of the florist, unashamed (because who really cares what the dude at the florist thinks anyway?!) and then bought myself a huge bunch, and exhaled. Accepting that, while that beautiful garden and all that came with it was no longer part of my life, those lovely flowers still could be.
Take up a vice
Taking up something unhealthy may seem counterintuitive when you’re going through a shit time, but if there’s something about smoking a cigarette, eating a tub of ice cream, drinking that extra glass of wine, or watching The Bachelor that makes you feel better, go with the flow and do it without the guilt. You’re an adult, so you know that all these things will only temporarily provide relief. You can quit, stop and delete it all when things are back on track. And they will be.
It’s easy to get caught up in the bad stuff, but noting down all of the great things in your life can help to maintain a positive outlook. They may be big things like “My family and I are healthy” or little things like “I ate a delectable chocolate”. I find when I do this it’s hard to stop (the gratitude AND the chocolate).
Keep the happy memories alive
If you’ve lost a loved one, a job, a relationship, or even one of your favourite earrings, it can be easy to focus on that feeling of sorrow or anger or loss. Instead, try to flip it around, and remember the reasons you’re hurting so much in the first place: because they/it meant so much to you in the first place. My friend who lost both her parents within a year shared “…my sister and I laugh quite a lot. We remember something borderline inappropriate about Mum and Dad and then we belly laugh. I think it’s the emotion getting out whichever way it can.”
Schedule in food
I never understood how people could forget to eat, or stop eating, till it happened to me. But when your mind is under onslaught, and your body under stress, it’s even more important to keep your body functioning well. Pre-plan meals. Get nutritious food delivered. Set timers on your phone to remind you to eat. Enlist the help of a nutritionist. Plan meals with friends. Just. Keep. Eating.
Let yourself feel
It’s ok to feel angry or sad – it’s part of the grieving process, and is a natural consequence for having an open heart. Accept that these emotions are part of your journey, and try to find a way to channel these into something productive. Join a boxing class and beat the crap out of that punching bag to release some anger, or watch a tear-jerker movie that you can cry along with.
Remember that everything is transitional
Even dog poo when left out in the sun long enough turns hard and stops smelling. So too will your situation change and transform into something more palatable.
And then one day you’ll wake up and won’t need to stand firm against the crashing waves anymore. One day you’ll be strong enough to go body surfing again.
How have you survived the more challenging moments in your life?