“True happiness is born of letting go of what is unnecessary.” ~Sharon Salzberg
You are exhausted. Every force in the universe seems to be conspiring against you.
You pick yourself up just to be knocked down again by more bad news.
It’s not fair!
You want to crawl in bed and wait for the week to be over.
But you know you can’t hide.
Sometimes our lives get tough. It happens to all of us. You know things will eventually get better, but it’s hard to get through a ruthless week in one piece.
When you are having a horrible week, do you succumb to pressure, or have you learned how to keep your spirits up?
Back when I was in college, we used to have horrible jam-packed finals weeks. We’d usually start Monday and finish on Saturday. We’d have five final exams during that week.
It was rough.
Like most of us, I’d study ahead but usually had to cram a lot during that week. They were nightmare weeks with sleepless nights. I thought crazy times would end with college.
But I was wrong.
Years later I took a job as a project manager. It was a lot of fun in the beginning, until it became intense. My team and I had an ever-growing amount of projects with insane standards we were handling.
Soon, I was working sixty to eight hours a week. I’d put out a fire and fifty more were waiting for me. I was barely able to keep my head above water.
My fuses were extremely short during those days. When something at home didn’t go as I expected, I’d blow up. I’d get angry, yell, and end with a dagger-to-the-heart kind of comment.
It was the grown-up version of a toddler’s temper tantrum.
Letting off my steam in an unhealthy way would later come back to haunt me. I felt ashamed of my behavior, and somebody I loved was in pain because of me.
Eventually, I realized that this was extremely damaging to me and my loved ones. I had to make dramatic changes in my life.
I admit, it did take a few months to make the changes, but at least I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, I learned a better way to deal with extremely stressful times.
Here are ten tricks I used, or later learned, that will help you stay happy in the middle of a crazy week:
1. Picture your life a month from today.
You will overcome your problems and your life will go back to normal, but most of the time it won’t happen overnight.
It helps to have a long-term perspective to get detached from the overwhelming stress of today.
When I was swamped with problems and piles of unanswered emails, I’d often get very discouraged. I found that daydreaming about my future, about things being normal again, would calm me down.
Fast forward a month from now. Think about you living a happy, normal life again. It will lift up your spirit, and in no time you’ll be living there once more.
2. Create a peaceful space for yourself.
Your environment matters.
The last thing you want when you are under stress is to sit at a sad-looking desk with piles of paper and clutter.
While being under a lot of pressure, I was lucky enough to come back home to a Zen, clutter-free bedroom. I’d instantly feel peace.
The same can happen to you. When you are surrounded by chaos, you add unnecessary stress to your life. If you create a peaceful space around you, you’ll be able to breathe deeply and relax more easily.
So even if you feel like you have no time, spend fifteen minutes to put stuff away and create a quiet surrounding. You won’t regret it.
3. Remove yourself from negative, draining conversations.
It's impossible to isolate yourself from “negative people,” all the time. We all have hard days and get a little negative every now and then.
When you're having a rough week, it might be tempting to fall into that self-pitying place. Increase your odds of maintaining a positive mindset by avoiding negative, emotionally draining conversations.
Back when I was working crazy weeks, I was not able to ignore my negative customers. But I learned to stay out of other negative conversations or switch to positive topics, even if the only positive thing I could think of was the weather.
Don’t let negativity suck up all your energy. You’ll end up in a depressive conversation, and your day will go further south.
4. Celebrate your small wins.
When you are in the middle of a storm, it may be a while till you have a big win. But you can celebrate the small things and lift up your spirit.
It may be a task accomplished, a good report, or that you took the high road when somebody criticized you.
Purposely find the small things that made you proud of yourself throughout the day. Make a mental note about them.
Reflect on your small wins and let that cheer up your weary spirit.
5. Selfishly set your limits.
You are ultimately responsible for your own well-being. Nobody will care about you the way you do.
When I was working over sixty hours a week, I realized no matter how many hours I’d put in, or how efficient I was, I was not going to be able to meet my deadlines. I decided to let my boss know.
You know when you are reaching exhaustion better than anybody else. You need to start saying no, way before you reach your limit.
Be selfish about your time.
When you see a stormy week on the horizon, it’s time to cancel all the nice-to-do things that snuck into your calendar (unless it’s something that would refresh your soul).
6. Make someone delightfully happy.
Something interesting happens when you focus on somebody else’s happiness. When you make someone else happy, it comes back to you.
You’ve experienced that before. Maybe you wrote someone a heartfelt note, or you put a special effort in giving someone a present. And they loved it! That act of love and kindness filled your heart the way nothing else would have.
So think about calling a friend to tell them how much you appreciate them, or taking a break to invite someone you love for dinner. It will transform your week, and it might brighten their week, as well.
7. Wake up twenty minutes earlier.
It may seem counter intuitive, because of course you want to sleep as much as you can. But you’ve got to trust me on this one.
The first hour of your day sets the mood for the whole day.
If you start your day having to rush to wherever you are going, things will go downhill from there.
On crazy weeks you are already on edge, so don’t push yourself even more. Instead wake up a little earlier. Get ready and have breakfast slowly. Don’t rush.
Your peace during the first hour of your day will go a long way.
8. Accept the imperfect.
When your life feels like a sinking boat, it’s the wrong time to insist on every detail being perfect.
Of course, some things will need to be finished perfectly, but many others won’t.
Is dinner slightly overcooked? Then nobody will get food poisoning. Your shoes don’t match your outfit? Unless you are the editor of Elle Magazine, nobody will care.
You only have twenty-four hours a day, but now your plate is much fuller than last week. You need to accept some things won’t be accomplished the way you’d like them to be.
Be kind to yourself and let some high standards slide.
9. Lean on an authentic friend.
It’s hard to be an objective observer when you are going through tough times.
Having a good friend to help you is invaluable.
During my tough times, I often lean on my husband. He is sensitive enough to let me vent, but he’s able to show me the positive side of things too.
You have to be careful selecting this friend. If you find yourself getting more and more depressed when you are talking to your friend, you should stop talking to him or her for now.
You need a friend that can listen and sympathize with you, and at the same time help you get out of the hole.
10. Focus on your awesomeness.
It’s hard to see ourselves through a positive lens in the middle of a storm.
But you haven’t changed. If anything, you are growing stronger and more resilient during tough times.
You need to remind yourself about your amazing qualities.
List them. Ask your best friend to help you. Keep them in front of you at all times.
Because that’s the true you, not the overwhelmed, stressed out version you see in the mirror.
You Can Stay Happy Even During Crushing Times
It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you are going through the valleys of life.
You wish life were always good. But tough times are inevitable.
They will happen every so often, even if you put your best foot forward to try to avoid them.
So, sooner or later, you’ll need to learn how to stay happy in the middle of a storm.
The pay off is astronomical. Your heart and mind will thank you.