“Why do I thrash about, why do I fuss inside this narrow, limited frame, when life, the whole of life, with all its joys, is open to me?”
—Prince Andrei Bolkonsky
Sometimes you just have a bad day.
Your best friend, your mother, your therapist... sometimes it feels like nobody's there for you in this particular moment when you need some help.
Here are a few not-so-common tips for dealing with adversity.
1. When you’re having an especially bad day, thank someone
Thank anyone, for any genuine reason you can come up with, big or small.
2. Talk to yourself like you’re a 10-year-old child
Imagine that child is having the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.
Be kind, supportive, and loving. Spell things out in very simple terms.
That 10 year old version of you is still in there... and it might be that version of you that’s currently in the driver’s seat at this very moment of struggle.
3. Remember that the stories we tell ourselves are just that: stories
They can either save us, or destroy us.
So, in a pinch, remind yourself of an accomplishment or a favorite personal story.
Or look ahead and tell yourself a story of how you accomplish a future goal.
Bonus: plan for a future struggle by training your mind with curated stories that engender thoughts you want to have. Do this through visualizing and mantras.
4. Remember that the harder the challenge, the more likely you are to feel alone
Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces talks a lot about adversity.
There’s a surprising element for every hero: a period of solitude.
If you want to go on the hero’s journey — i.e. to impact the world — you must endure adversity alone.
So next time you feel alone and scared, remind yourself that you might just be on the hero’s journey.
5. Remember that no matter how hard you try to do the right thing there will come a time when you’ll be seen as the villain
It’s a part of life, it doesn’t mean you are in fact the villain, and it will pass.
6. Build a structure of habits that ensure consistent change
Like ants that can get stuck in a death loop, we can get stuck in highly nuanced yet destructive loops of thoughts and habits.
They can last days, weeks, or even years… and it's very hard to see yourself objectively.
The best way to knock yourself out of the vicious cycle, is to have structure for novelty in your life.
A structure of pattern-breakers.
A habit of trying new habits.
Next time you feel alone and scared, remind yourself that you might just be on the hero’s journey
7. Deprive yourself of something you like for a short time
It can be for a day, a week, a month.
Coffee, wine, carbs, marijuana, a shower, sweets, social media. Anything that you like and probably take for granted.
A week or even one day restricted from, for example coffee, will bring deep satisfaction when you savor that first sip.
8. Remind yourself that you can always apply reason
No matter how bad things are, remind yourself that there is no person or event that can remove your “reasoning faculty.”
And it’s that reasoning faculty that will allow you to navigate through this challenge.
This is a core tenet of Marcus Aurelius' stoic principles.
9. Remember that love and kindness are not always the answer
Sometimes, disagreeableness is what's needed.
Some situations call for firmness and unpleasantness. If you needed to hurt someone's feelings for the greater good, don’t beat yourself up for it.
10. When the big things are rough, find a little win to celebrate
Find something, anything, to call out a win.
A few examples:
— you journaled today
— your plant is still alive
— you just found a new song
— you can still hit a jump shot
— you called your mom recently
— your down-dog still feels good
— you made your bed this morning
Take a second to imagine a challenge you had 10-15 years ago.
Try to remember what it was like.... how engrossing and vexing the issue felt at that time.
If you reflect on how that experience ended up helping you later in life, it probably won’t take long.
With time and perspective, the challenges we dealt with in the past morph into invaluable lessons for the now.
And yet, sometimes that's little solace when adversity strikes. When it does, perhaps one of the 10 above can help.