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We’ve all experienced those “wind out of your sail”, negative, sideways, low-energy moments in life.  The pressure and grind of living in today’s world can be difficult to navigate and manage, even for those who naturally see the glass as half full.  I’m not going to write about the extreme cases of challenge and despair that can lead to bouts of depression – this would be well beyond the parameters of this blog.  I would prefer to talk about a few small things you can do navigate the typical array of tough times and come through the other side with a strong sense of self-worth and optimism.

Tough times are just that, and I’m not proposing a disconnected approach to life where you sing and dance your way through challenging periods, or that you bury your head and refuse to acknowledge them.  On the contrary, some of your greatest growth as a human being can come from the most challenging times, and in order to learn and grow you must be present and conscious.  My approach focuses on effectively coping, counter-balancing the negative, and coming out the other side of the challenge as a stronger version of yourself.  Simply put, my approach is about investing more in “you.”

During a tough, emotionally draining periods in your life, when you could get dragged to the dark side, “double-down” on those things that will increase your personal stock.  Here are a few of the things that I like to do, to increase my personal stock in times of change, challenge and/or turmoil.

  • Eat Better – Counter act the natural pull of chaos and/or a negative environment, that would have you scarfing down bags of potato chips and quarts of ice cream, and start taking small steps to actually eat more healthy during such times.
  • Move More – If you already have an established fitness routine, crank up the energy and add a few more sets/miles.  If you haven’t been moving enough, set some small goals to walk for 15 minutes a day, take the stairs, etc.  The idea is “investing in you”, so no matter how small, such investment will make you feel better (your psyche will know “this is a good thing”, even if it’s in the middle of some challenges)
  • Learn Something – Pick a book from the pile of “those books I’ve been meaning to read” or take a class that you’ve always wanted to take at a local community college.  I’ve jumped into a professional certification and taken up hobbies during the craziest times of my life.  In addition to the “my minds on something positive” benefit, you gain some new knowledge, skills that will stay with you forever.
  • Make Someone Else’s Day Positive – When I’m a bit down, one of the things I try and do is be a bit more of a role model in the area of “treat others as you would like to be treated.”  However, rather than passively applying the “golden rule”, you’ll feel even better if you actively work to help, support, or brighten someone else’s day.  It may be a cliché at the moment, but “paying it forward” with actions like buying the coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbucks, brightens up someone else’s day.  Your mind may start playing “you’re a pretty cool person tapes” as a counterbalance to some of the more eroding messages that tend to play during tough times.

Again, the point isn’t to try and be perfect or to create an alternate, delusional reality.  It’s simply to invest in you during tough times, so that you don’t let the challenges get the best of you, and on the contrary, come out the other side a better person.

Small steps add up.