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How to make rough patches more bearable

There was a time not long ago when I found myself avoiding going to bed each night simply because I was dreading waking up in the morning. I had recently been diagnosed with prenatal depression and my husband had lost his job. Each day, I was facing anxiety over our finances, working extra hours to make ends meet, and attempting to care for my mental health along the way. Every day felt tough and I was really struggling, unable to cope well with the stressors in my life.

Rough days are bound to happen, but truthfully, some bad days are simply a smaller part of a really difficult season. For some people, getting through a tough day might require a little extra grit, but when day after day is filled with really hard things, it can be a different story. Whether caring for a sick relative, battling a chronic illness, or dealing with a long stretch of unemployment, we may not have control over the circumstances that throw us into a season of difficulty, but there may be some actions we can take to protect our own well-being. A common suggestion involves seeking professional help to wade through the intense emotions that come with a difficult season of life. Although it may seem like obvious advice, therapy still conjures negatives negative stigma, according to Candyce Ossefort-Russell, licensed professional counselor and grief advocate. “It’s actually healthy and normal to need help, especially in times of intense emotion,” she says. “It’s a healthy step, rather than a sign that they’re weak or not able to make it.”

Not all phases require help from a therapist or in a support group, but there are a few signals to look for, according to Ossefort-Russell. If you find you are especially worked up, experiencing anger or anxiety more than what feels typical, or if you experience the opposite, including depression for longer periods of time that makes it difficult to function, it may be beneficial to seek additional help. Beyond regular visits with a professional, there are smaller, daily habits that might help make a rough season feel a little more bearable. No matter your schedule, it may be nice to carve out a few minutes each day to engage in comforting activities. “Sit in your car for an extra 10 minutes listening to your favorite radio show before you go back into the house; indulge in a scoop of ice cream after dinner; watch an extra 30-minute TV show that makes you laugh,” Ossefort-Russell suggests. “Mindfully choosing to give yourself some extra comfort acknowledges to your deeper self that you understand the sacrifices being made, and this kind of acknowledgment is soothing.”

It may also be helpful to practice mindfulness interspersed with moments of chaos during the day. Ossefort-Russell suggests this can be something to incorporate throughout the day, such as stopping at a red light or turning on the stove. “Whenever you encounter the signal, simply pause and take three slow breaths and send yourself love and compassion,” she says. “This works in a regular time of healing and renewal into your days without requiring any kind of investment of extra time.” Lastly, although it may feel as if you are too busy or overwhelmed to allow yourself to feel whatever your circumstances bring up, avoiding your emotions can make things harder in the long run. Because of this, planning a few minutes of quiet each day to experience your emotions, perhaps before you get out of bed or before you turn in for the night, can be helpful during times of difficulty. “Let yourself feel any sadness, anger, or pain that you feel about the situation you're in,” Ossefort-Russell says. “Even if you don't have the space to feel these feelings on a regular basis, your psyche will start to trust that there will be at least some time each day for you to let these feelings have room.”

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