Life's been a lot recently? Seven strategies to navigate a testing time

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Life’s been a lot recently in our household.

It has felt like emotional whiplash at times – just recovering from one challenge before being hit by another one.

My son’s accident meant a few weeks of home learning and fulltime caring – pretty much 24 hours a day without much sleep for two weeks.

Two of my family members being diagnosed with cancer.

And then my dad has been in hospital with some significant health issues and a devastating diagnosis.

It’s felt difficult to find my footing at times. 

What I’m noticing as I’m navigating this period is that there are some things that are really helping.  Here are the strategies that are supporting me as I navigate this testing time:

1.Controlling the controllables

My life has felt in a bit of free fall recently, which could leave me feeling out of control and a victim of my circumstances.  But I know a simple but powerful way to reclaim my personal power is to focus on what’s within my control and to influence what I can while letting go of what’s not within my control.  This has helped me to feel grounded and empowered despite the challenges.

2.Becoming values focussed not goal focussed

My life has needed me to adjust to letting go of being able to do some of the stuff that’s important to me.  It’s easy for me to get frustrated and disappointed – I’m a typical Type A self-driven goal oriented kind of person.  So refocusing on my values rather than goals means that I can still find space to appreciate the journey even if the milestones along the way might change or be redirected.  This helps me to remind myself that I can still have a meaningful life when things don’t go to plan, or even when things have been really difficult.

3.Pruning

I’ve been carrying significantly more emotional and physical load recently. 

After the last 15 months of the pandemic there wasn’t a huge amount in my reserves to dig into to cope with this..  So I’ve consciously and intentionally pruned back what I can in my life.  Letting go of activities, projects or plans so I can use my energy elsewhere.  This has meant letting go of keeping on top of my email inbox (sorry if you’re waiting for a response from me – normal service will resume sometime soon) and also stepping away from social media for a while – you can read more about my “goodbye…….for now” message here.

4.Taking care of myself 

In the past I’ve struggled to take care of myself when things are difficult or other people need me.  But I learned the hard way that really doesn’t work. So I’ve tried to stay focussed on the (sometimes small) things that help me to keep my head above the water and able to cope with the reality of day-to-day life. Less alcohol, less sugar, more sleep (where possible) and more movement.  My early morning walks have been a survival strategy for me.

5.Practicing self compassion

I used to believe that tough love and pushing myself were the best ways to be resilient.  But I know better now.  I now know that self-compassion is a more reliable way to support my resilience.  So I’ve been practicing self-compassion – connecting to my more wise, nurturing and comforting self just when I need it most.  Rather than beating myself up, I’ve been supporting myself.  Basically mothering myself – remembering that no matter how old I am I have that little girl inside me that just needs a hug, kind words and reassurance……..especially when things are tough.  And that little girl inside me appreciated that kindness…………and the big girl has too!

6.Communicating

When things are tough I tend to retreat.  I naturally want to protect myself from others and the world until I feel strong enough to engage with life again.  But this can leave me feeling isolated and negatively impact those around me.  So I’ve consciously been communicating – sharing that things are difficult and not falling into the trap of toxic positivity or the classic “I’m fine” response.  This update you’re reading is part of this conscious approach.  It’s also created some teachable moments for my children; helping to role model for them how to express their emotions and advocate for what they need.  E..g “mummy is feeling sad and I need a cry” or “Mummy is feeling overwhelmed and I need some quiet time”

7. Connecting to something bigger than me

I’m a pragmatic kind of person – I like logic, facts and research.  Show me a framework or strategy and I’m a happy woman! So it might surprise you to learn that I was raised with very spiritual beliefs.  As a result of this I have a deep sense that there’s a bigger picture that’s outside of my ability to rationalise and know. This has helped me to tell myself a story about my experience at the moment that feels reassuring and connected even in the midst of chaos and confusion.  A useful reminder that the stories we tell ourselves can define our experience.

I hope these insights help you if your life’s a lot at the moment.

What are the strategies that help you when you’re experiencing a difficult time?

Whatever you’re going through at the moment, let’s remind each other that we can embrace the difficulty and navigate our way with a little bit more ease, acceptance and grace.

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