It is important to recognize live’s stormy periods so you can grow from them. That is easier said than done because our tendency to sulk about what we perceive to have lost. I know this firsthand after having faced a bevy of challenges throughout my sixty-six years of life.

I have not always behaved well during tough times. Whining and feeling sorry for myself was my pastime of choice. This allowed entropy to degrade my emotions into a deep depression. I finally learned that handling life challenges in this way made things worse.

Because I can be prone to depression, I developed a plan of action that I follow whenever I sense I am heading toward life’s difficult waters. It has helped me immensely. I share it hoping it enables you to step towards the path of light.

1) Take time for solitude and reflection. You may have already noticed a desire to be left alone. Although it may feel strange, it is important to take alone time. I view these periods as spiritual wounds that need a period of convalescence to recover just like someone in the hospital after a car accident. This is a great time to experience nature. A hike in the mountains or a walk along the beach can have a healing effect.

2) Read or watch stories of people who have overcome difficulties in their lives. Although you may be feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, it is good to know there are plenty of people who endured similar or even worse circumstances. You can learn from their example. Reading about how others overcame their challenges also lets you know you are not alone and fills you with hope and confidence you can do it too.

3) Read From Inspirational Authors. Another way to gain inspiration is by reading the works of people who have reached a higher emotional and spiritual plane. For, example, I read Gary Zukav, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and the Dalai Lama. I know many people who gain from listening to Tony Robbins and other motivational speakers. There is an old saying that goes, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”, trust yourself to know which authors speak to you.

4) Begin a spiritual practice. I fill my time of solitude with things that make me reach inside of myself. The reason is that, during times of crisis, I relive the negative experiences of my life. This is quite natural because—although you are not aware of them—there are feelings and beliefs trapped inside of us that need to come out in the open so they can be dispersed. Difficult times make us drop our guard to allow this happen. This is where journaling and meditation really helps me.

Don’t expect to be liberated immediately from your issues just because you started a spiritual practice. Remember, it took you years to get this point in life, so it will take time to unravel things. The benefits of these practices are incremental so consistency is vital.

5) Think about your goals daily. I remind myself daily of my goals and imagine myself achieving them. I write them in my journal everyday. There is something about writing them down that transforms them from wishful thinking to action. My meditation practice is known as Transcendental Meditation (TM), but there are many other practices you can research. Pick the one that fits you.

6) Seek Help. It took me a while to understand there were no benefits in blaming others or circumstances for what was happening to me. My naked truth was that I had gotten to this point in my life as a result of my behavior and decisions based on my beliefs. The good news is that beliefs are fluid. They can be changed. They are based on what you were taught and on your interpretation of your experiences. But I found I could not do this work by myself, I needed professional help sorting out the beliefs that were life giving and eliminate those that were causing me harm. I did not choose someone to tell me what to think, I was fortunate to find a counselor who was a midwife to the rebirth of the empowering and loving ideals that were deep within me.

7) Commit to an exercise routine. Much has been written about the physical health benefits of exercising, so I will mention the emotional and spiritual aids. Exercising is like taking anti depressants. It increases levels of serotonin in the central nervous system that are associated with feelings of well-being, the heightening of appetite, and lessening of mental depression. Most people report that they feel calm and have a sense of well being after they exercise. It also keeps you healthier and feeling good about yourself. You need not train for a marathon, join a gym or hire a personal trainer. Long walks—at least one half hour in duration—are enough as long as you do them regularly. You can combine exercise with your need for solitude.

8) Do the little things. By controlling the little things in your life, you regain some sense of control over things and develop a consciousness of personal accomplishments. These personal triumphs ultimately aid knowing that you can also accomplish external triumphs. Overlook nothing, starting with your personal hygiene and how you look. Make the bed, pick up after yourself, and don’t let dishes stack up. Pay your bills.

9) Decrease the toxic influences in your life. Avoid drugs or alcohol; they can complicate your problems if you become addicted. Other things can also derail you. Stay away from the people who mistreat you or don’t love you even if they are family members. Stop watching violent shows, they can bring you down. The news media, hateful comedians or authors, sad stories of evil deeds can get you so caught up in the negative that you forget to enjoy the beauty of the day.  You need inspiration not deflation.

10) Play. Play is an essential part of life. There is no greater stress killer. Play can relax you and fill you with a sense of optimism. We all have our own way of having fun, so pick yours. For years I kept my basketball in my car and would stop to shoot baskets at nearby playgrounds. Something about the sound and rhythm of making the ball go through the hoop that helped me forget everything else for the moment

Conclusion

To get through difficult times, you need a plan. This will help you when you are feeling at your lowest ebb. Acknowledge the beauty and wonder around you like your children, your home and the people who love you. You also need to have faith that everything is happening for your own evolution towards a greater good. This too shall pass and you will emerge a better person than ever before.

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