by Wendy Keller – blogger, author, workshop leader, mom, dish-washing fiend
“Hang in there!”
“I admire your strength. I could never endure what you’re going through…”
People who are going through crises hear these phrases and similar ones often. We get lauded for our “courage” and our “strength”. People who don’t even really know us tell us to “stay strong for your family” or “time heals” or other crazy, meaningless platitudes. As if you’re not human. As if it’s not OK to hurt or cry.
They mean well, but where in the WORLD do you get your strength – and how can you get more?
For some people, the answer comes from their religious beliefs. I suggest there are additional things anyone can do to augment – help – increase – enhance – add to – grow our personal strength in times of turmoil. Here are a few of the top ones I’ve observed people used throughout history. (I don’t make this stuff up – I rephrase it from biographies I’ve read, experiences I’ve had, people I’ve met, books I’ve read, counselors I’ve talked with, and so on.)
Rely on others. Build a support network of people who will not feed you a mouthful of platitudes, but who will listen to you – without judgment, without advice, without falling apart themselves. One of the most effective friends I had after my children died in a car accident was a woman named Sharon. She drove the 40 minutes from her house to mine a few times every week, sat by my rented hospital bed (set up in our living room) and listened to me talk about how it felt to bury my kids – over and over and over again. In retrospect, how would I have done it without her and others? Let other people help you. Pick your inner circle of support carefully, thank them often, and let them do their inspired job.
Tell the truth about yourself always. You already know you’re supposed to say “Fine” when people ask you how you are. If you’re into personal growth and development, you’re supposed to say, “Fabulous!” or “Terrific!” OK. I got it. The time for that is not when you are in the midst of suffering. You hereby have permission to tell people the truth. Even strangers. “I’m having a rough day” is a good answer if it’s true. People whose hearts are open will say, “Oh! Why?” and then you can choose to let them give you some loving support or not. When we lie to ourselves and others, we prolong the pain. I mean, nobody wants you to be a sad sack negative person for years, moping around. If you’re really hurting, one way to start healing is to tell the truth to yourself and to others about yourself.
Decide to get through it. It’s pretty simplistic to say that, but you have two choices and people who are hurting sometimes make…neither one! Choice A: Wallow in suffering, don’t see what’s left, forget all the good things, learn nothing from the hardship, feel sorry for yourself for the rest of your life and drain the world’s sympathy level. Choice B: Get over it. Get through this. Get therapy, read books, make a decision that the trauma, tragedy, financial problems, relationship disaster, abuse, whatever that you’ve had to handle WILL NOT be the end of your life. My vote for you? Choice B. That’s why I write all these blogs – to try to help you see there IS a way to get through ALL the bad stuff in life. But you have to choose it for yourself. You have to make a conscious decision that goes like this: “This is wrong, bad, unfair, painful and I hate what’s happened. OK. But I REFUSE to let this be the obstacle that blocks the rest of my life from ever being happy again. I pledge to myself that I will find a way, no matter what, to get through this in a healthy, wholesome way.” And then begin looking for the clues to do so. They are all around you – I promise.
Find something to hope for. Even if it isn’t much. Even if it feels far fetched. “I’m going to run a marathon on the one-year anniversary of being in remission.” “I’m going to go to Paris in 2020.” or smaller things: “I’m going to go 24 hours without crying today” or “I am not going to say one negative thing about my ex all day today”. So in honor of your goal, you buy a travel-sized cosmetics bag with little Eiffel towers on it. Or you make it 6 hours without saying anything negative about your bleep-bleep ex. And tomorrow, you put $2 in an envelope labelled “Travel Budget”, or you go 7 hours. This recovery stuff doesn’t happen overnight. It’s little conscious positive baby steps toward something you hope for, until you wake up on the Champs Elysees!
Monitor your progress. It’s so easy to forget that you’re making progress when it happens so slowly! Use a calendar and this secret code: when you wake up, score your mood from 1-3. 1 = really down/upset. 2 = OK, I can handle this. 3 = OMG! Was that a smile on my face?!?! Score yourself again at lunch, dinner and before bed. Your first weeks might be lots of 1s and only a few 2s, if that. But by charting it, you’ll start to see the world shift. You’ll start to see the truth: you ARE getting through this!
These bits and pieces – tips and tricks – work together to help you build strength as you’re going through rough times. Apply them to your life, starting today. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel soon.
When you’re ready, you will probably find this free eBook comforting.
Over 8,500 suffering people already have.
“The Top Ten Tips to Coping with Crisis”