Rough Road Ahead: How to manage when life gets hard
Update: This post was originally published February 2013 and has been updated with new content.
It’s that time of the year again.
The weather is warmer, the snow is gone and they are popping up everywhere. I don’t mean green sprouts in the garden.
I’m referring to potholes.
Yes, it is pothole season – that time of year when gaping holes appear in the road and drivers spend their time maneuvering around them. Seems like everyone is talking about their latest pothole misadventure. That’s because almost anywhere you are driving in the city you are in for some rough road.
The best case is a bumpy ride – the worst case is a trip to your mechanic.
Life can sometimes seem to be full of potholes too.
You are cruising along in life and then all of a sudden BOOM you hit a bump.
Some unexpected event happens that stops you in your tracks – a major illness, a pink slip, an accident, a death in the family, a flood, fire or some other natural disaster.
Or maybe the bump is not too serious, just enough of a detour to knock you off balance.
Sometimes in life you hit a rough patch.
It seems as if you are bouncing from one hole to the next for a long stretch of time. A series of events or mishaps keep piling on top of each other and maybe you start wondering if you have been cursed.
Life is like that.
It is not a smooth road all the way. I’m not even sure we would want it to be. But just like your car, a rough road can take its toll on you.
When the going gets tough
So, what do you do when you hit a bumpy patch in life?
Here are some tips for handling life when it gets tough:
Are potholes annoying? You bet they are. But complaining about them doesn’t change anything. Neither does grumbling about whatever situation you find yourself in.
Asking “why me?” or lamenting the fact that life has thrown you a curve actually makes the situation seem worse. There is no point in arguing with life. It is what it is.There is no point in arguing with life. It is what it is. Now what would you like to do about it? Click To Tweet
So stop resisting what is happening and allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling about it. Angry, annoyed, frustrated, disappointed, hurt, scared. Acknowledge your emotions. Then you can choose a more proactive way to handle the challenge at hand.
Focus on what is in your control
Getting clear about what is in and out of your control is an important skill for any time whether the road is bumpy or not. But it is particularly useful when things are going sideways.
Stuff happens. Lots of it is simply part of the natural chaos that randomly happens in life. If something is out of your control, then stop trying to control it or worry about it. That only increases your stress and anxiety.
Focus instead on what you can do. If nothing else, your attitude or mindset is always within your control.
Slow down and pay attention
If you try to drive a pothole filled road at top speed, you only increase the damage you might do to your car. That’s because you just might find out that what looked like a little puddle turns out to be a water filled hole. The faster you travel, the harder it is to pay attention to the little things.
Slow down when the road is rough. It gives you time to take a breath and listen to what you need in the moment. Maybe consider adding a little self-care time. When you slow down you can look ahead and see where the next bump might be and then take the time to plan proactively.
Keep moving forward
Unless you are stuck in a hole, keep moving forward. When life seems tough, inertia can take over. Our negative mind starts running the show telling us “it’s hard” or “I can’t”. It convinces us we can’t handle what’s happening and seduces us into stopping. Ever had a tough day and your mind convinced you that couch-Netflix-Doritos was a good idea?
One step at a time, no matter how small, eventually gets you where you are going. It’s not the speed that you are moving at that is important. It’s which direction you are headed.
And if you are truly stuck and feeling like you can’t move forward, then it’s time to ask for help.
Look for a smoother ride
Some roads are worse than others. If you know one way is full of potholes, pick another route. There’s an old saying that if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging.
Life is not a one way street. There are many roads to the same destination. Don’t be held hostage by the one you are on if it isn’t working for you. Changing course is a powerful part of a Plan B solution. Nothing wrong with getting out of the car and choosing to walk for a while instead.
Avoiding the rough road in life
Here’s an important reminder:
Potholes will happen. But you don’t need to dig your own.
Minimize the challenging situations you create for yourself. It doesn’t take much to figure out if you are likely to hit some rough road if you keep on the same path. Most of the time it’s just common sense.
What is the likely outcome of my current choices?
The truth is the likely outcome is what will likely happen.
So avoid potential potholes by changing your course before you hit the rough road ahead.
I’d love to hear your pothole stories – on the road or in life.
Simply post a comment.