‘Life is not always going to be easy’ were words that my grandmother would often murmur to me during challenging times that I faced as a young girl. Whether it was learning how to tie my shoe, scraping my knee or starting at a new school, my sweet grandmother would be there with her words of encouragement and perseverance. It is as I write this article that her words are ringing true; life is full of ups and downs, it won’t always be easy and there are plenty of life lessons to learn along the way.
However, what is it that makes some people face challenges head on while others get too anxious or overwhelmed if such obstacles are even contemplated. Furthermore, what are some key things that people can use to help conquer issues with courage and strength? Below is a list of ideas that I have gained throughout the years from various experiences and lessons in my life. Some of the information provided is stuff that I have picked up from personal events while others were seen as helpful within the therapy context.
● Be OK with imperfections - You are going to make mistakes and wrong decisions, it is just a fact of life. Instead on focusing on your weak areas, try to focus on the positive ones and ways in which you can make them stronger. I personally believe that when we focus on the negative we might wander onto a slippery slope that may lead us down the wrong path...fast. However, if you do want to pay attention to a weak area of yours (i.e. poor time management, poor organization, laziness), I recommend doing so from a kind and curious position; never self-criticize and remember to not be too hard on yourself.
● Have an encouraging support group - Going through stressful times to overcome a challenge can bring out the worst in some. People react to stress and feelings of being overwhelmed in various ways, but one thing's for certain...having support from loved ones is a big help. Whether you need someone to vent to or a group of friends to brainstorm with, support groups can be a useful strategy to give you the strength you need to master a challenge.
● Realize when it might be time to change the game plan - Sometimes it is completely OK to say that you need to charge at your obstacle from a different perspective. Starting from scratch and re formatting your strategy might even open your eyes to areas that you were blind to before, which can be helpful for making your defense more powerful.
● Positive out / Positive in - Some believe that putting positive and good energy into this world can open you to receive such energy back from the universe. Sometimes we need to really let go of our frustrations (as hard as that may sound) and face our challenges from a more enthusiastic and encouraging standpoint. Who knows, maybe having such a stance can also help you to feel less overwhelmed and more optimistic too.
● Baby steps - As the old saying goes, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. The same is true for a lot of good things that are worth working hard for, therefore it might be helpful to tackle your obstacle with baby steps. Instead of focusing on the big picture, try to break down what you need to do to succeed into smaller increments. This can help you to recognize and celebrate each small success while also providing a feeling of productiveness and accomplishment.
● Don’t be intimidated by hard work - The fact of the matter is that you just might need to roll up your sleeves and work through the mess to get to the top. Just think of how good success is going to feel after you pushed your way through and worked hard to get where you are at.
● Believe in yourself and your capabilities - Even though this might be a hard one, especially when the chips are down, remember that you can get through almost anything you set your mind to.
● Today is a new day - Much like the quote that I use to end every article, every day a new possibility and a fresh start begins. Do not fret on the things you did or did not do the day before, instead focus on the here and now and what you can do to make progress on a big obstacle.
Until next time -- take care of yourself, take care of your mind.
Amanda Burk, MA, LPC-Intern, LMFT-Associate
Supervised By: Tammy Fisher, MA, LPC-S, LMFT-S
“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” – Buddha