“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Life is constantly throwing us curve balls. Just when we think things are going smoothly, we hit a road bump. No matter how much we live a positive and healthy life through meditation, diet, and exercise, we inevitably encounter difficulties along our path. And, because everything is impermanent, including happiness, we often find ourselves going through a period of change or adjustment. Many people find discomfort when going through change, and by the end of this read you will learn some ways to keep your head up.
Change comes in all shapes and sizes. You may be graduating from college, starting a family, or learning a new skill. Perhaps you are changing careers, relationship status, or addresses. With any of these experiences, you may feel like you are living in “no man’s land” where uncertainty, anxiety, and fear haunt you. Essentially, during these times you are trying to get your bearings straight.
These experiences are known as transitions. During these times, it’s very normal to feel a heightened sense of insecurity and weakened self-esteem. You may also begin to see transitions as the in-between space – a break from the past and what lies ahead.
Another way to perceive this in-between space is as a period of reflection. We truly find out who we are as a person when going through a tough time. It is through these obstacles we grow and learn.
“Stop the struggle and try easy.”
I disliked hearing these words from my yoga instructor while practicing a difficulty yoga pose. Then, I began to see the relation between this message and going through a tough time in my personal life. The yoga instructor would follow up with questions like, “How do you want others to see you while you are going through this difficulty?” or “What can you let go of in this situation?”
It dawned on me that my yoga instructor might be on to something. Life is too short to live in anxiety, fear, and anger when presented with a challenge. When we try too hard, we are struggling with our difficulties and we are not open to new possibilities. These tough times are inevitable, so why not learn to maneuver through them gracefully?
Here are some tricks to help keep you sane when things go awry.
Increase attention given to your personal heath and wellbeing. Find your own rhythm and routine and stick to it as much as possible. Your routine includes getting enough sleep to feel rested (7-9 hours/ night is recommended), participating in physical activity for exercise, eating a balanced and healthy diet, and enjoying your free time. Also, try and schedule one thing a day that makes you feel healthy and happy.
Give yourself permission to do nothing
Start by marking off a period of time to dedicate to your project. For example, if you are looking for a job or new home, decide how much time is appropriate to conduct your search. Then, after you have spent the allotted time with your research, take a break. During your break, don’t even talk about your project. Instead, do something to take your mind off of it, something completely different, whether that is a hobby, nature, or spending time with a friend.
Letter of inspiration
Write a letter to your self from you in the future. Share how great it is to be on the other side of the transition. When writing the letter, imagine how you want your difficulty to guide you through this transformation, and speak from this place. Then, describe what a typical day looks like for you. Put as many details as possible in the letter to help you visualize your next chapter. Use this letter to remind you of your journey and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Practice a seated meditation reciting positive phrases to your self. I invite you to use the meditation on loving-kindness by Jack Kornfield in A Path With Heart. Say these statements while focusing on your breathing
May I be filled with loving-kindness
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
During this tough time, keep your head up and be open to new possibilities. Taking a different route home or a new gym class may introduce you to what you have been missing. Perhaps you go on a job interview knowing it is not the position for you merely for interviewing experience and meeting new people. The possibilities are endless; you just have to be open to change and welcome the uncertainty.
Review your success stories
Recall past experiences where you were going through a transition and how you managed to make it out successfully. It may be helpful to write down these positive stories and remind yourself of your power and wisdom when facing this new challenge. These past experiences may also help you tap into a resource you missed. You may also find things do work out for you and sometimes even better than expected.
When we learn to be graceful during tough times, it allows for a more enjoyable experience. Trust that you will receive whatever is perfect for you. And remember, this too shall pass.