Suffering is an integral part of being human. Ongoing suffering leads to hardship, which makes us more susceptible to negative well-being. But when we build our resilience to hardship and learn how to deal with it, we defend ourselves mentally and physically.
Maybe you have struggled with hardship in the past or are going through a period of hardship now. The good news is that there are many things you can do to help yourself and resist the tug down into darkness. You can bounce back from the hardship you are experiencing right now.
This article will outline what hardship is and how it impacts us. It will then provide 5 ways to help you deal with hardship.
What is hardship?
Hardship is profound and enduring suffering or deprivation. For this article, I will talk about involuntary hardship, as many people seek out suffering in their leisure time through intense weight training sessions, running through a pain cave, and other similar exploits.
Hardship refers to a situation where your life is almost intolerable.
Hardship can look like many different things; examples of hardship in life include:
- Financial difficulties.
- Health issues.
- Relationship loss.
- Psychological troubles.
- Loss of social connections
- Natural disasters.
Many of us can relate to a couple of universal hardships of recent and current times. These are the hardship endured during COVID-19 with the associated lockdowns and the hardship endured by the cost of living crisis.
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What is the impact of hardship?
This article suggests that those who experience financial hardship and endure periods of poverty are susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The article further expresses that hardship of any sort directly impacts our mental well-being and impairs our ability to function healthily.
Experiencing hardship impacts our:
- Emotional regulation.
- Cognitive functioning.
It won’t surprise you to hear that those who experience material hardship due to a low socioeconomic status have a higher prevalence of depression.
An interesting study that compared the impact of COVID-19 between the UK and Germany found that the pandemic raised the incidence of psychological symptoms, including:
Perhaps a rather unexpected result was that this study also found that the pandemic raised the incidence of agraphobia and other social disorders.
5 ways to deal with hardship
We know from previous Tracking Happiness articles that when our mental health nose dives, it can be challenging to return to baseline without intervention. Therefore, prevention is often better than seeking a cure.
Here are 5 tips to help you deal with hardship and avoid the slippery slope down to despair.
1. Tap into your community
Our community helps us feel supported and seen. When we allow others to help us, we feed into the revolving reciprocity at the heart of a functioning society.
When times are tough, many of us instinctively withdraw. But this isolation will only exacerbate our negative well-being.
People want to help us and alleviate the suffering of others. It takes courage and guts to accept help from others.
Sometimes we give help; other times, we need help. Our community is there to promote a cohesive and healthy environment for all. Use it!
If you aren’t part of a community, perhaps you should seek one out. Communities surround us; they come in all different forms and may look like this:
- Voluntary groups.
- Sports clubs.
- Interest groups.
- Online forums.
- Book clubs.
The strength of your community will help hold you up during times of hardship.
If you're scared of opening up, here is our article on how to allow yourself to be more vulnerable.
2. Control the controllable
There are many things in life we can’t control. We can fight this, get angry, and engage in constant resistance. Or we can lean into acceptance and learn to pick our battles.
When we learn the power of controlling the controllable, we are not giving up. We are saving our physical and emotional energy by directing this energy at things we hold power over and not throwing this energy away haphazardly.
Here are some things we have no control over.
- Traffic jams.
- Natural disasters.
I’m not for one minute suggesting it’s easy to find acceptance for things we can’t control. But we can learn to direct our energy into a healthier channel.
We can’t control if a loved one dies of a terminal illness. But we can control how we show up for them and interact with them during their tough times. We can control how we handle their affairs and honor their life.
Focus on what you can control instead of feeling panicked and overwhelmed by what you can’t.
If you need more convincing, here's our article on why you need to stop trying to control everything.
3. Stay centered
When I suggest, you learn to stay centered, I mean don’t dwell on the past and don’t project yourself too far into the future.
By all means, use your past experiences to navigate the present and use your future goals to help motivate and drive your present. But always be present.
The here and now are more important than the past and the future. You are a different person today than you were yesterday. You are a different person today from the person you may be tomorrow.
Here are some helpful ways to stay centered.
- Engage in mindfulness.
- Practice yoga.
- Breathing exercises.
Each time you find your mind fixating on the past or jumping ahead to future anxieties, recognize this as a time to center yourself.
4. Prioritize your health
We are more susceptible to illness if we don’t look after our physical and mental health.
That's why you need to focus on your health:
When we give ourselves time to relax, perhaps by watching a film or reading a book, we calm our nervous system down and help alleviate stress symptoms in our bodies.
When we focus on our sleep hygiene, we promote our body’s natural repair and recovery process.
When we move our body through any form of exercise, including running and dancing, we boost endorphins and muscle tone.
And when we are conscientious of what we consume and fuel our body with, we help set our body up for success.
Our health is crucial to living an optimal life and staying on top of any mental or physical difficulties.
5. Express your feelings
Suppressing feelings is not healthy. It can lead to all sorts of rot in the body and mind.
Hardship can cause a spectrum of feelings and emotions. It’s natural to feel this. But instead of letting these emotions destroy you from the inside out, learn to express them and let them out.
In other words, you need to learn how to handle your emotions.
We all express our feelings in different ways. Some of us are more comfortable talking to others, while others may be a little more private. Here are several ways to help you express your feelings:
- Confide in a trusted friend.
- Speak with a therapist.
- Keep a journal.
- Write personal essays and poetry.
- Join support groups.
- Listen to music you feel drawn to.
There are many ways to express our feelings without even using words. The important thing is you don’t let your feelings fester inside.
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The essence of life is the ability to suffer. We all face hardship from time to time. Some people more than others. It’s important not to let our hardships drag us down.
Do you have any tips to help others deal with hardship? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!