If movie soundtracks have taught us one thing, it’s that it can’t rain all the time and the sun will come out tomorrow. The hard part, though, is knowing how to stay strong until the storm passes. If you need some help with that, read on for a few strategies to use.
How to Stay Strong During Tough Times
Life would be so much easier if it were all rainbows and sunshine every day, wouldn’t it? Sadly, that’s not reality. Hard times are an inescapable fact of human existence. Sometimes, life gets so hard that we don’t know how we’ll possibly manage to stay strong in the face of what’s happening. From dealing with global crises to personal tragedies, these tactics will help you find your inner strength.
1. Accept that some situations are beyond your control
If you look up “how to stay strong during tough times” on your favorite search engine, you’ll notice that “accept reality” is always the first tip. Whether it’s advice from a psychologist or just from someone who has survived hard days, it’s the #1 thing they say we need to do to gather our inner strength.
It’s easier said than done, of course. There’s a reason why acceptance is the last stage of grief. We have to cycle through all of our other emotions before we reach that point. Denial, anger, bargaining, and sadness all play a role in getting to acceptance. So, while I’ll parrot the number one tip for staying strong because it’s a good one, I’d like to add a few caveats to it, which brings us to…
2. Allow yourself time to grieve and feel all the feelings
Death doesn’t have exclusive rights to grief. In other words, someone doesn’t have to die to validate your right to grieve. Any loss- be it human, a beloved pet, or even your life savings- can cause grief. So, get mad. Feel sad. Scream out to the universe or the powers that be that you’ll do anything to reverse this tragedy. Once you’ve cycled through your feelings (possibly a few times), then you’re ready to accept that there are things in this world that we can’t control and find your inner strength to face them.
3. Never be afraid to ask for help
There’s a scene in an episode of Mr. Rogers where he’s trying to put up a tent. He struggles with it for a minute or so, then says something along the lines of, “I guess this takes two grownups to put up.” In the Tom Hanks movie, the producer tells Mr. Rogers that they can cut it out, or that they can put it up for him before filming. He tells them that it’s perfect the way it is. Why? Because children need to see that sometimes we all need help.
Adults need to hear that message sometimes, too. Being strong doesn’t mean you never need help. Quite the opposite, really. It’s understanding that sometimes we can’t do everything on our own. Recognizing that some problems are too big for one person is one of the best ways to stay strong during tough times.
4. Whenever possible, offer help to those in need
Helping others overcome tough times isn’t just good for the soul, it’s a brilliant way to help yourself stay strong. In fact, a 2015 study by the Association for Psychological Science found that helping friends, family, or even strangers can “mitigate the impact of daily stressors on our emotions and our mental health.” It’s hard to find the strength to help others when you feel like you can’t help yourself, I know.
Here’s the thing, though- you don’t have to perform grand gestures for it to be meaningful. The smallest acts of kindness go a long way in creating both a better world and a stronger you. During our current crisis, many find strength by doing simple things like making face masks for others or delivering food to the elderly. Even just sending a heartfelt email to a lonely friend can help lift both of your spirits and make you feel stronger. See, when you realize that you have the power to help others, you also find the power to help yourself.
5. Take joy where life offers it
We’ve talked about this a lot lately, but it bears repeating. If you want to stay strong during tough times, you need to take the joy that life offers you. A starry night, a bright flower, a bird singing outside your window, the hysterical laughter of a baby…if you look, you’ll find joy all around you.
Closing yourself up to those simple pleasures and focusing only on what’s going wrong is a good way to completely obliterate your sanity. I think we often feel like we shouldn’t smile when things are bad because we’ll look insensitive. How can we laugh at a funny show when people are dying, right? Taking a moment for yourself doesn’t mean that you’re turning your back on the problem or ignoring it, though. I promise you, it doesn’t.
6. Reframe your negative thoughts
It sounds like a platitude, but reframing negative thoughts really is one of the best ways to stay strong when life gets overwhelmingly tough. This doesn’t mean that you have to turn into a walking cliche singing about grey skies clearing up while putting on your happy face. Faking happiness doesn’t do you any good.
Instead, think about how you can genuinely reframe a negative. For example, if you’re thinking, “I can’t possibly stand another week stuck inside,” turn it around to “I’ve managed to embrace being alone for a month now and I’m still standing.” If you think, “I can’t survive this loss, it’s too much to bear,” reframe it to, “I have survived losses before and made it through.”
7. Learn from the past, live in the moment, prepare for the future
“Live in the moment,” is another thing you’ll hear from psychologists giving advice on how to stay strong during tough times. Yes, it’s important to remain in the present. However, we can’t just pretend that the past and future don’t exist. Learn from the past, don’t live in it. Take the lessons that it has to offer, then leave it behind. Don’t live for tomorrow, either. Prepare for it, but don’t count on it. Remember, tomorrow is not promised.
Once you’ve given the past and the future their due consideration, pull yourself back into the present. The strongest people know that the only way through life’s toughest moments is to take it step by step and one day at a time. In the words of everyone’s favorite forgetful fish, just keep swimming. Trite? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice.
The hardest thing about finding your strength is that you only really discover it through tough times. Sure, you can build yourself up ahead of time and prepare to stay strong, but we can only find out if our strategies work when our strength is truly tested. Kind of like how you don’t know if your favorite tree will survive a hurricane until it actually does. So, yes, you can build yourself up beforehand, but remain flexible enough to adjust your strategies when the hurricane hits. Last but not least, remember, you can stay strong because you are strong.