“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” Harriet Beecher Stowe
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” William Shakespeare
Life is not always great.
At times it may not even feel OK.
When you’ve had several setbacks in a row, bad luck or things aren’t going your way – even though you do your best – then it may feel like: my life simply and honestly sucks.
I think most of us have had days and likely longer periods like weeks or months when we’ve thought about life like this and felt pretty glum and like there’s a personal little rain cloud over your head.
What can you do when that happens?
In this article I’d like to share 10 things that have helped me when I’ve asked myself: why does my life suck? I hope you find something here that gives you that "yes!" moment.
1. It’s OK to feel frustrated (but know how to handle it so you don’t get stuck).
When things aren’t going your way then you sometimes get frustrated. That’s natural and OK. So instead of trying to push these emotions away accept and process them.
But also know how to not get stuck in them because then they’ll just suck a lot of energy and time from your week.
One thing that helps me to reduce that frustration so I can move forward once again is to stop my thoughts from bouncing around in the past or a possible future by reconnecting with this moment.
Two of my favorite ways for doing that are to:
Focus on my breathing.
I sit down with closed eyes and then just focus on the air going in and out of my nose.
I do that for 1-2 minutes while making sure that I take calm and slightly deep breathes than I usually do and I breathe with my belly (and not my chest).
Focus on what is around me for 1-2 minutes.
The soothing windchime and birds chirping to each other. The slight whistling through the trees from one of the windows. The coolness from the breeze.
The rain slowly falling outside my window and the soft clothes on my skin.
This brings my attention fully back to what is here right now.
By doing one of these things for just that tiny amount of time I calm down and it becomes easier to focus and to think clearly again.
I then follow that up with the next habit in this article…
2. Tap into gratitude for the simplest of things.
This is usually my next step when I want to reduce frustration. But it works well on its own too when you feel like life sucks.
Because during those times it’s easy to go from feeling sorry for yourself for a while into full on victim thinking that lasts for too long and drags you down.
I find that zooming out a bit during these times helps.
So I ask myself: what are 3 simple things that I can still be grateful for having in my life?
A handful of answers that I tend to come back too often are at least partly things that are basic for me but many out there in the world still don’t have access to.
Like for example:
A roof over my head and a warm home.
Plenty of drinkable water.
I don’t have to go hungry.
The simple pleasures of life like a sunset or a relaxing walk in the woods.
My family and friends.
3. Focus more on the small how-tos and less on the whys. Processing what happened and what you feel is certainly important. But instead of taking the common route of dwelling on the whys of the negative situation 80% of the time and looking for solutions 20% of the time switch those numbers around. Spend more of your time on finding the small and practical steps you can take to make things better (even if it’s just a little better at this time). By doing so you’ll start to feel more confident and less suffocated and paralyzed as you are moving forward once again.
4. Reminder: This is temporary. And there is a brand new day tomorrow. Just because this day or the last week didn’t go well doesn’t mean that there is not a brand new day tomorrow. A day when you can start anew. With taking action to move towards what you want, likely having a bit more luck and when it will be easier to see that this difficult time is only temporary and not permanent (even if it might feel that way right now).
5. Ask yourself: What is going well in my life though?
It is very easy to get stuck in focusing on the negative things when you start thinking that life or your week or month isn’t going well.
But don’t forget that there are still things that are going well in your life. It may be small things.
When I had several setbacks last year I asked myself this question and it helped me to open up my mind and to not get too focused on only the things that weren’t going so well.
By opening my mind I could see that many vital things like my small business, my exercise habit and flossing habit were indeed going well and that several fun things had happened recently too.
6. Setbacks can be very valuable if I let them.
I know this may sound like a cliche. And when I’m having a tough time then it’s not what I usually like to hear.
But at the same time I must admit that it’s often true.
And it’s an important thing for me to reminder myself of because it reduces the pain I feel from a setback since I know that this shall pass and that I will usually get something good out of it in the end.
Now, a common way of looking at failures, mistakes and obstacles on your journey is of course as something negative and as things that should be avoided.
But trying to actively avoid them at any price usually leads to analysis paralysis and a lack of taking any significant action at all.
And the setbacks and mistakes in life can indeed be very helpful. If you let them. So before you start moving on from one of them ask yourself:
What is one thing I can learn from this situation?
How can I adjust my course to avoid this trap/making the same mistake and to likely do better the next time?
These questions have helped me to improve a lot about how I do things in life and to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. 7. Reminder: It’s OK to have a bad day. Sometimes a bad day will just be a bad day. Even if you use a couple of the previous tips and strategies. Because no matter what you do, life will never be perfect, awesome or peaceful all the time. It will still have natural valleys even if you adopt many new and positive habits. And that’s OK. But here’s the upside… If you actually accept that this is how life is from time to time – and you stop clinging to a dream of perfection – then your life will become lighter and simpler and you’ll be less stressed out and able to more constructively handle that bad day when it does show up on your doorstep.
8. Let it out.
Keeping things bottled up and not letting them out makes it – in my experience – easier to start making mountains out of molehills. And unbeatable nightmares out of things that do genuinely suck.
So let what is weighing on you out.
You can do it by:
Talking it over with someone close to you.
Maybe you just need to vent and to figure things out for yourself as he or she listens.
Or maybe the two of you can talk it through to ground the situation in reality. And to come up with the start of a plan for what you can do.
Writing about it in a journal.
Just letting your thoughts, worries and emotions out on paper or a computer screen can be a relief.
And it can help you to start structuring things, to think things through and to start seeing possible solutions or small steps you can take.
9. Work it out.
When things are bad and you cannot think yourself out of the state of mind that it leads you to then take another route.
Stop using your head and start using your body.
Go for a walk in the beautiful surroundings and trails
Head to the park with a friend, a picnic and some frisbee
Grab your yoga mat, play your "Zen" playlist (mine is on all day) and find yourself a serene place for your savasana
Go to the beach or lake, enjoy the calm sunset
Will the situation perhaps still suck when you get back? Yes. But maybe less so than you first thought. Because now you have less inner tensions and renewed mental clarity and energy. I have found in my own life that this makes a huge difference to change my perspective and to start working myself out of a negative situation. 10. It’s always darkest before the dawn
This thought helped me to hold on when things looked bleak for many months and to keep going when my issues in life were just overwhelming.
Then as I overcame each problem, the momentum helped me to keep going when things looked like they would never pick up for my own small business.
Why? Because I have found it to be true.
When things seemed to be at the lowest point something always happened. Often because being at that low point forced me to change something in how I did things.
But maybe also because life seems to have some kind of balance if I just keep going. If I keep taking action instead of giving up and doing nothing then something good always happens.
Seeing this repeat itself year after year strengthened my belief in taking action and to keep going even on rough days or weeks.
And it brings some comfort even when things look pretty dark.