Make a game plan. Try to get outside input from those you respect. (If there’s no one you can ask, often a recommended therapist can be very helpful.) Focus on the next step you will take to address your issue. Even if you have no idea how you will overcome the challenge, be optimistic. Things will work out; with G-d’s help anything is possible.
Include in your game plan ways you will use the challenge as a catalyst for growth, to become a better and more spiritual person. Periodically review your plan to see if it is working or if you have to make changes. At the same time, accept that your challenges are given to you by a loving G-d for your benefit and that you will grow from them.
Keep your cool. When dealing with difficulties, patience is needed. Frantic and desperate measures are unlikely to help; these drain you physically, emotionally and financially. Success and healing come from G-d. All you need to do is put in reasonable, persistent efforts and ask G-d for help; leave the rest to Him.
Forgive. We often blame others or ourselves for our problems; this only exacerbates our pain and distracts us from addressing the issue. The question is not, “Who can I blame?” The question is, “How can I grow and overcome this?” (At the same time, when appropriate, we can still hold others accountable for their behavior).
Avoid dwelling on your problems. Often what wears us down most is not the actual problem, but the constant thinking about it, spending our days and nights consumed with the issue. Have a set time when you think about and update your game plan. In addition, have a set time when you express your pain, either to G-d, a friend, family member, therapist or in a journal. The rest of the time, try to keep your mind elsewhere.
Live life. You may think, “when will this problem be over with already, so I can get on with my life?” The truth is, right now, this is your life. Make the best of your time and how you currently fulfill your life’s purpose. Don’t put your life on hold just because you’re struggling in one area. Give yourself permission to be happy and enjoy life, as best you can. Throughout the day, look for reasons to smile and laugh. Having a slight smile on your face, even for no reason, can shift your mindset to a more positive one.
Focus on what’s going right. When dealing with an issue, our tendency is to hyper focus on the difficulty, to the exclusion of everything else. Instead, make sure to notice and appreciate your blessings, savoring each one.
Realize everyone has difficulties. Often, we compare our lives to others, especially the airbrushed Facebook versions, and wonder why our lives are so full of struggle, but we are only seeing a small part of the overall picture. If we knew all their issues, psychological problems and family difficulties, we would prefer to keep our own strengths and blessings—even if they come with challenges.
Take care of yourself. Don’t overextend yourself. Many times, we become so consumed with our difficulties that we neglect our health, which only makes matters worse. Eat nutritious meals and get adequate sleep and exercise.
Set clear boundaries (as to what you can and cannot do). For example, if you are caring for a child, spouse or parent who is in the hospital, decide how many days a week you can go, how many hours you can stay and how many nights you can sleep over, before it takes a toll on you. Then elicit the help of others to fill in the gaps.
Reach out for support. There are three sources of support. The first is G-d. Unburden yourself to Him; tell Him about your struggles and fears and ask for His help. If you feel overwhelmed and are having trouble coping, tell Him that and ask Him to strengthen you. The second is other people. Let them know what you need, whether it is emotional or material support, or both. Don’t be ashamed; everyone needs help at some point.
Depending on the issue, you may want to consult with a social worker to see if there are any social services available to you. In addition, find out if there is an organization that provides support for people in your situation? If not, consider starting one; that’s how many organizations where founded.
The third source of support is ourselves. We need to talk to ourselves with words of compassion and encouragement. Show yourself the same kindness, warmth and care you would show a family member or friend who is going through a tough time.
Living a meaningful life involves struggles. Instead of trying to avoid them, use strategies to meet your challenges head on and triumph.
Yaakov Weiland has an MSW from Fordham School of Social Service and lives in New York City.