The other day I saw this meme on Facebook, and it reminded me of so many feelings I had when I was going through cancer treatment and recovery. It doesn’t matter what the rough patch is, or if it’s for a day or for a life, my approach is the same:
Illness, money woes, relationship issues, job stress — we’ve all had it, and we’ll have it again. I told my boys, Max and Luke, as they were growing up (and even now as young adults): Life is not fair. Life is not easy. Nobody owes you anything.
Sounds tough? Too tough? It might be if I stopped there. But here’s the other side to it: Life is also beautiful. Life is fun. Life is an adventure.
No matter what is swirling around you, the only sure-fire, 100% foolproof thing we have to rely on when going through one of life’s rough patches is this: Only you can determine your response to it.
And if this sounds like just another “positive thinking” post, be aware that I am not a proponent of positive thinking. Positive thinking is surface — just put on a happy face, turn that frown upside down, and don’t worry! Everything will be okay. Well, guess what? Sometimes it’s not okay. Sometimes you have a situation that is likely to go on forever, like a chronic illness, mental health issues, or work stress.
So here’s my thought — work to cultivate a sense of hope rather than an attitude of positivity. Hope runs deeper, allows you to put down roots of stability, and whispers in your ear, “Hang on, you got this.” Hope lets you know that even though life is tough, it’s still beautiful and worth living.
Surviving & Thriving a Rough Patch
If you’re going through a rough patch right now, here are my top 5 tips to surviving and thriving:
- Maintain balance. Read this post about life balance — but the bottom line is the same: you have a body, a mind, and a spirit and they all need attention. Aim for overall balance, even though daily balance is ideal. And if you want to read more, here’s a post about creating a morning ritual, which I believe are very important to our sense of balance.
- Go outside. Nature has a way of letting you know that the world works to right itself all the time, every day. This is reassuring to me, and lets me know that although things are tough right now, they won’t always be tough. Take a walk, smell some flowers, feel the breeze, work up a sweat in your garden. Play with your dog, breathe in fresh air, and harvest tomatoes.
- Talk to yourself. That inner dialogue is so important! Don’t tell yourself that you are slacking, that you are a loser, that you never do anything right — would you talk that way to someone you love? Most days, I talk to myself, sometimes even out loud. Often I’m alone in the truck when I give myself a good talking to. “Okay, Jenny, you are dealing with some tough things right now. How about you when you get home, you go for a walk to clear your head and then you focus on getting one article written? You’re doing great — just hang in there and you are going to be okay. I promise.”
- Get enough sleep. I cannot underscore this enough. If I get enough sleep, I can handle almost anything. If I lack sleep, I turned into a lunatic. I can’t think straight, reason, or make decisions. I’m over-emotional and reactive. So sleep, for me, is my #1 medication.
- Remember to laugh. I know, I know — life is really not funny sometimes. Unless it’s a Greek tragedy, and then you almost have to laugh. But here’s the thing — your body and mind cannot focus on two emotions at the same time. Having a good laugh every day reminds you that yes, this sucks what you are going through, but things are still funny. Life is still good. You might have to look for it, but….look for it. If you are looking for bad, you will get bad. If you are looking for good, you will see good. Pretty simple. So go to Youtube and search for laughing babies or goats playing in pajamas.
Look — I know that none of these things will cure cancer. And I don’t say any of them lightly. I have gone through a divorce, buried both my parents, and had cancer twice. I’ve been thrown in the water a number of times, in the deep end, and my head still sputters to the top. Sometimes I create my own rough patch while other times it’s just landed in my lap. It doesn’t matter. But what I bring to this game does matter, and I’m choosing to bring hope.