“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” It’s a cliche, for sure, and usually the last thing someone going through a difficult time wants to hear. Whether you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, a career change, or separation from a spouse, getting through major life change takes a lot of mental tenacity.
As you transition from one stage of life to the next, the space between can be awkward. The thing is, those difficult times can in fact be a catalyst for positive change. During those times of transition, you are most malleable. New, healthy habits you form during this time help you cope in the short term and make you happier in the long term.
Get active. The benefits of exercise on your physical fitness are obvious. But physical activity has a lot of mental health benefits as well. It relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood. Regular exercise can help naturally ward off depression and anxiety, making it an excellent coping mechanism when dealing with mental and emotional challenges.
If you’re already active, it is important to keep exercising as you go through a transition of any kind. If you don’t already exercise, adding just a few minutes of physical activity to your daily routine could be a big help. A walk around the block with the dog, a yoga class, or a swim in the community pool can all help you feel physically and mentally refreshed.
Get organized. Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with messages that tell us “stuff” will make us happy when, in actuality, the exact opposite is true. Each possession actually carries with it a memory, feeling, or emotion about who we are, our goals, and even our success. The more things we have to keep track of, the more emotional baggage we carry.
Decluttering the spaces where you spend most of your time is a great place to start decluttering your mind. At work, spending a few minutes each morning to clean off and reorganize your desk can do wonders for your stress levels and productivity throughout the day. At home, getting rid of those pre-baby jeans can help minimize feelings of inadequacy. And don’t forget your digital clutter. Cleaning out your email inbox can be just as beneficial as cleaning out your closet.
Get happy. Whether you’re dealing with the passing of a loved one or a separation from your spouse, there are a lot of logistics to consider. There are arrangements to be made, paperwork to be processed, and seemingly endless phone calls to make. Dealing with these details takes time, and it can be emotionally draining. That’s why it’s important to take frequent breaks to do the things that bring you joy.
Hobbies are the perfect tool for self-care during difficult times. Activities like tending your garden, reading a novel, or listening to music can give you a few minutes of respite from thinking about, well, anything. Furthermore, hobbies have many of the same benefits as exercise when it comes to your mental health. Prioritizing the things you love to do will also make you more likely to continue doing them and reaping the rewards in the future.
Get help. Sometimes you just want to be alone. That’s understandable. But you don’t go through the good times in life all alone, and you shouldn’t go through the difficult ones without a support system either. The hard work of healing requires acknowledgment of the circumstances and expression of your emotions, and those things can be difficult to accomplish entirely on your own.
For most people going through difficult times, friends and family are the first ones they call. A good cry with your mama or a night out with friends can be therapeutic. But sometimes even the support of those who love you most may not be enough. If that’s the case, consider joining a support group or pursuing professional counseling services. Rest assured, there are people who understand what you are going through, either because they’ve been through it themselves or because they are trained in how the brain works.
Change is inevitable, and sometimes it hurts. In the end, the key to getting through life’s toughest transitions is to look for the opportunity and act on it. If you do that, you may find that old adage to be true afterall. Here’s to being stronger in the end!