My Tips For Navigating Challenging Times
One thing that’s certain is we will all face challenging times.
Our hopes and dreams won’t all come to fruition, people will let us down and sometimes things that are incredibly random and painful will occur, for no apparent reason. Whilst there’s little that can be done to avoid certain circumstances, having embraced my own challenging times I now have a small set of lessons I have learnt and I thought I might share them here.
Accept How things Actually are rather than how you wish they were.
I am incredibly optimistic about life. I have always felt there must be something special planned and that every night out had the potential to be ‘the best night ever’ and that life had magical things in store for all of us. While this is a lovely sentiment, it’s very naive. Accepting reality is hugely important and knowing everything cannot be healed with countless affirmations and loving intentions is vital.
If something is leaving your life know that there must be something better on it’s way and the quicker you accept and allow it go, the sooner a new chapter can open up. As terrifying as it may feel letting go of a bad job, a difficult relationship, a friendship that has run it’s course or any challenge you must face, is essential. Stagnation leads to toxicity which can seep into all areas of your life if left long enough. A quote that really resonates now is by Joseph Campbell “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
Focus on your career
There is no guarantee in personal relationships that you will get the love or effort you put in returned to you. I can only speak from my personal experience but every investment I have made in my career, whether it’s a website update, an accountants meeting, a pitch or cooking course, has provided a tangible return.
There is huge liberation in being able to be financially independent and personally being able to take that major worry of being able to support myself out of the equation has helped me to make clearer decisions based on facts, rather than financial anxieties. When I couldn't control other circumstances channeling my energies into my site, book promotion and cooking projects was a fabulous way to focus energy in a positive way and reassured me that my whole life wasn’t coming apart. My work supported me in ways I never imagined possible and having the pressure of a deadline or an event to host often provided enough distraction to get me through the night, and day-by-day, that was what I needed to get to the other side.
Friends will both surprise and disappoint you.
I used to be of the opinion that if people were going through tough times it was advisable to ‘give them space’
What I know now is that when your life changes it can feel incredibly isolating and people reaching out is so welcome. On the flip side I was heartbroken when people I had thought I was close to seemingly vanished. I’m in the strange circumstance of having quite a lot of people observe me on social media and from a day-to-day onlooker’s perspective maybe things looked fine on the surface but those close few who knew and seemingly kept their distance will be lower on my priority list moving forward.
Life is long and we will all face our challenges. What I now know is that a simple text or some form of communication reaching out and offering support means the world. It’s humbled me and I hope I can be a better friend in future knowing what I do now.
Exercise and Self-care is Essential
I have a personal issue with false advertising in the food industry and feel emotional comfort in relation to certain foods is promoted far too frequently. Of course it’s nice to ‘treat yourself’ but the answer to problems does not lie at the bottom of a tub of ice-cream regardless of how much this is promoted. It can be a lovely, pleasurable distraction, but I get agitated with the notion that junk foods should be directly associated with happy times. I’ve eaten pizza both miserably and happily and the ingredients were the exact same.
The only thing that has ever worked for me is by taking accountability, addressing my problems and taking action.
Cooking fresh foods that I know are healthy for me and attempting to get some exercise - even if it was just a short walk to the post office - helped move some of the stagnant energy in me. When I felt like I was up for a little more of a challenge I made a personal commitment to do 10 morning yoga classes in a row. Over those 10 days I felt like I turned a corner. Yoga genuinely helps by calming the body through various poses while releasing tension in the hips, back, and shoulders. This reduces levels of cortisol, bringing them back to a natural state of balance. Initially I clock-watched through the whole classes but gradually the cumulative benefits came and by day 7 I found myself clearing out my wardrobes and wanting to Spring clean the house and let some of the old energy go. I did the classes at 7 am as my days vary and that was the only time I could regularly commit to but there are so many resources online and a quick YouTube search will bring up countless classes that can accommodate anyone’s time constrains and no doubt packed diary.
A change of scenery helps on so many levels.
Sometimes you just need to get away with the girls is a tag line from Sex And The City 2 and it’s so true.
Nowadays life is busy. Most of my friends are married and have husbands, children and busy working schedules so a social life moves lower down the list. For some mystically divined reason I found a Black Friday deal on 3 nights accommodation and flights to Ibiza over the May bank holiday. This was booked and paid up-front back in November and by the time it came around we were all so grateful to have it in the diary. I feel lucky to have an amazing close group of friends and chatting together over those three days and enjoying the change of scenery was so healing and more importantly fun - which I think we all needed!
If you can get away with your friends or family, even for a night, I think you will be amazed at how much it can help.
We can be the last to recognise our problems and issues even when they are right in front of us. For a while I thought I was doing OK and kept up a positive front but gradually my dreams became dark, my digestion was not working as it should and I found myself going more and more inward, viewing social circumstances as a source of shame and something to be avoided. Even though I am extremely well read on self-help books and open minded about everything from Astrology to Reiki I had done all I could on my own to move though my grief. I have a counsellor I speak to periodically but I also booked a session with Fiona Brennan, who is my fellow Gill Books author, a hypnotherapist and mindful practitioner. I had read her book ‘The Positive Habit’ and enjoyed it and the meditations that go with it but meeting her in her Blackrock clinic for a talk and a personal session was, although difficult, something that helped me turn a corner. She recorded the session and it became a 19 minute meditation that I did daily for a week at home.
Know there is life ahead.
When I was younger I assumed that by the time you reached thirty your life lapsed into some slightly less visible, dare I say it, dull routine. I couldn’t have been more wrong and life is busier than ever - it’s been filled with happy times, but also very sad ones too. I know that things will keep unfolding and the expression that “if you want to make God laugh tell him your plans” is true. It’s great to have goals but leave some space for those things life might have in-store. Thirty five has been one of the most intense years I have ever had and whilst sad things have happened, I’ve also experienced joy and career success in a real tangible level. I now work with lovely people doing meaningful work I am passionate about. At times it can feel slightly vacuous sharing my life online but through sharing my passions for vegan food, cruelty-free beauty and sustainability I have connected to causes that are far bigger than me and what I do feels less like a vanity project and something I believe is important in the world.
I have also learnt more in the past year regarding friendships, boundaries and most importantly trusting my instincts. Things I thought were secure vanished seemingly overnight and some relationships turned very sour, very quickly, but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. I now know that life always gives you an amber light in circumstances and it’s far more beneficial to trust the niggle you are feeling and initiate the necessary changes rather than feel it’s all happening to you at a later date.
I often think of when Columbas was sailing to America these days. After twenty-nine days out of sight of land, on 7 October 1492, the crew spotted immense flocks of birds, some of which his sailors trapped and determined to be "field" birds. Columbus changed course to follow their flight and land was first sighted at 2 a.m. on October 12, 1492, I see signs of life ahead all the time now. Not yet land, but little things indicating that land is ahead and I just need to keep going.
Whatever you might be going through, if I can give any advice, know that life deals us cards which can be devastating, confusing and hurtful, but the only way out is by going through whatever lies ahead and the sooner you accept the reality, rather than the potential of what you loved, hoped for or wanted, the sooner you can begin to heal. Life has joy in store for all of us but sometimes it can seem hidden, and the path can take unexpected twists and turns along the way.