Sunday, January 12, 2014

How to Overcome Your Challenges: 10 Ways

Ever notice that throughout our lives we’re always struggling with something?
Instead of feeling down over your difficulties, here are 10 strategies to overcome them.

1. Make a game plan. Try to get outside input from those you respect. (If there’s no one you can ask, often a recommended therapist can be very helpful.) Focus especially on the next step you will take to address your issue. Even if you have no idea how you will overcome the challenge, be optimistic things will work out; with God’s help, anything is possible.

Include in your game plan ways you will use the challenge as a catalyst for growth, to become a better and more spiritual person. (This topic is discussed in, ““Why?” 5 Reasons for Suffering.”)

Periodically review your plan to see if it is working or if you have to make changes. At the same time, accept that your challenges are given to you by a loving God for your benefit and that you will grow from them.

2. Keep your cool. When dealing with difficulties, patience is needed. Frantic and desperate measures are unlikely to help; these drain you physically, emotionally and financially. Success and healing come from God. He has ordained the precise time and manner by which you will receive your blessings. All you need to do is make reasonable, persistent efforts and ask God for help; leave the rest to Him.

3. Forgive. Often, we blame others or ourselves for our problems; this only exacerbates our pain and distracts us from addressing the issue. Ultimately, everything comes from God for our highest good. The question is not, “Who can I blame?” The question is, “How can I grow and overcome this?” (At the same time, when appropriate, we can still hold others accountable for their behavior). For more on forgiveness, see, “The Freedom of Forgiveness: 3 Strategies to Letting Go.”

4. Avoid dwelling on your problems. Often, what wears us down most is not the actual problem; but the constant thinking about it, when we spend our days and nights consumed with the issue. Have a set time when you think about and update your game plan. In addition, have a set time when you express your pain, either to God, a friend, family member, therapist or in your journal. The rest of the time, try to keep your mind elsewhere.

When you notice yourself dwelling on your problems, gently shift your attention to other thoughts. Each day, take your mind off your difficulties by doing something relaxing, enjoyable or fulfilling. Some examples: Read inspirational stories, sing or listen to music, recite Psalms with understanding, meditate, set a meaningful goal and work toward completing it, declutter, engage in creative activities, spend time with family and friends, volunteer, go to lectures, or study inspirational Torah teachings.

5. Live life. You may think, “When will this problem be over with already, so I can get on with my life?” The truth is, right now, this is your life. This is the best use of your time and how you currently fulfill your life’s purpose.

That being said, don’t put your life on hold just because you’re struggling in one area. Continue to strive and accomplish whatever meaningful pursuits God enables you to. Give yourself permission to be happy and enjoy life, as best you can. Throughout the day, look for reasons to smile or laugh. Having a slight smile on your face, even for no reason, can shift your mindset to a more positive one.

6. Help others. Even if your life is full of struggles, see how you can be of service to other people. We’re all in this together; by assisting each other, we will get through our difficulties.

7. Focus on what’s going right. When dealing with an issue, our tendency is to hyper focus on the difficulty, to the exclusion of everything else. Instead, make sure to notice and appreciate your blessings, savoring and delighting in each one. Also consider the silver lining of your challenges and the ways God is sending you relief amidst your pain.

8. Realize everyone has difficulties. Often, we compare our lives to others, especially the airbrushed Facebook versions, and wonder, “Why can’t my life be like theirs? Why is my life so full of struggle?” But we are only seeing a small part of the overall picture. If we knew all their struggles, psychological problems or family difficulties, we would prefer to keep our own strengths and blessings, even if they come with challenges.

9. Take care of yourself. Don't overextend yourself. Many times, we become so consumed with our difficulties that we neglect our health, which only makes matters worse. As best you can, eat nutritious meals and get adequate sleep and exercise.

Set clear boundaries as to what you can and cannot do. For example, if you are caring for a child, spouse or parent who is in the hospital, decide how many days a week you can go, how many hours you can stay and how many nights you can sleep over, before it takes a toll on you. Then elicit the help of others to fill in the gaps.

10. Reach out for support. There are three sources of support. The first is God. Unburden yourself to Him; tell Him about your struggles and fears and ask for His help. If you feel overwhelmed and are having trouble coping, tell Him that and ask Him to strengthen you. Remember, God says to us (Isaiah 41:13), “For I am God, your God, who takes hold of your right hand, and says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” 

The second is other people. Let them know what you need, whether it is emotional or material support, or both. Don’t be ashamed; everyone needs help at some point. One reason God puts people in this world is to give them the chance to help others; do not deprive them of this opportunity.

When asking others for help, be respectful of their time and appreciative of their efforts. Include as many people as possible in your support network, so that you do not overburden anyone.

Depending on the issue, you may want to consult with an agency based social worker to see if there are any social services available to you. In addition, is there an organization that provides support for people in your situation? If not, consider starting one; that’s how many organizations where founded.

The third source of support is ourselves. We need to talk to ourselves with words of compassion and encouragement. Show yourself the same kindness, warmth and care you would show a family member or friend who is going through a tough time.

Life involves struggles. Instead of trying to avoid them, use strategies to meet your challenges head on and triumph.

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  1. Great advice and wisdom here. Thank you. I especially like #7 and it's often overlooked.

  2. Thank you so much for this excellent advise. Came exactly when I needed it!!