How to Navigate Hard Times: The Art of Surfing Life’s Challenges
Sometimes life is just feeling super hard. As if nothing makes sense. And everything is going wrong. There might be a feeling of overwhelm that can cause stagnation. An inability to come out of these hard times alone.
And do you know the desire, that these times just shouldn’t be part of your life? The wish for happy and good times ONLY.
What do you believe about life and how it’s supposed to be?
Are you striving for a life that consists of happiness in every single moment?
Pause here and ask yourself these questions…
View life’s challenges during hard times as opportunities
I definitely had the idea that these miserable feelings shouldn’t be part of my life. I wanted to come out of this. But I just couldn’t. I would sit on my bed, crying and asking: Please, I just want to be happy. Why can’t I just be happy?
Imagining that there shouldn’t be hard times can make them even harder.
When life is feeling hard, it’s tempting to believe that we’re doing something wrong. In fact, life is full of challenges.
What if I told you, that these times, when life is feeling hard, are actually valuable for us?
Think about it this way: Imagine there were no hard times in life. That everything is easy and always goes our way.
What would we learn?
How would we evolve?
Nature as our teacher during hard times
I love to look at nature as our teacher. So let’s look at the weather. There can be clouds, rain, storm, sunshine, wind, or snow. None of these are permanent. High and low-pressure systems cause day-to-day changes in our weather. After heavy rain, the clouds move on, and eventually, there will be sunshine. The rain is able to clear the air of any dust or pollutants and the light comes again to illuminate the darkness.
Just as the weather changes day to day, so too does our emotional state. Nature is always teaching us important lessons if we’re willing to open our eyes and see them. She’s a great teacher of patience and resilience. When we’re facing hard times, it’s helpful to remember that this too shall pass. It’s not only a phrase, really. The sun will come out again and we will be stronger for having navigated these waters.
Let’s translate this to our life experience
Every day we go through life and things happen, we meet other people, we work, we eat – basically we experience life as human beings. We can see these experiences as high and low-pressure systems.
Some experiences make us feel happy, motivated, loved, or appreciated while some experiences make us feel sad, anxious, depressed, lost, ashamed, or angry. That’s totally normal. See this as the weather. And just as the rain is able to clear the air, we can do so, too. Allowing all the feelings to be there and not suppressing any of them. If we can learn to be with whatever feeling arises without judging it as good or bad, we can flow through life’s challenges like a surfer riding the waves.
Practice riding the waves of life
I’ve come to a point now where I see my life experience as riding waves. Sometimes they are high, exciting, and move fast. Then they may break and I fall. Sometimes I enjoy the high waves because I feel confident to handle them. Or they may feel overwhelming and just too much. Sometimes they are low, dull, and almost nonexistent. There are times when I enjoy stillness, a time to relax and recover. And sometimes this would make me feel depressed and feeling as if there is no energy at all.
There will be calm periods and then there will be times when it feels like everything is hitting you at once. Either way, I am riding the waves of life. The key is to ride the waves and not get pulled under by them. And the more present I am with the circumstances and myself, the better I’m able to deal with any expression of them. When I accept what’s present, I am able to be at ease with it instead of pushing it away or trying to come out of it.
I’ve realized that nothing is permanent – there is always movement. Naturally – and I don’t have to force it.
Acceptance, responsibility & surrender
It’s not always easy to accept what’s happening in our lives, especially when things are tough. But if we can learn to accept the situation for what it is, it can be a lot easier to deal with.
I take a deep breath and acknowledge, that right now I’m feeling really sad, angry, ashamed or whatever emotion is present. That’s okay. It’s here already, I don’t have to resist it. It’s about accepting that what is here is here.
And there probably might be resistance. And that’s okay, too. Give yourself time.
When I’m feeling grounded and ready I make the conscious decision, to take full responsibility for how I feel and my actions. It’s not about trying to resolve problems at that moment. It’s more about an energetic shift from feeling like a victim and that life is happening to me, to taking full responsibility.
And then the next step is to surrender to what’s happening. This doesn’t mean giving up or resigning yourself to a difficult situation. It simply means letting go of your need to control the situation or the outcome and trusting that whatever happens, you’ll be able to handle it.
I can describe this process here, and yet you will only understand when you practice and experience it yourself. I encourage you to play with these frequencies of acceptance, responsibility, and surrender.
Focus on the present moment & do a reality check
When we’re in the midst of a difficult situation, it can be easy to dwell on everything that we did wrong and all the ways that things could go wrong in the future. But if we can focus on what’s happening right now, it can help us stay grounded and keep things in perspective.
And also, do a reality check. And allow your mind to do its work here. You can put on your (imaginary) glasses, zoom out of that situation and try to take on the role of an objective observer. Ask yourself:
Is it likely that my partner will break up with me because I gained 5 kg?
How likely is it that all of my friends will stop talking to me if I don’t attend this event?
You can also imagine that someone else is asking you that question. What would be your answer to your friend?
Trust yourself and know that you will get through these hard times
Another thing that I’ve learned is that it’s important to trust yourself. You know yourself better than anyone else does and you know what you are capable of handling. So when things get tough, remind yourself that you have been through difficult times before and you made it through just fine.
You might not feel like it at the moment, but can you see the truth in the saying that this too shall pass?
And this is also true for the moments we enjoy. It’s important that we don’t attach ourselves to any one feeling or experience. Everything is always changing and we are invited to flow with that.
This is a good opportunity to invite you to journaling. Whenever you are going through something, and you arrived on the other side, take your time to reflect on that.
What was the process like during this difficult time?
When did you feel a shift and what happened before?
What supported you in that situation?
So you can find and always refine your own process of handling situations that you might feel unable to deal with first.
Yoga & meditation as a playground for your practice
Practice what I’ve described above in a safe environment. This could be something as simple as taking a few minutes each day at home for sitting in silence. Witnessing your thoughts, or breathing through uncomfortable emotions. Or it could be something like going to a yoga class or practicing yoga at home. My go-to yoga channel for yin yoga is Yoga with Kassandra.
The important thing is to find something that helps you to feel calm and centered in the midst of chaos. It doesn’t have to be fancy or time-consuming.
In my experience, these practices are a wonderful playground to strengthen your nervous system and your capacity to deal with challenges. As well as practicing acceptance and surrender.
Prioritizing self-care during hard times
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to make sure you’re prioritizing self-care, even when it feels like life is spiraling out of control. I’m not talking about getting regular massages or taking yourself on fancy vacations (though those things are nice, too).
I’m talking about the basics: making sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and moving your body in a way that feels good to you. When we’re going through tough times, it’s easy to let our self-care rituals fall by the wayside. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, it’s going to be that much harder to deal with whatever challenges life throws our way.
So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and assess what you need to do to take care of yourself and fill your cup. Maybe you need to schedule some time for yourself every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes to take a bath or read a book. Maybe you need to reach out to your friends and family for support. Whatever it is, make sure you’re taking care of yourself first and foremost.
Find and use your support structures
The people in your life can be a great support system when you’re going through tough times. But it’s important to choose wisely when it comes to who you allow into your inner circle.
The people you spend time with should be those with who you can be yourself around. And those who are good listeners without necessarily trying to validate your feelings or giving you advice. These are the people who will help you weather the storms of life.
So take a moment to think about the people in your life and whether or not they fall into this category. This can also be an online community with like-minded people or a women’s circle.
While hard times can feel like we’re being put through the wringer, it’s important to remember that these challenges also provide opportunities for personal growth.
If we can learn to navigate them skillfully, these tough times can be transformative. By learning to ride the waves of life, we can develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and what we’re capable of.
Be compassionate towards yourself. We all have moments of insecurity. The key is to not be too hard on yourself when things don’t go as you expected.
When you approach hard times with curiosity and a willingness to learn, you’ll be much more likely to come out to the other side stronger and wiser. And with your own individual blueprint on how to navigate the waves of life.