I’ve said this over and over in my life to friends and family, to the women I work with in my practice and those in my online community: life will always get all lifey again.
We have a good stretch and then something falls apart. You have the best laid plan and it is fine for a bit but something happens (you get sick, your kid gets sick, work gets crazy, you enter a difficult time in a relationship, etc.) and it all goes to hell and you can’t get back on track with your healthy habits or your more positive mindset.
Or maybe you’ve been in a bad spot for awhile and can’t even remember your last good stretch.
Either way, when we’re down in it, it can be hard to see a way out, hard to imagine things getting better and how you can best handle the tough stuff.
I’m often asked if I’m more therapist or hormone doc when women start digging through my blog as there’s a mix of content here, huh?
Truth be told, I can tell women all day what diet, exercise, supplements and lifestyle changes will help their hormones – that’s the easy part most of the time. However, if they have the info and a set of steps to take but if they can’t implement any of it because they feel utterly overwhelmed, stressed out and beaten down, they can’t get better.
Most of us can more easily exercise and eat well when life is not overly stressful. We can pop our supplements and make it to our doctor’s appointments when nothing else like an aging parent, friend in need, sick kiddo or big work project isn’t pulling us in another direction. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m not getting enough sleep I am a hopeless, fatalistic puddle on the floor certain it will never get any better and wondering what in the heck is wrong with me!
Again, on a good day getting it all done isn’t so hard but when life gets messy, complicated, busy, stressful, overwhelming or painful, it’s not so easy.
That is often the real work we need to do: learn how to do our best on the hard days and trust that our best may not be perfect, but it’s absolutely good enough.
And this isn’t just about feeling better mentally and emotionally, negative thoughts have been shown in the research to drive stress hormones and increase inflammation. So your hormones suffer when you’re suffering.
A lot of experts teach hacks that help you make healthy habits easier in a busy life, that’s cool but that’s not what this post is about. This is about being your best friend instead of your own worst enemy or biggest critic, it’s about opting out of overwhelm and doing what you can and letting the rest go.
That is real self-care — how you treat yourself during your hardest moments. That is what keeps us going with the things we aim to do every day like eat veggies and move our bodies, those things that feel so hard on the rough days.
We teach an entire framework about these types of strategies in Hangry including our 5 Pillars and the 12 Tangible Tools, but here are five things that are beyond those ideas in the book that are my go to on a tough day.
Download the 12 Tangible Tools from Hangry by Dr Brooke & Sarah Fragoso
5 Things That Always Help You Feel Better & Lower Your Stress
Consider it is temporary. Whatever it is that’s going on won’t last forever. Even when no end is in sight, consider that there is an end – consider that it is temporary.
It always is. Although maybe it’s lasting longer than you’d like, it isn’t forever because nothing is: the good or the bad.
When we consider it’s not set in stone, that it’s not forever and that something different is possible, we see new opportunities to make a move, to get going in a different and better direction, that help is available and at the very least that you can tread water because it’s not forever.
Considering that whatever is happening now is just that: happening now. This idea that your now is temporary, restores some of your grit and optimism. From here you can see more options for your next step. You are back in the land of possibility.
It is all less urgent than it feels and you have more time than you think. When we feel badly or are having unpleasant emotions, it feels like we must do something right away. Cravings, like for sugar or alcohol, can often feel the same way: like we gotta do something about it right now. We must give in or distract ourselves from it, but either way we feel like we must act, must respond right now.
Remember that it’s not actually that urgent. You do in fact have time for a deep breath, to rethink, to recalibrate, to reassess and make a more mindful choice. It is all way less urgent than it feels so give yourself a minute – or maybe a minute and a half.
In this podcast with Dr. Joan Rosenberg we talked about her 90 second strategy to surf those uncomfortable feelings knowing they will pass even if you do nothing about them.
So often we react to uncomfortable feelings by distracting in some way because we hate how things like anxiety, fear, helplessness, shame, etc. feel. We shop, scroll through social media, eat sugar or junk food, drink alcohol, pick a fight all in an effort to distract instead of deal.
So give yourself time for a few deep breaths, do a scan of your body and notice where you feel emotions and discomfort and trust that you can handle whatever unpleasantness you’re experiencing. You got this, but give yourself a second…or 90.
You have more support than you realize and have had more success than you can recall. Oh this one gets me! It’s so easy for me to feel alone, unloved and unsupported when I’m down in it. This feels like the truth when we’re there but even at our most alone there’s support somewhere and we’re rarely as big a failure as we feel in those tough moments. Look for examples.
Even if support isn’t coming from where you want it, is there support – even if only a little – from some one in your life?
Was there ever a time when that person you’re so hurt by now was supportive or helpful?
Was there a time when you were successful in what you’re trying to do now? Or something similar?
Was there another success that you can look back to to boost your morale in this moment of seeming failure?
Is there one thing you can do now that would help? Is there one person you think believes in you that you can reach out to?
Look for examples, however small of your successes and see sources of support that you may be missing. Realize that you’re more capable and supported than it feels right now. Even if it’s that you can hop on to this blog or my Instagram, I believe in you and support you and I don’t even know you…that’s something! And I’ve been doing this a long time and I know there are other women that feel the way you do right now.
Come hang out in our free, private Facebook group and let us all support each other!
Ask yourself: if the worst happens, can I handle that? If you’re really stressed, worried or freaked out go to the worst case scenario and ask yourself if you could handle that.
When you go there, to the worst case, you almost always can see some way that, however painful, you can survive. You may not be able to see how you’d thrive yet, but you can almost always see yourself surviving, moving on, getting through.
At the very least see yourself not totally crumbling. That is hopeful.
There’s always something to be grateful for. We talk about #fullengagementliving in Hangry as one of our 5 Pillars, mindfully choosing to stay in this moment even if this moment feels pretty bad.
We talk about fully experiencing the tough stuff not only to heal, learn and grow but to build your resilience. Staying present for the bad makes it more intense for sure, but it will make the good more intense as well.
In another pillar #optoutofoverwhelm, we tell you to harness the power of gratitude. You have more to be grateful for than it seems most days and it’s important to remember as well that you have more of what you desire than you realize in this hopeless moment.
This quote from Greek philosopher Epicurus is hanging on my bedroom wall where I can read it daily because it keeps me in the present instead of anxious about my future, or even disappointed about my present:
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Real self-care and stress-management tools are unique for each of us. I always say what soothes my soul may make your skin crawl, so you need to try some tools and perspectives and figure out what works for you.
This is why in Hangry we gave 12 tangible tools for those really stressful or upsetting moments. You don’t have to use all 12 and you don’t have to love every one of my five things I put on this list, but you have to have tools.
Try them out, keep what works and leave what doesn’t. If you’ve recently found yourself in tough spot without tools, get tools! Have at least 3 at the ready – try the 12 tangible tools and the strategies in this post and by all means share this post with another woman that needs to hear it.