Let’s face it, life is tough. Obstacles abound and coping is simply one of the skills that must be mastered if you want to survive let alone thrive. Everyone struggles with adversity from time to time. Sometimes the weight of it feels like it is crushing us. I’m no psychologist nor am I immune to the challenges. These eight steps are simply some ways I’ve found helpful to make the overwhelming a bit more manageable. The goal isn’t to avoid pressure, it is to manage yourself past it.
- Stop telling yourself how tough it is. Coping begins with convincing yourself that you can survive the difficulties. Reminding yourself that the challenge in front of you is insurmountable will only accomplish one thing: convincing you that it is in fact insurmountable or overwhelming.
- Stop telling those around you how tough it is. A corollary to #1 above is reinforcing the sentiment by convincing others that your situation is impossible. Elicit support from those around you by asking for guidance, input, counsel, prayers or maybe just a hand to hold. Don’t drag others into your darkness by lamenting it, they will see the difficulty written on your face and seek to help if they are so inclined.
- Retreat to gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most powerful weapons you have in your coping arsenal. Being thankful pulls you outside of your SELF. You have blessings. The issue facing you may be transient or long term – the gifts of your life remain either way. Gratitude helps you find perspective so you can avoid the numbing paralysis of fear and begin to look forward on your path to coping.
- Seek to understand the source of your pressure or obstacle. Is it “real” or “imagined”? Pressure may come from internal fears or you may be facing very real barriers. Either way, you have to separate yourself from the emotional reaction and seek an intellectual response. On an intellectual level, you begin to shift into solving/resolving mode and lessen the emotional burdens. Remember that your emotions are what bring on the sense of being “crushed” by your challenge.
- List your options. Literally. Write them down. Seeing them written before you begins to give them weight. You will remind yourself that there are options. You may or may not like them but they exist. This brainstorming process serves another useful purpose: it reinforces the intellectual/problem solving focus of your psyche and pulls you further from the emotional. When it comes to pressure, your feelings are the enemy.
- Create a plan of action (or multiple plans depending on your options). Rather than seeking to hide or avoid the challenge, build a plan to deal with it. Notice that I said “deal”. “Solve” may not be an option. Your plan may need to focus on salvaging the best possible outcome. The point is: face it squarely and be deliberate in finding a way through. Once you’ve outlined your response/approach, be intentional with your execution. Don’t wait for it to happen.
- Recruit others to your fight. Don’t go it alone. This doesn’t mean create a collection of shoulders on which to cry (see #2 above). This means that it helps to get other people in the boat with you so you’re not rowing alone. Remember, you need to get out of your own head. The insurmountable will seem manageable if other people are tackling it as well. In many cases, you don’t even need to broadcast your internal battle; you may just need to present the obstacle as a broader call to action among your peers, family members or subordinates.
- Have faith. Faith in yourself. Faith in the people around you. Faith that you are equipped to handle the pressure or obstacle. Faith that the sun will rise tomorrow and that you will have new opportunities. Sometimes simply believing in the possible makes the barriers less overwhelming. Let yourself believe.
Did I mention that it won’t be easy? Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that it isn’t meant to be easy. The moments that define us and advance us as individuals tend to be painful, forged-in-the-fire experiences. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim to them. Face it standing and then get about the difficult choices and tasks that are necessary to push through. You CAN do it.