Life is full of challenges and learning how to meet them, and overcome them, is one of Life's lessons. Here are a few things I have learned about dealing with Life's little curve balls. I hope they help someone else.

1. Emote

Feel your feelings and let them out in whatever way you feel comfortable. If your challenge scares you, hurts you, angers you or grieves you, express it. If you hold them in you only increase your stress level. Whether you cry on a friend's shoulder, use your anger to remodel the spare bedroom, use your pain to start a support group for others facing the same challenge or quake with fear - get it out. Tell it to others, sing it, journal about it, paint it, whatever method serves you best.

2. Connect

The support of helpful friends and family is important when you are faced with difficult challenges. I emphasize helpful here. Having a friend around who always has a bigger problem than you, or a sibling who drags a mountain of negativity into the room with her, or a mother who is a professional critic is not helplful when you are trying to deal with your own challenge. You may want to take this opportunity to notice who shows up and is there for you. When you have recouped, you may want to invest more in these relationships.

3. Sleep

Be sure to get plenty of sleep. If you are feeling stressed and losing sleep because of it, you may want to consider doing something calming before bedtime, using a natural sleep aid like melatonin, or developing a nighttime ritual to help calm yourself and promote good sleep. Deep sleep is when your body repairs itself and heals the ravages of the day. If you are stressed, your body is experiencing additional wear and tear so sleep becomes even more important. Sleep also mends your mind and allows you to concentrate better and think more clearly the next day.

4. Exercise

If your challenge is not one which affects your health, be sure to maintain your daily exercise routine (or perhaps invest in a new one). I found that an hour of intense weight lifting a few hours before bedtime wore me out and made me sleep like a rock. Swimming has the same effect for me. Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong have all been shown to help with anxiety and stress. They emphasize the importance of deep, rhythmic breathing which we often forget to do, especially when stressed. Strenuous exercise can also help burn off stress hormones released into the body. It may help you run off anxiety, but it may also increase it. Test it and see whether strenuous exercise or something more calming like yoga is more helpful to you. But get up and move in some way.

5. Drink

Water! A body that is hydrated has more energy and flushes away toxins more readily. Water aids digestion, cushions vital organs, and helps the body regulate its temperature. Not drinking enough water can increase fatigue and make your thinking fuzzy. When your body is already stressed, be sure to keep it hydrated.

6. Monitor Your Thoughts

Examine your thought patterns for any messages which might be exacerbating a situation that is already stressful.

"I can't take this."
"I'm going to go crazy."
"I'll never get over this."

Thoughts like this don't help and are usually (hopefully) false. Do a reality check. Are you really unable to take this, or do you just not want to? Are you really about to go crazy or are you just feeling scared or emotional? Will you really never get over this or is it just going to take awhile and be unpleasant while it lasts? Thoughts like this are referred to as "catastrophizing". Catastrophizing makes things seem worse than they really are. Life is full of enough challenges without creating additional ones. Focus on what is really happening and think about it realistically without exaggeration.

7. Learn

From every adversity I have faced I have tried to learn something. What strength did I find that I did not know I had? What friends did I find that I had previously not appreciated enough? What coping skills did I develop from overcoming this difficulty? What part did I play in creating the problem and how can I avoid repeating it in the future? If you learn something from your struggles all is not lost.

8. Breathe

A lot of times when under stress we forget to stop and breathe. Under stress or panic our breathing becomes shallow and rapid, our heart rate increases and our blood pressure rises. Controlling the speed of your heart rate or your blood pressure is difficult, but it is very easy to control the speed and depth of your lungs inhaling and exhaling. Breathe long and deep, hold it, release, repeat. Your heart rate and blood pressure will follow. As I mentioned above, Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong all focus on regulated breathing while performing their movements. Investing in one of these for an hour a day when in stressful times can greatly help reduce anxiety.

9. Relax

Take time out of stress-filled days to have some down time. Meditate, visit with family or friends who are comforting and supportive, listen to music, read a good book.

10. Laugh

I like to keep on hand some movies which I think are very funny. They are also safe since I have seen them before. I know no one runs over a dog, or gets shot in the face or dies in the end. And since I know the lines by heart if I space out for 15 minutes I can jump back in and not have missed anything. I use this "brain candy" for days or times when my mind has been stressed enough and needs security and humor. I also call one of my sisters who can always make me laugh and are masters at finding humor in the darkest situations. Laughter is the best medicine whether it comes in the form of a movie, a television show, a good book, a comedy show or a friend who makes you laugh.

11. Keep Walking

Most times, getting through a difficult period is a matter of taking one step at a time, one day at a time. You just have to keep walking until you walk through it. Trying to take on the entire problem at one time may be too overwhelming. Try to remember to just get through this step or this day and keep moving until you come out on the other side.

12. Monitor Your Mental Intake

Computer programmers have a saying, "GIGO", Garbage In Garbage Out. The same is true for human minds. I try to monitor what I am putting in my head, whether it is refusing to watch people eat roaches on television, avoiding slasher flicks or bypassing conversations with negative people. When stressed this is even more important. I will never forget a client who came to me complaining of nightmares during a very stressful time. When she stopped watching horror films every night before going to bed her nightmares greatly decreased. GIGO.

I hope that any challenge you are facing is a temporary one and that peace soon returns to your life. In the meantime, I hope some of these suggestions may help someone during a difficult time.


You can read more of my articles about mental health on my blog at: Kellevision

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