Hello and welcome back to the blog my Dear Reader!
Today I wanted to bring up the topic of "coping during difficult times." I know that might be kind of heavy for a blog Listicle, but I think it's important for me to share with you what helped me during MY difficult time, and some of the strategies I used to cope with the pain.
I was thinking about this today because I was recently reminded just how painful and absurd that time in my life was. I remember waking up every day and wondering what I had to live for. It's incredible to me that the worst is over; that I am safe now and in this new life with my husband, and even blessed with this beautiful blog and all of you lovely readers. Praise God.
But honestly, I really believe this list of coping strategies may be helpful for the more "wholesome" types of you out there. You know... people like me! The type of people who don't do drinking, drug, or club benders to deal with trauma mostly because of our faith and morality, but also because we are huge scaredy-cats and like to be safe and cuddly in a warm place when we are sad rather than being risky!
But in all seriousness, I think this list might be helpful to you because it was helpful to me.
Obviously this had to be the first thing on the list, but I cannot stress this enough; a good counselor is worth their weight in gold. Seriously. We can't always depend on friends or family to give us advice that is unbiased, as sometimes friends might be too personally involved or opinionated about our lives. Or sometimes they don't have the time or energy or wisdom to help us.
Counseling fixes all these problems because it sets up a dynamic with a trained and unbiased party, ready to help get you to a place where you are thriving and coping successfully with your life. Unlike much of our friends and family, counselor's don't have a personal agenda, a lack of training, or well-meaning bad advice. I owe much of my sanity during that season in my life to the beautiful soul who was my counselor.
Now, comedy is definitely a distraction in life, and I don't advise drowning out ALL the pain out with laughter, but I found that during that difficult time when the pain was chronic and there was no relief, spending time laughing was CRUCIAL to my daily coping strategy.
I watched all 9 seasons of the Office with my Husbear (when we were dating,) and I got into all sorts of stand up comedy, sitcoms, comedy podcasts, and silly videos. This helped me have a break from the drama and weight of my life, and reminded me that there were still specks of sunlight in the world. Comedy also allows you to smile, give your brain some happy dopamine, and in general, feel better for a small moment.
Yeah, I know; exercise is boring, difficult, and everything else, BUT it was one of the best things I did during this time in my life. I began running every day at 7pm, about 4 miles each time, 4 times a week. Not only did I get healthier, but MAN those endorphins helped get me through some tough times. Seriously. I encourage you to get going on any type of exercise that you can keep up with consistently. Yoga, walking, pilates, whatever works for you and your schedule.
4. Limited the flow of information
I decided to keep things as private as possible during this time in my life, partially to protect my own heart, but also because it was just too sensitive of an issue to be explaining to every person in my life. I learned pretty early on that people have a difficult time understanding what you're going through unless they have been through a really similar situation.
Keeping things private was best because it protected my heart, my relationships, and also my emotions, as explaining things was often more painful than anything else. Try keeping things between you and your most trusted people, to cut down on stress and to ensure that you are protected. Sometimes people are just curious about our difficulties, wondering about our flaws, and they're not really interested in supporting us. Try to make sure you only tell trusted and loving people about your situation, and leave the rest to remain curious.
5. Take a social media break
I basically killed the use on my personal Facebook page and have not looked back since. Limiting social media helped me get more privacy in my life, separate out from difficult relationships, and ultimately, helped me disconnect from the lives of my acquaintances and distant friends in a healthy way.
I encourage you to cut back on social media during your difficult time. Social media can often bring out the worst in us, causing us to compare our troubles to other people's highlight reel. It's important to remember that we only show the best sides on social media, but that can be hard to remember when we are feeling traumatized by life and extra sensitive. Limiting social media can often be refreshing and energizing during a difficult time.
6. Sleep MORE
I slept A LOT during this time in my life. I slept long, hard, and often, and yes... I do think it helped me. I think it's good to get a lot of rest in general, but during a mentally and emotionally taxing time, a lot of sleep can help us regenerate and refresh our bodies while our minds struggle with the trauma of life.
7. Tuned life out
This may be bad advice, but it seemed to help me. I watched all 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls while I fiddled about in my bedroom making wedding decor, studying for tests, or doing my hair. I just passed the time and basically had "someone" with me all the time, even if that was just Lorelai and Luke. Filling the background noise helped me feel less panicky in my day-to-day life because if it got a little too quiet, my mind would race.
I encourage you to find some peaceful and relaxing entertainment or hobbies to fill your time and help you feel productive, peaceful, and happy during the downtime. Try to stay away from heavy, sad, and depressing music, entertainment, books, or anything that will contribute to your despair. Choose peaceful activities or things that you really enjoy to help you fill the downtime.
8. Fresh starts all around
Fresh job, fresh town, fresh friends, fresh life. After going through that hard time, it felt like everything was poisoned; I just wanted to get away from the emotional pain. I know most people can't do this after a difficult time, but if there is any way that you can start fresh, I highly encourage you to.
Change thing up; try a new haircut, a new routine, a new friend group, or a new hobby. Put yourself in different circles and find people who can get to know you for who you are now, after the trauma, rather than for who you were before. Start fresh and allow your life to adjust according to your experiences.
This was an ENORMOUS help to me, probably because I'm such a research-minded person in general. During that difficult time in my life, I found that learning about what I was specifically experiencing helped me cope in ways that I cannot explain. I spent hours researching the specific relationship dynamics that were going on, as well as my own personality, how stress affects a person, and all the personal testimonies online.
I read forums full of comments from people who had gone through similar situations and experiences. Not only did this help me not feel so alone, it ultimately allowed me to gain an understanding of the bigger picture without bottling up my emotions and hiding the trauma away for later.
10. A New Identity
When we go through a trauma, it's not uncommon for our very identities to be shaken to the core. These traumas can affect our money, our relationships, our health, our careers, life path, or even our purpose! It can take the foundation out from under us and cause us to feel like we don't know who we are anymore.
And what I had to realize was that that was NOT a bad thing. I had a painful and problematic experience, sure, but I also had that problematic situation PRUNED out of my life. I could start new, and it was okay ad good for me to knot know who I was for awhile . It was okay for me to be in transition, for me to lose friends, and for me to ultimately feel unsure about everything, from my personal taste in fashion, to what music I liked. I had to relearn who I was, and it kind of felt like learning to use my body again.
Take this time in your life to create a new or refreshed identity, reflective of who you really are, and shaving away the things that have gotten in the way of your true beliefs, interests, or personalities.
I hope you remember that the difficult thing you are experiencing can and will be used for a purpose by God, no matter how disgusting, painful, or tragic it is. God can use ANYTHING to bring Glory to Him, and to bless you and care for you.
I have had so many questions for the Lord throughout my life about the difficult times, but one thing is for certain; every single difficult thing I have experienced has been a painful seed that has grown into a beautiful and incredible blessing in my life. Every single thing.
I wish you all the best and all the blessings during your difficult time my friend, and I hope you know that it's okay to tune out the world, it's okay to start fresh, and it's okay to not know who you are. You can, and you will... rebuild.