Keys to overcoming difficult times

Strong winds make strong trees.

Strong winds make strong trees.

“Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.” Thomas Monson

We all will be challenged by life and much of our success will be determined by our ability to overcome difficult times.

Friends and relatives will fall sick, some will die. People who we love will not love us in return. We will face bad weather, financial crisis and the wrath of people who are angry with us for no apparent reason. At the end of our struggles we will die, probably as the result of a lingering illness.

Every human on the planet is bonded in brotherhood by our challenges.

At times we will be in darkness so complete that we will have no idea as to how we will ever survive it.

I have been through similar situations, more than once.

At times I was so deep in my personal struggle that I could not imagine ever finding a way.

Over the years I have survived the death of both parents, my brother-in-law and a nephew who I loved dearly. I endured career challenges as well as the general depression and sadness that came along with just not knowing my place in the world.

Yet, despite all the obstacles I have learned to thrive. In fact I now know that it is the moments of struggle that make the times of peace, beauty and wonder even more beautiful.

As a result of my challenges I developed several science based techniques for managing stress and change. They have worked well for me and I hope they will work for you also.

  • Choose the meaning of your life

For hundreds, or even thousands of years scholars and philosophers have talked about the importance of finding your life’s meaning or purpose. In simple terms they said that finding your life’s meaning is essential for finding true happiness and satisfaction.

But, at least for me, the problem was that, although I searched for meaning I struggled to find it.

Finally after years of searching I simply chose the meaning of my life. It was only after making that choice that everything else began to fall into place.

Just in case your are interested the meaning of my life is:

Every day I try to be the best person I can be and I am determined to be a positive influence upon the world.

Not very elegant for sure, but very truthful and in alignment with who I am.

  • Do something nice for someone (or even a pet or other animal)

Being kind to others is one technique I use every day and no matter how good (or bad) I feel the act of doing good things for other people always improves my mood.

From a scientific point of view Michael Steger, a psychologist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky proved that doing good things for others makes you feel better. THIS link takes you to an article describing the study in further detail.

  • Do something useful

Clean your room, your garage or even a single drawer. Accomplishing even a small goal  causes the release of dopamine, which is one of your bodies feel good chemicals. When you are down and depressed the chances are that you don’t feel like doing much, but I promise being productive works.

  • Try acceptance

Much of our pain and discomfort in life comes from our tendency to refuse to accept things that can’t be changed. As painful as it is there are things in life that we simply cannot change.Reality simply does not care about your comfort or acceptance. Reality is what it is and it is up to us to learn to work around or through the challenges it throws at us.

For more information on acceptance check out THIS article from psychology today.

  • Take positive action

In my view there is always something we can do about a situation, even if that action is figuring out a way to actively accept it.

A few years ago my son was diagnosed with idiopathic juvenile arthritis. While I was literally sick about the situation there was literally nothing I could do about the diagnosis. But I started writing a list of things I could do to improve his quality of life despite his arthritis.

In just a few moments I had half a page of items to work on and I got busy. I put him in a private clinic, we got him the best support systems and we made every effort to normalize his life in as many ways as possible. Years later we have his arthritis well-managed and he is enjoying a fantastic quality of life.

  • Look after yourself

It times of stress we have a tendency to do exactly the wrong things. We eat too much, drink too much and exercise too little.

When things aren’t going well work even harder at looking after your physical needs. Sleep as well as  you can, eat well, engage in medium intensity aerobic exercise, lift weights, get outdoors and spend time with people and things that make you happy.

These activities help drop the levels of stress related hormones in your body, such as cortisol and adrenaline and they help increase the levels of feel good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.

  • Listen to happy music

For me at least listening to the right music is an immediate mood booster. I always keep a playlist of “Happy” music on hand.  Not only do those songs cheer me up when I am feeling down they are great to maintaining or even enhancing my usually terrific mood.

  • Listen to and internalize positive affirmations

There are those who dispute the effect of positive affirmations but I am a firm believer. The principle of neuroplasticity says that the more we use a neural pathway the stronger that pathway becomes. Therefor I believe that we can intentionally use affirmations to strengthen the pathways associated with happiness, positivity and goal achievement, while simultaneously weakening the pathways associated with anxiety and depression.

  • Meditation

Meditation is one of my go to moves and the impacts of meditation has been demonstrated in literally thousands of studies. In fact evidence suggests that over 80% of the worlds elite performers such as artists, business people, politicians and athletes engage in some sort of meditative practice.  For those of you who think of meditation as some sort of new age mysticism it might interest you to know that virtually all of the worlds elite military units also practice certain forms of meditation.


There you have my top 8 ways to manage challenges.

The important thing to realise is that people are very rarely helpless and while we cannot always change the situation we can always change how we react.

What about you, do you have any ways of dealing with challenges that I have not mentioned? Are there some of mine you would like to know more about?

Thanks for reading success on the far side of fifty.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do.