In our lives, we come across tough times at one point or another. The degree, intensity, and duration of the situation may vary. It could be personal, professional, family-related, financial, health-related, or any combination happening at the same time.
For me, one aspect of growing older that I’ve appreciated is the expanding toolbox of concepts, experiences, behaviors, and mantras to meet these tough times. Make no mistake, I still struggle with the stresses of my business doing poorly, family problems flaring up, or kids not feeling well, but I’ve felt better about my ability to manage my feelings and to at least carry them without feeling overwhelmed or having the urge to escape.
I’ve been jotting down my self-talk here and there to more easily recall them in times of need, and I was able to distill them into ten reminders for when the going gets tough:
1. These tough times shall pass. Nothing lasts forever.
2. There is brightness and joy all around if I choose to find them. Take a moment to slow down and notice the small pleasures in my life. There are many, and they are a wonderful salve to the feelings of stress and anxiety.
3. My attention only feeds the worries. Focus instead on what I can control and can turn into concrete actions.
4. Write down the things that stress me out and write down the ways I can overcome or deal with them — realize most things aren’t life and death and will mostly be about overcoming short-term discomfort or my need to look good in the eyes of others.
5. Appreciate the love and support I have from those who don’t care how successful I am. Draw strength from this.
6. Contemplate the biggest and hardest decisions I can make if I would really like to change my reality—then write down what it would take to make this happen. Realize that many decisions, however hard, are doable with enough deliberation and courage.
7. Think of all that I already have: my health, being surrounded by loving family, in my professional prime, living in a great city. What’s so hard that I can’t fully enjoy the life I have?
8. Revisit my personal mission statement — think about those I serve and care about and what I’m doing to live my best life every day. No matter the difficulties of the day, my mission and roles can keep me grounded.
9. Go to bed early. I’ll think more clearly and optimistically when I’m rested.
10. Make time to read, especially in the stories of how others handled tough times (memoirs, biographies, history books). I’ll find inspiration, ideas, and gain perspective.
My Kind of Self-Care
The underlying themes here are gratitude, patience, taking ownership (and action), observation, and service.
For me, I believe that when it comes to the idea of self-care, it’s less about escaping, relaxing, or indulging in comforts but rather about seeking clarity–being clear on what’s important to me and what I want for my life. From having clarity comes the courage to act in ways that can help me better handle the tough times, whether it’s having patience, being decisive, showing compassion, or putting in the extra effort.