Struggles, when faced directly, can be our best teachers.
But, when we’re in the midst of challenges involving painful emotions, it’s tough to see the bigger picture. It’s tempting to want to avoid altogether- to escape the pain. Although, opening ourselves up to darker difficult moments is what fosters growth. Like plants in their natural habitat, humans benefit from a delicate balance of both dark + light periods for healthy development.
On the surface it might appear that struggles pop up randomly; yet, when you look a bit closer, an obstacle might present itself at a specific time in your life to provide a needed lesson. Possibly to alert you of a crucial area of your life that calls for strengthening.
Living authentically, with vulnerability, means being present while working through even the hardest times.
Here are 5 steps to help you use your struggle to thrive and propel you forward:
1. Acknowledge the Now: simply pausing to recognize that you’re experiencing something difficult is actually a step forward. When in emotional discomfort, it takes courage to be open and honest with yourself about what you’re going through. The sooner you admit what’s happening, the sooner you’ll experience some relief.
2. Have Self-Compassion: The inner critic likes to creep in when you’re down and suffering. Being hard on yourself when you’re already in pain only leads to more distress. If you tend to avoid discomfort, it may be because you received early messages that it’s weak to feel your feelings. Remind yourself that being present to your emotional experience demonstrates strength, not weakness. Be kinder to yourself. Try to treat yourself as you would treat a friend.
3. Accept All Emotions: Unless you’re superhuman or a robot, it’s impossible to restrict yourself to feeling purely pleasant emotions. Refrain from labeling emotions as “good” or “bad.” Know that some feelings are fleeting, and others lounge around longer. Remember, what you resist, persists. Let emotions float in and pass by, naturally, like clouds in the sky.
4. Find Meaning: Once you take a step back, things can become clearer. Gain some perspective by becoming a witness to your experience. Observe what’s happening for you, without judgment. When you have a strong emotional response, get curious about it. Emotions often serve a purpose. They are like messengers, guiding you towards what matters to you. Then go a bit deeper. Try to draw some sense out of the situation.
5. Let it Out: Problems are much harder to manage when you stay silent. At all costs, avoid bottling up your emotions. It’s healthy and totally okay to cry when you're struggling, and it can feel good to let it out! Try to reach out and seek support from someone you trust. Engage in some sort of healthy outlet for self-expression. Talk, write, exercise, dance, cook, play... get creative! It’s empowering to express your truth in whatever way works for you.