Getting through tough times is something most of us have experienced over the course of our lifetime. Whether it be a financial crisis, breakdown of a relationship or a plethora of small things happening all at once, going through a rough patch doesn’t usually feel good.
If you need help getting through a difficult time it is my genuine hope that you will find some comfort from the words that I’m about to share. I know firsthand the sheer emotional pain that can present itself when you’re getting through tough times.
Getting Through Tough Times: The Words I Wish I Had Heard
The words that I’d love to share with you are ones that I wish I had heard when I when I was at my lowest point. I only heard them two years ago and by then my life was a distant memory from where it had once been. Even so, these words reached into the deepest parts of my being and I still call on them today when I’m going through a difficult time. I don’t know if they’ll have the same effect for you but I felt inspired to share them today.
The words were spoken by Admiral William H McGraven as he addressed students at the University of Texas in 2014. It was dubbed the best graduation speech of the year. The 7 words that reached my soul and that I hope will reach yours are:
Be Your Best In Your Darkest Moment
Every SEAL knows that under the keel, at the darkest moment of the mission — is the time when you must be calm, composed — when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.
Although he was referring to an actual mission, something about being an example of strength, calm and skill in the midst of emotional darkness and turmoil resonated powerfully within. Here you stand, in this shit-awful situation and yet you can be your very best. You don’t have to love it, nothing about this situation is good. But it will not defeat you. This is happening whether you like it or not but you have a choice. Will you let it break you? Or will you rise up, call on all your inner resources and be your best?
Getting through tough times will test even the strongest minds. It is easy to be happy when your external circumstances are pleasing. What about when they are not? Suffering is a part of life. People you love are going to pass. You will experience joy and you will experience loss. You will get old and watch your body change. You will experience the tapestry of emotion as things you cherish come and go. But. How much and how long you suffer for is up to you. You can experience it all, the wanted and the unwanted, with an underlying sense of inner strength and knowing. It is your thoughts that often exacerbate suffering. An unwanted experience is made worse by your resistance to it.
How To Be Your Best When Going Through A Difficult Time
Sometimes a tough time can be the culmination of ongoing stuff lasting what seems to be a life time. Other times is can be the sudden manifestation of an unwanted event. The following tips are general in nature and can be applied to most circumstances.
1. Reign in your mind. Ever seen a car roll down a hill? It gains momentum as it goes. The longer you leave your mind unchecked (allowing disempowering thoughts) the more momentum it will gain and the quicker you will lose control. How do you reign in your mind?
2. Think strong thoughts. The shit has hit the fan and this is where it is easy to flat spin. No. This is where you choose to focus your thoughts and harness positive self talk. My go-to words are Focus, Precision and Calm. ‘I will get through this. I will do what ever it takes. I will handle this.’ You need to be hyper vigilant because this is where unhelpful thoughts like ‘I can’t cope’ are lining up outside your door. You can and will cope. Don’t let these little a-holes inside.
But what if the horse has already bolted and the emotion has taken over?
3. Breathe. Watch. And refrain from judging yourself for resisting. Allow yourself to feel whatever is present but take a step back so you are observing it rather than being in the middle of it. Allowing yourself to feel whatever is present from a place of non-judgment is really effective and with time you will notice that you’re not ruled by your emotions. It can be tricky but just do your best to mentally take a step back from it so you are no longer consumed. From here, you can give yourself space, focus on your breathing and reign your thoughts back in.
4. I Repeat. Breathe! The power of this simple practice cannot be highlighted enough but you need to know it for yourself. Your mind will follow if your breathing is slow and controlled. Your body will also follow. When adrenaline kicks in it takes over the body (racing heart, fight or flight, over reaction) and the mind cannot think clearly. Deep breathing will help you stay calm and focused.
5. Respond rather than react: There is a tendency is to react when faced with an unwanted situation. Refrain from doing so. My go to tips are: staple your mouth shut (not literally!) stay off the phone, get away from social media. When you act from resistance you may regret it later once the storm has passed.
Getting through tough times will test you. They will also teach you about yourself. A wise monk once said, ‘Adversity does not build character, it reveals it’.
One Lesson I Have Learned When Going Through Hard times
Buddha said not to get too attached because everything passes. Even to the things that make you happy. What you love today may be a splinter in your foot tomorrow (the divorce court is evidence enough of that:) One thing I am certain of is that everything does indeed pass. Nothing stays the same forever. This too shall pass for you. Refuse to let your pain break you. This happens a lot. It’s understandable. However, it is a choice. It is possible to call upon your inner resilience and make something good of your pain. It’s like being at a fork in the road. You can take a destructive path or you can take the skilful one.
A Note On Unimaginable Dark Times
As I was writing this article, a feeling of discomfort arose. I inquired what the feeling was about and this is what I need to express: There are some things in life that are so unspeakable and monstrous they are far more than just a tough time. I felt it necessary to acknowledge that. The suggestions offered here are not to be flippant or insensitive of souls who have suffered in such a way.
If you are experiencing a challenge right now, reassure yourself that it will pass. You can handle it. You have an incredibly powerful tool at your disposal; your mind. You can tell yourself that you can’t handle it or you can tell yourself that you can. Have your meltdown, cry, scream, feel sorry for yourself if need be and then gather up your poise and grace and say with quiet confidence “I’ve got this”.
Here’s to your beautiful soul, and your inner strength.
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