10 ways to support yourself during a challenging time.
By Amy Crawford
Reach out to anyone close to you in your life and they are likely facing a challenge of some sort. The loss of a loved one, a break up, ill health, the demise of a business, the loss of a friendship, a sick pet.. life challenges will never stop coming at us. Often we are left wondering what we've done to deserve such difficulties, and we may even wonder where we'll find the strength to push through.
Over the years I've faced a challenge or three - sudden and traumatic heartbreak of the kind that forever destroyed my eyebrows (it was the 90's and far out did I over pluck), chronic illness that saw the end of a successful career and my capacity to do some of the things I loved to do, the loss of lifelong friendships, the death of a best friend, and on it goes. I know I'm not alone in my fair share of challenges.
However, with age comes wisdom; I've learnt to react and respond to challenges more effectively these days. I've learnt resilience; I've worked hard at cementing a strong sense of self belief and optimism in my life. Years of being knocked around by life's challenges has in turn helped me figure out how to tackle what gets thrown my way.
Maybe you are going through a difficult time, or maybe a friend or loved one is. Whatever the case here are my top tips to help you navigate the storms.
1. The bigger the challenge, the more immense the transformation.
THIS! It must go first. This was the most comforting learning, the best possible advice I could ever have been given as I navigated years of chronic fatigue syndrome, and actually, every challenge since. Because it's just so true. I came out the other side of my illness with an entirely different life, a business that allows me to follow my joy, a dog who keeps me sane and in good company, and most importantly, in good health.
Know this, to get up and out of a very challenging time you HAVE to dig deep, you have to do the work, you have to build new muscles.. you can therefore only come out the other side a stronger, more resilient version of you.
Keep reminding yourself of this as you navigate what comes.
2. Feel all the feelings; don't pretend they're not there.
Whatever the feelings - sadness, grief, anger, guilt, shame, frustration - don't push them down and pretend they're not there. What is pushed down must come up and out eventually and too often it's via an inexplicable explosion of emotion, illness, anxiety or stress.
Feeling sad? Lie down and feel the tears roll. Angry? Go and punch pillows, scream, stamp your feet, exercise. Whatever the case, remember that you're human - these feelings are there to be felt, and gently in time, let go.
3. Choose your company wisely.
Be ruthless, if necessary. Where you can, surround yourself with people who lift and inspire you and most importantly, hear you. You need people around you who have your best interest at heart. Toxic people may judge, criticise, project their own crap onto you or even dismiss you.
You get to choose. Get better at this!
4. Talk it through.
Bottling things up can create far bigger problems - believe me, I know this! Living alone means it's easy to sit on lingering challenges and ruminate, often creating far bigger issues. There are times I'm know, when the last thing you feel like doing is going out to meet your friend. Yet, how often have you forced yourself to to do this only to return home feeling so glad you made the effort, relieved at the renewed perspective, or fuelled with new tactics to help navigate a way forward.
A problem shared is a problem halved, yes?
5. Ask for help.
It feels GOOD to give, yes? Remember this when you hesitate asking for help - people generally love to help. If you are struggling to cope, reach out, lean on a friend or a loved one. Or seek professional help, invest in yourself during this time.
You are not an island. People love and care for you.
6. Prioritise self care.
With huge emotion and struggle comes stress. With stress comes a compromised immune system, poor sleep, and even poorer food choices. And so the roller coaster goes.
Nourish yourself with a wholefood diet, lay off the caffeine as far as possible, remind yourself that booze is not your friend (it will feel good in the moment, but ultimately it'll only exasperate your issue), prioritise sleep, mediate, lean on calming essential oils, exercise.
Having said this, keep it simple. If you can't find the strength for gym sessions, go for a walk over your lunch break. If you haven't the capacity to think about cooking this week, call in a healthy home delivery service.
7. Maintain perspective.
Check in with yourself. So often we blow things out of proportion. In the bigger scheme of things, have you got perspective around this challenge?
8. Get protective of your time and use it wisely.
Boundaries, people! They are yours to be used and enforced. If you're an introvert who needs alone time to recover, schedule that into your diary. If you are at capacity, learn to say no to the dinner invite, the coffee, the meeting request - unapologetically. If you're saying yes to keep people happy at the detriment of your own health and wellbeing, you need to work on this.
You cannot give from an empty cup!
9. Take action.
Even if you don't know what to do, do something. Action creates a feeling of momentum, and can be very empowering. Write a list, batch cook for the week, schedule your you-time into your calendar. Avoiding doing anything at all will fuel anxiety and exasperate a feeling of being stuck.
10. Ground yourself.
When you're going through a challenge, you will often feel highly anxious, flighty, and utterly overwhelmed. During this time it's important to do more of what grounds you. Breathing techniques, meditation, walking in nature, swimming in the ocean - all of these things will support this. I also choose to use earthy and wooded essential oils like vetiver, frankincense and copaiba.
After all of this, just remind yourself, you are not alone. There is help around you, should you ask for it. And, never forget, every challenge comes with a blessing.
As a CTC therapist, please know that I can help you, wherever you are in the world. For more information on this transformational 2 hour process, read this. To book an appointment, you can do so here.