November 21st, 2009
What do you do when things get tough? When you’re going through a difficult illness, experiencing a loss, or feeling depressed or anxious? Many people follow the adage – “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” While there is some value to this, I offer a different path.
When life gets difficult, you might begin telling yourself things like, “Buck up!”, “Why can’t you just move on?”, or “Get over it.” You might get busier and busier, taking less time for yourself. While you feel like being tough on yourself will keep you moving, it can also be counterprodutive…especially if you tend to criticize yourself in good times. Therefore, the times when you’re most stressed are exactly the times when you need to be gentler with yourself.
Challenging self-defeating and demeaning thoughts can be helpful. Instead of “Why can’t I move on?”, try “I’m doing the best I can in a difficult situation.” Instead of “Will this ever end?”, try “I can get through this.” Or make up your own gentle, caring thoughts about yourself. It may feel weird and strange, but why is it any stranger than being hard on yourself?
While it is challenging to do, finding extra time to do the things that make you feel better can be important too. If you practice yoga, meditation, or prayer, try - if you can – to at least maintain your schedule. If you attend 12-step meetings, perhaps go to an extra one. If you have seen a therapist or counselor in the past, this might be a good time to get reacquainted. I’m sure you can think of other things. The important thing is to try, and if you find you don’t have time for these things, then gently accept this rather than beating yourself up. You might find that a little gentleness goes a long way.
If you’re looking for a therapist or counselor in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC, email me at email@example.com or call 202/460-6384.