Life is both wonderful and tough. We experience positive things along the way, but we also get hurt and wounded. We encounter difficulties, disappointments, and rejections. We lose loved ones and friends.
How we deal with the tough stuff matters. Our personal well-being depends on it.
If you’re wondering how you’re doing in life and whether you’re handling things well, here are seven questions to ask yourself.
“Am I processing my emotions in healthy ways?
Emotions can run amok when we’re under stress. Expressing feelings in healthy ways is essential.
Talk – out loud to yourself and to a few other people you trust. Share what’s roaming around in your mind and heart.
Write. This slows down your mind and allows you to express your heart more thoroughly. Keep a journal. Write letters, poetry, or stories.
Draw, paint, or sculpt. Art can be a wonderful way to process what’s happening inside you.
If you’re handling your emotions well, chances are you’re healing and growing.
“Am I trying to do the hard stuff alone?”
Most of us value being independent. However, we’ve never been independent (in the strictest sense of the word) and never will be. We’re designed for relationship.
You desperately need the presence, companionship, and perspective of others, especially when times are hard. Watch out for the temptation to withdraw or isolate when you need support, encouragement, and help.
Reaching out to others isn’t a form of weakness. True strength and courage lie in being real with yourself and a few other people about what’s happening in your life.
“Am I guarding my heart from unhealthy influences?”
A basic maxim for healthy living is, “Get around people who are helpful to you and limit your exposure to those who aren’t.”
You need trustworthy, safe people in your life — people who accept you as you are. You need good listeners who don’t try to fix you or give advice you haven’t asked for.
Negative influences will poison to your heart. If you’re judged, criticized, belittled, or micro-managed enough, your heart will naturally want to go into hiding. You can’t afford to let that happen.
Your heart is your most prized possession. Your heart is who you are. Fill your life with positive, healthy people.
“Am I releasing guilt or embracing it?”
Guilt comes knocking early in life. It wriggles its way in. After a while, you begin hearing guilt’s accusations in your own voice.
“I should have…” “If only…” “I wish I hadn’t…” “It’s all my fault.”
Once guilt gets entrenched, it infects your relationships. Nothing is untouched by its malicious influence.
You must find ways to show guilt the door. Accept responsibility for your mistakes, make amends, and move on. Usher guilt out of your heart and learn to deny it entrance in the future.
“Am I serving others for the greater good?”
Service is great exercise for your heart. When you contribute, you grow. And you don’t have to be at your best to make a positive difference.
If you’re willing, your own personal challenges can become part of the fuel that drives your service to others. This is one way of using the tough stuff of life for the greater good.
“Have I accepted myself as I am?”
Here is an important truth to embrace: “I’m imperfect and that’s okay.”
Life is an up-and-down, back-and-forth journey. Rather than being a level superhighway, life is more like a beautiful yet rocky path through a thick forest. It’s both challenging and rewarding.
In fact, it’s rewarding precisely because it’s challenging.
Accepting yourself frees you to risk, make changes, grow, and succeed. Embracing imperfection liberates you to laugh at mistakes, get up quickly, and learn to fail forward.
If you can accept yourself, you can also accept others. This gives everyone room to breathe, heal, and grow
“Have I forgiven others and myself?”
In times of trouble, we naturally ask “Why?” The next question is often, “Who’s responsible for this?”
We’ve good at the blame game. We quickly assign responsibility for anything negative or painful. Between our own personal guilt and the tendency to blame others, we can make life difficult for everyone – both ourselves and others.
The antidote, for both guilt and blaming, is forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn’t saying it didn’t matter, but rather that you’re not going to let what happened control you. Forgiveness frees your heart to heal and overcome hardship. When you forgive (others or yourself), you release yourself to move forward.
Don’t expect perfection or a quick fix. Start where you are now and take the next step.
Here are some affirmations for tough times:
“I will process what’s happening inside me well.”
“I will surround myself with safe, positive people.”
“I will embrace my imperfections and not allow myself to be driven by guilt.”
“I will forgive quickly and free myself to serve for the greater good.”
“I will overcome adversity and use hardship as fuel for good.”
“I will take things as they come – one day, one moment, one step at a time.”
Tough times will come. Guard your heart and live from it. We need you.