Q + A // staying positive through hard times

Going through hard times is one of those things we all deal with.  Whether it's just having a bad week, or grieving the loss of a loved one, it's hard to go through.  I think it's important to focus on the positive things in life during those times, otherwise you get caught in a downward spiral that can be hard to get out of.  If you've been down for a while, definitely consider professional help from a counselor or psychologist.  Emotional pain can be just as real and painful, if not more so, than physical pain.  It's just as real and just as worthy of being treated by a medical professional as a physical disorder.  Here are some of my suggestions for keeping your spirits up while you're going through a hard time:

  Focus on your blessings, and be actively thankful.  Take the time to notice those blessings.  It might be something as small as noticing a little, beautiful butterfly that briefly landed next to you.  If you don't take the time to notice it, though, that little blessing can slip by without having the chance to encourage you. Write these things down so that you don't forget that even when things seem to be going all wrong, there are always blessings around you, sometimes it just takes you making the effort to focus and notice them.

 Do something for someone else.  Help a stranger with the door, make a care package for a friend living far away, volunteer, put some change in someone's expired meter.  Helping someone else will take the focus off yourself and your own pain.  And you're spreading positivity and happiness around!

  Exercise!  Get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing.  Even if you feel like staying in bed forever, get up and get moving.  Don't allow the negative feedback loop of laziness and feeling bummed keep you stuck in sadness.  Your body can help you to feel more positive, you just have to let it do it's thing!  Go for a bike ride, take a yoga class, find a workout video on hulu, go for a hike, take a walk on the beach... just get your body moving.

  Be a tourist for a day and take a little road trip to a nearby town.  See the world with different eyes to get out of your own head.  Just getting away from your usual haunts can help you to reset your mind and see things differently.  It can be really refreshing to be in a new place where you know you won't run into anyone you know and just explore freely.

  Surround yourself with people who are positive and encouraging. Don't let people into your life who are going to bring you down.  When you're going through hard times, you need people who will come around you and support you.  This might mean hanging out with some people less for the time being, but ultimately at this point in your life you probably need quality over quantity.  Make sure the people you choose to surround yourself with are ones that will be there for you.

  Listen to encouraging music.  It can be easy to wallow, and listen to music that reflects what your feeling, but try to counteract that by listening to music that lifts you up rather than drags you further down.  You might feel cynical about it, but at least you're surrounding yourself with positivity.

  Rely on other people for strength.  This can be hard, especially for those of us who are more prideful and independent. We feel like we have to be the ones to make it through and if we accept help from someone else, then it means we're weak.  That's just silliness though, everyone needs help and it's not weak to admit you need to rely on someone else for strength, it's smart.  If you had a broken leg, people wouldn't think you were strong for trying to walk on it without crutches, they'd probably think you were a little stupid.  The same goes for going through hard times emotionally.  It's not a sign of weakness to lean on someone else for strength.

  Go to your sanctuary.  When I was in college and was going through hard times, my sanctuary was my car.  I would drive for hours, just listening to music and thinking.  I felt comforted by the sound of my engine and the vibration of the road.  I felt closer to God and in some ways I was actually physically leaving my problems behind while I was driving.  I also would go to my art studio and sit in the dark, painting or drawing or working on whatever project I was currently doing.  Find your sanctuary.  I know that Dan likes to go on walks, to get fresh air and think and be alone.  I think that's probably one of his sanctuaries.  

  Realize that sometimes releasing your pain can be a way to overcome some of it.  Cry it out.  Scream.  Weep.  After one of my hard breakups I told myself I wouldn't cry over it.  I didn't, for a few months, but eventually I broke down and cried almost nightly for a long long time.  In some ways, not crying is a way of not dealing with the pain.  You're avoiding feeling the pain, instead of feeling it and understanding it, which will allow you to move forward.  

  Write in a journal.  Sometimes our brains are just a jumble of thoughts and emotions.  Journaling can be a great way of focusing and getting all of those thoughts out on paper.  You can work through what's going on by putting it on paper.  And sometimes what your going through becomes less scary or painful when it's removed from the whirling craziness of your brain and made concrete in writing.  Things can often feel more crazy and scary than they really are when we allow our imaginations to take control.  Writing can bring your thoughts back to reality.

  Do something for you.  Take a bubble bath, cook your favorite meal, grab your favorite coffee and sit at a coffee shop all day reading a great book.  Sometimes you need to just relax and give yourself some time to recuperate   

  This won't apply to everyone, but for those of you out there with a personal faith, trust in God's plan and realize that there is a greater purpose.  We might not even see it in this lifetime, we might not understand it.  One of the great questions that people with faith in God wrestle with is how a good God can allow bad things to happen.  I think it's important to wrestle with that question.