The First Two Things To Do When You’re Struggling In Life

Full Disclosure: writing this blog post is going to be cathartic for me this week. You see, my beloved aunt died a few days ago. She was the matriarch of my mom’s side of the family, since my mom is so much younger than all her siblings. Auntie Nelle always had a cookie, a gift, or a hug ready to give you, and she knew every story about every single one of your friends and everyone they ever dated.


I scheduled the topic of this blog post months ago, and it’s only sheer luck that today, of all days, I get to write about what we should be doing when life comes crashing down and you’re truly struggling. Because today, I’m really struggling missing my Auntie Nelle.


Research suggests that when we try to overcome our struggles and we can’t, we risk slipping into a state of helplessness. The longer that powerlessness goes on, the more helpless we feel and the harder it is to recover. For that reason, I focus much of my work with clients on achieving what I call Accelerated Resilience, the ability to select the right techniques to bounce back as quickly as possible. In The Successful Struggle, I outline the research-proven techniques that assist you in overcoming and succeeding despite each type of challenge. If we aren’t able to apply the right techniques quickly enough, then we’re left in a state of powerlessness that can threaten to overwhelm us.


If you are stuck, and feel like life is a constant struggle, what are the first two things you can do to pull yourself out of the downward spiral?


“Triage” Yourself

When you first arrive in an Emergency Room, you are sent to Triage. The point of Triage is to uncover your symptoms and take a history of your complaint, so that the doctors know what to treat. Sometimes the health professionals performing Triage will find linkages between your symptoms that you might not have known were important!


I know that my grief over Auntie Nelle’s death is the cause of my current helpless feelings, but sometimes it isn’t so obvious. Sometimes we need to practice Triage on ourselves in order to get to the root causes of our stress or pain, and find any hidden connections between what we know we’re struggling with and what we may not have even realized was affected. Until we perform this self-analysis, we risk continuing our struggle.


Focus on What You Can Control


We often feel powerless because there isn’t much we can control. But rarely can you control nothing about a situation. This week, I’m taking control of helping my family plan funeral arrangements, making travel plans for out-of-town-family members, and providing meals and transportation back and forth for my uncle and cousins. It isn’t much, but it’s a reminder that I still have choices and I still have power over something. It may not seem like much, depending on what your challenge is, but studies show that even the smallest amount of power exerted can make a huge impact on your emotional well-being. Find something you can control, whether at work or at home, and get to work. Just writing this blog post is a step in the right direction for me.


When life’s biggest challenges hit you head-on, it doesn’t seem like there’s much you can do besides ride out the storm, but there is. By starting with these two techniques, you’ll regain your footing and position yourself to recover as quickly as possible.


I’d love to hear your suggestions for strategies that work for you when you’re really struggling in life. What do you do first when life is beating you up? I could use all the support I can get this week, and it would be great to hear your suggestions!