Oh hey there. Think back to the last couple years. You probably went through some trauma.
Welcome to the human experience.
Let’s run through some quick facts. You probably graduated high school and college. Congrats. You probably bought a car at some point. Congrats again. You probably fell in love with someone, and you probably got a job…again, congratulations. You also experienced trauma and inevitably suffered…congr- you won’t hear someone say those words.
Why am I grouping suffering amongst some of life’s common moments? It’s extremely common to endure some form of suffering. So common, in fact, that I can guarantee you one thing in life, just like death and paying taxes — you’ll have to navigate some of life’s toughest moments, trudging your way through the valleys before you reach the peaks.
If you think you can circumvent life’s lessons , you’ve got another thing coming for ya..and it ain’t pretty.
I promise I’m done being negative here. But it’s important you don’t play ignorant. Simply put, life won’t spare you misery. It’s really out of your control. What’s in your control is facing life head on and taking certain steps to help yourself tremendously.
Most people attempt to fix what’s “broken” inside of them after they experience trauma, crisis, or suffering. It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s completely possible to look within and tackle things before you experience a storm. It doesn’t have to wait until you experience a valley.
Here’s five ways you can help proactively ease the burden of suffering.
1. Set a Goal, or Two
I know I promised I was done being negative, but one thing is worth mentioning here up front.
People enter various stages of darkness in their life, and hope to claw their way out of it. But those who reach a point where they “give up” on life tend to share one common theme: they have nothing to look forward to.
Hopes, goals, and dreams are what keep us moving forward. Even when trauma isn’t in our life in the present moment, you’ve had that feeling — the feeling of having no spark, and not knowing what you’ll do tomorrow (let alone next week). I’ll talk more about this spark in Reason #5 (Get a Serious Hobby or Passion), but it’s important to know the difference between enjoying a hobby and setting goals.
You know, the whole “what should I do today? I’m bored”, or the classic “what am I doing with my life?”
It’s dangerous to float through life. Not only for your mental sanity, but for your perceived level of success. If you sit there 20 years from now not having accomplished what you want, and then asking where the hell the time went, well I’ve got one question for you:
Did you set some goals?
You can’t expect to walk towards a landmark, however slow it may be, if you don’t know what the landmark is. Think of your ideal self (and life) as that landmark. You won’t walk to it in a straight line (hello suffering/trauma/crisis), but if you keep floating and then introduce some suffering…you can’t expect to “course correct” if you don’t know your final destination.
Sure, you’ll be knocked off path temporarily, but you have the end goal in mind, and you can get back on track when you feel ready.
Keyword: when you’re ready. Take your time, there’s no rush. Life moves forward without any bias. Join the ride when it’s time.
Everyone, including your dog, has probably told you to meditate at this point. You might even have nightmares where your 9th grade math teacher walks up to you as you’re actively failing a final exam and tells you the answer to your problems is “meditation”.
You’ve also probably tried it, and thought you sucked so badly at it, you might as well move on in your life and forget meditation even existed, like your ex.
Let me clue you in on a little secret — I’ve been meditating for just about four years now on a daily basis. Just this morning, right before I wrote this, I meditated. My mind was all over the place. It has been for just about every single meditation I’ve done.
The key of meditation isn’t to expect to sit there for 10, 20, 30 minutes without any thoughts and to be at complete peace. The key is to become better at catching yourself thinking about tonight’s dinner before you’re eight minutes deep into how you plan to cook the meal.
You basically get better at catching yourself drifting off and bringing yourself back into the present moment, even if it’s 200 times a meditation. Yes, 200. That isn’t an exaggeration.
That’s literally all meditation is.
Now that we’re on the same page, why is silence and meditation so important? For reasons which are too long to list here for the purposes of this article, it’s important. Like, really important.
It’s a way to ground yourself and know who you are deep inside. Or at least better understand who you are. When you inevitably run into a situation that throws you off, it’s important to find a time and place to temporarily “let go” of your suffering, however short it may be. Meditation is part of the answer.
3. Get a Routine
I have two confessions.
One, I thought routines were meant for boring people who had no life. I thought women wanted someone adventurous and spontaneous, so I tried…and failed spectacularly.
Two, I’m a boring person. Self-confessed.
People who have routines generally are pretty boring. There’s no way around it, routines aren’t meant to be exciting. But routines are meant to take you to your goals, if you have them. What forms a routine? Habits. Again, I could write an entire article about how routines are formed by habits, but we’ll keep it simple here. Your habits form your routines.
There’s a caveat: you need good habits to create good routines.
And the best time to implement a routine you can consistently practice all happens before 9 am. Morning routines are the milk to your cereal, the bread to your butter. They just make things better.
Just like setting goals, having a viable routine keeps you grounded when life inevitably knocks on your door and tries to dump garbage in your trash can.
Stay the course, as they say, by already having a solid routine or routines which seem infallible.
4. Get a Serious Hobby or Passion
How do you fill your free time?
This question tells people a lot about you. Probably more than you’d like to know. How? For two reasons.
One, depending on what your hobby or passions are, it speaks volumes about who you are and what you enjoy. What “sparks joy” in you, as Marie Kondo says? What puts a smile on your face? What can you talk about for an hour to an audience who is there to learn?
Life is a map, and your passions and hobbies are your compass.
Two, a lot can be said about you if you have no idea what to fill your free time with. After work is done (in a job you probably don’t care for), you’ve knocked out the gym, you’ve eaten dinner, and/or the kids are put to bed (assuming you have children), what do you turn to?
If you can’t answer, or you just say “TV”, you can totally improve upon that.
Remember I mentioned the idea of floating around earlier if you have no goals. Generally, no hobbies or passions and no goals go hand in hand. With neither one in place, you kind of just coast around, letting the day’s events slap you around like a cheap punching bag at a Bronx gym with no AC.
You probably tell yourself you have no idea what’s on deck tomorrow. Next week? Forget it, you can barely get through today.
Now imagine when some crisis or trauma enters your life, and you’re already just floating around. Don’t let it get to this point. Unfortunately, most of us do, and it can really spark serious changes in our life because we never want to go through the same situation again.
Don’t let it happen twice. What’s the saying? “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times…”
5. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
I get it, it’s impossible to not take yourself seriously on a certain level.
Only comedians who stand in front of an audience can laugh at their misery and get away with it. None of us, minus a select few, are these comedians.
But you can get better at not getting overwhelmed, and seeing that life is in fact tough..and it’s ok to laugh at your failures or shortcomings sometimes.
No one’s life is easy, and that’s a highly subjective argument. What you consider as a problem, someone else would laugh at you for even considering it a “problem”. And vice versa. We’re all doing our own thing and trying our hardest.
So if you can sit there, right now, and understand (at a deeper level) life won’t be easy, you’re ahead of the game. It’s about navigating the highs and lows. It’s about staying in the ring during the 10th round when you’ve got two black eyes. It’s about smiling any chance you can get…which is hard. Really hard. Try though.
I promise you one thing:
Life will hit you with suffering, it will suck, and you’re going to get knocked way off course. Getting a better grasp of these five things will help put you back on the track. Then, down the road, you can smile about one of two things:
- It wasn’t so bad after all, or
- How proud you are for weathering the storm that’s behind you in the distance.
Life is good.