Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Hanging tough
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
I heard a great quote: “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do!” Perhaps this is one of those quotes that we should post on our bathroom mirrors when times are great … so that, when times get difficult to manage and maneuver, the quote is there to remind us just who we are.
Of course, “tough times” are defined differently by each individual and his/her current life situation. A bad hair day, a football offense that seems to sputter, a flooded bathroom on the second floor, an accident that totaled one’s beloved car, a wayward child, the loss of a loved one … all qualify to be considered “tough and difficult” even though the severity differs in each of them.
But have you noticed that “tough times” seem even tougher during the holiday season? I believe that is because we tend to place high expectations on the experience – the lights evenly strung on the house, the creative decorations inside the house, the ideal gifts wrapped with perfection, the myriad tasty desserts, the meal that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters – all of which can cause us to, indeed, experience some tough times!
In addition, if one is experiencing a painful loss – through death, through divorce, through geography or other means – the holidays can be particularly tough. We can see the laughter around us, the beauty of our neighbors’ decorations, the music that plays in every store, and the expectation of goodwill/joy/peace/harmony that the season evokes – and all of this can intensify the pain of these tough times. How do we cope? I’m glad you asked!
- Give yourself permission! Your feelings are always valid, and no one has the right to expect you to “feel a certain way” just because it is holiday season. You may be feeling some sadness, some grief, some hurt, or you may be going through some particularly tough times. Give yourself permission to feel the feeling and defend your right to not meet everyone else’s expectations of YOU.
- Go on a mind-vacation! However, if your feelings “feed” negative thoughts that are swimming around in your head, give yourself some much needed distance from your troubles. Start with your own head – replace the negative thoughts with positive messages relayed though a good book, a powerful speaker, some good music, or engage in volunteer work, visiting with a friend, journaling. Try spending some time engaged in a hobby that you can lose yourself in. These moments are not focused on your pain or loss and can give your joy a chance to sprout again!
- De-tox! Do you have some toxic “friends” who are demanding more of you than you currently have to give yet do not offer understanding and empathy of your situation? De-tox! Set some boundaries and celebrate your right to do so!
- Engage in weight-training! Some weights we simply do not need to carry around with us. The past may have been overflowing with pain, but TODAY is the day that the Lord has made; let’s rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). Drop the weights that pull you down – harbored resentments, lack of forgiveness, bubbling anger! Just think about how much lighter you will feel!
Tough times don’t last – thank goodness! But tough people – like you and me – DO!