Life is wonderful. But sometimes it can be tough.
We’ve all had to deal with challenging times, and sometimes it’s hard to cope. Today I’d like to share ten of my top tips on how to deal with extreme stress; I’ve used these myself, and always found them very helpful.
At the end of this article you’ll also find a short summary of these ten tips: you can download it and read it again in the future.
1. Realize you are not alone
First of all: you are not alone. No matter how unfair you think life has been with you; no matter how bad it might feel; no matter how unlucky you got, I guarantee there’s a lot of people out there going through something that’s far worse than what you’re experiencing right now.
When going through stressful times, most people tend to isolate. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are predominantly an introvert (introverted people need to be alone in order to recharge). However, if you isolate to the point where it’s hard to share your feelings, and talk to other like-minded individuals, it may seem like “it’s just you”.
If right now you are experiencing a difficult time, or you are very stressed out, I invite you to imagine for a moment that millions are going through the same, or worse. There’s almost eight billion of us on Earth, so chances are it’s a pretty accurate scenario.
You see, when you think “it’s just you”, it feels like the whole universe is fighting against you; you think it’s unfair. On the other hand, when you realize you are not alone, you see the bigger picture. It doesn’t automatically fix your problems, but it helps you cope.
2. Realize this is temporary
Everything is temporary. However when we lose focus, when we are particularly anxious, or depressed, it may feel like what we are going through will never end.
In our mind, our pain becomes bigger than it actually is. We don’t just feel that life is hard today, or this week, or this month. We feel that life is hard, period. So what do you do? You can simply repeat to yourself the following affirmations:
- This is temporary.
- This will go away soon.
- At the moment, life is tough. But I know life is wonderful.
- It’s just a matter of time.
- Things will get better soon. It’s nearly over.
3. Be super grateful for what you do have
What are you focusing on?
If you are overworked, and you keep telling yourself: “I’m so stressed out”, or “this sucks”, you are being accurate. Similarly, if you have been really unlucky, and you think “this isn’t fair”, you are 100 percent correct.
The problem is, dwelling on something won’t help you in any way. You may think it does, but in reality it’s just a negative thought pattern. If you’re constantly focusing on what you don’t have, or don’t like, it’s going to be really hard to keep going. That’s why it’s super important to focus on the wonderful things you do have, and do like about your life — in general, but especially during tough times.
Regardless of your current situation, I guarantee there’s an endless list of things you could be really happy about right now. It could be anything from the food you eat, to a special person who supports you, a hobby, something you’ve planned for the weekend, a book you’ve just discovered, your favorite songs, a new project, and so on.
Also: whatever you’re happy about in your life, never assume it’s normal — it may be normal for you, but not for others.
We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.— Thornton Wilder
4. Make diet and sleep an absolute priority
Our mind and our body are interconnected. So when you are struggling psychologically, you must do whatever it takes to make sure your body is healthy and strong. The first two things you must focus on are food and sleep. So eat right, and eat enough. Avoid stimulants, especially later in the day, and stay hydrated.
When it’s time to sleep, avoid blue light (it may be tempting to stare at your phone just before bed, but it’s not a good idea); if your room is noisy, and you are a light sleeper, consider wearing earplugs. It’s also important to stick to a schedule, and go to bed at roughly the same time every night.
Lastly, the obvious ones: don’t smoke, avoid alcohol, and, most importantly, exercise. Try to workout at least a couple times a week; if you are super busy, and realistically you can only exercise once a week — that’s still way better than zero.
5. What will you do as soon as this is over?
If your current situation isn’t ideal, plan everything you want to do once it’s over. This has many different purposes:
- It makes you think about the future, rather than the present
- It creates excitement
- It feels like a reward for what you are going through
- It may help you discover new desires, goals, or dreams
- It may help you remember what you are truly passionate about
Depending on what you’re going to do, you may want to write it down, create visual reminders, or even talk about it with someone else. Focus on your plans, and make them as real as possible.
6. Realize you are growing
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Think about it: the kind of person that you are today is the result of the hardships you went through in the past.
If you have ever gone through heartbreaks, failures, mental health issues, or difficult times in general, you know how bad it felt. But what did you gain from those experiences? How did they make you grow?
Perhaps, after your darkest days you became a lot wiser, or developed more courage. Maybe the pain you experienced helped you become more empathetic, and create stronger bonds with those you love. Maybe you had high expectations about something that failed, and felt incredibly disappointed, but that taught you to take life less seriously, or stop being a perfectionist.
Sometimes in order to grow — physically, mentally, and spiritually — we have to experience pain. So if you are going through a tough time, realize that it does have a purpose. And ask yourself: “what is this teaching me? Why is this great?”
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
7. Surround yourself with positive people only
Your environment plays a huge role in your wellbeing, so it’s crucial that you surround yourself with positive, like-minded people.
As human beings, we emulate those around us. This happens subconsciously, and much more often than we realize. Be very careful when you interact with negative people, because much like viruses, their negative attitude can be contagious. Again, this happens without you realizing.
Ideally, you are able to surround yourself with positive people only. However this isn’t always possible. At your workplace, or anywhere else, you may have to deal with people who are negative, rude, or even aggressive. If that’s the case, ignore them as much as you can. And ignore their words. I know: it’s not easy. But do your best.
8. Read about successful people and their story
Each person interprets the word “successful” differently. In this case, I am referring to someone you admire, specifically someone who has been able to achieve a particular goal, or dream.
Most of the time, when we think of someone who is successful, we assume they had it easy. We think everything worked out fine for them, and whatever they achieved, they achieved effortlessly, with no major obstacles.
Interestingly enough, it’s usually the opposite: most of them had to endure years of struggle, whether it was financial problems, mental health issues, or being abused. They had to fight — in the external world, or against their own demons.
Not only does your pain have a purpose (see point 6), but it’s probably the same pain all these successful people had to deal with. Your current struggles are preparing you for your future success.
9. Realize you are not this.
If, for whatever reason, you are feeling extremely stressed out, anxious, or depressed, the worst thing you could do is thinking that you are what you are going through.
Ultimately, we choose who we are. If you define yourself as the person who’s always stressed out, or unlucky, or miserable, or whatever, you are making a huge mistake. So make sure your self image is empowering.
Think of your greatest memories, think of all those things you are so proud of. Think of those moments in which you felt on top of the world. Think of bliss. That is who you are. Alternatively, imagine your future self: make it exciting, and identify with that image.
10. Think of a stressful time in the past: what did you do?
My last tip is to think of a time in which you were very stressed out, and ask yourself: what did you do? What kept you going? And once you got out of that, what made you really proud?
Whereas problems are always different, solutions tend to be universal. An approach, or idea, or intuition that worked in the past (regardless of what the problem was) is probably going to work in the present as well. Or, it may inspire you to find a similar solution.
We are a lot more resourceful than we think. If you take the time to think of how you dealt with adversities in the past, you will discover your biggest strengths. So focus on those, and believe in yourself.
How to get through tough times — summary
Thank you for reading this article! I have created a short summary of these ten tips. You can download it here for free: