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4 F’s for Navigating Through Those Difficult Times

By Harriet Cabelly December 04, 2023 Mindset

We all know that challenges are a part of life. Yet we are never prepared for them when they appear at our door. “Why are you here, things are going well, leave me alone.”

We all get those knocks – the knocks of life. They can be sudden events that shake us to our core, natural progressions of life that leave us searching for new grounding; situations that leave us fiercely flapping our wings in flight so we don’t crash.

A death, divorce, a diagnosis, and yes, retirement, empty-nesting, a move, can cause us to crack open. We then have the choice to begin to mine for our gold, our strengths so we can eventually find our way back home to our new reality.

Or we can succumb and remain broken. We all have the potential to become whole again, perhaps in a different form.

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

Here are 4 ways to cope and move through our difficult times, discovering our (hidden) strengths.

#1 Feel

Allowing ourselves to feel our feelings is crucial to moving through them. We need to acknowledge them and give them permission to be here as a normal and natural part of our humanness.

What we push down has a way of popping back up again. So, as uncomfortable as it is, we have to let ourselves feel the anger, anxiety, sadness, bitterness, pain.

There is motion in the word emotion. We need to allow for our feelings to move through us – like clouds, shifting here and there, changing shape right before our eyes. The key is, when we know our feelings we can manage them better. As a saying goes: “You have to name it to tame it.”

#2 Fuel

What’s our fuel? What gets us going? We need to connect with it so we can stay afloat. And how do we keep our tank full of fuel so we can keep going? We recognize and tend to ourselves gently as we may be feeling drained, empty, like the bottom fell out from under us and everything poured out.

What can fill us then? Connecting to a purpose can get us going. “I’m seeing my grandkiddies today; I need to prepare the house for my book club group today; I have to take my dog out for a walk; I need to go shopping for my friend who’s homebound.”

We can think in terms of movement to energize us, interests and connections that recharge us, intentional purpose that helps us continue on.

#3 Fun

It may seem like an oxymoron to put fun in the same sentence/concept with difficult times, but allowing ourselves some moments of lightheartedness is a wonderful coping tool.

We can look to incorporate even the smallest and briefest bits of positivity into the difficulties. It helps fill our (empty) bucket so we can carry on. Moments of reprieve are replenishing and restorative.

So, that walk along the beach can help clear away the cobwebs of pain and enable us to see the larger horizon of our lives. Watching Jerry Seinfeld’s one-man show on Netflix provides some great belly laughs, breaking up some of the tension and anxiety, showing us we can still laugh. There is a balance to life.

#4 Faith

Is there something you believe in beyond the here and now? Something that transcends your difficulties? An unknown, even mysterious force of the universe can provide us with a rope to hold onto. Of course, there’s God, religion, spirituality; but for some there’s simply some sort of unlabeled faith.

I will call that hope – a sense of a better tomorrow that can keep us afloat and looking forward to easier times. The sun is always there in the sky, sometimes hidden behind thick dark clouds, but still present however unseen.

That is hope – for better times, for healing through loss and pain, and for eventual growth. Having the faith and belief that we can get through can oftentimes be enough for us to access our inner strength and resources.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

“You ought to discover some principle, you ought to have some great faith that grips you so much that you will never give it up. Somehow you go on and say, ‘I know that the God that I worship is able to deliver me, but if not, I’m going on anyhow, I’m going to stand up for it anyway.’”

Although many times we feel like this is just too hard and painful, holding onto faith and hope, allowing ourselves some moments of pleasure, refueling our body and soul and giving ourselves permission to feel all our uncomfortable and painful emotions will enable us to go through the tough times and come out stronger and better, broken and whole again.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What has helped get you through your difficult times? What contemplative activity brings you solace? What fuels you to keep going? Have you sat with your painful emotions and been gentle with yourself, allowing for them?

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Holly Ann Thyagarajan

a) Slowing down the pace of my life has helped me get through difficult times.
b) Journalling , reading , music , nature walks , birdsong , fitness , gymming , solitude … bring me solace.
c) Solitude , planning and centering myself really fuels me ! As does living music and dancing … no matter what else is going on in my life
d) Yes , post 55 i am learning not to rush , and in fact , take time with my negative emotions. Yes , i am learning to be kinder to myself , giving myself permission to vent , permission to “NOT” be perfect .

This Christmas i may have to deal with an angry estranged close family member , but i resolve not to let that steal my joy. I will celebrate in my own unique way and be grateful for everything in my life.

Hi Holly,
I love your list of four ways you navigate through the more difficult times. I especially like giving yourself permission to Not be perfect. Thank you for sharing this. Best to you.


Simple and hopeful!

Harriet Cabelly

Hi Barbara,

Thank you for your two powerful words here – simple and hopeful. Hope carries us through and beyond our challenges.

Renee Lovitz

I have had several losses in the last 2 years. What helps me and keeps me going are friendships and faith in an afterlife. Getting used to the new normal!! Life goes on!!

Lana Muir

The study of Stoicism will help anyone learn how to cope with problems of any kind. I became a student of this philosophy when I was quite young, around age 18 when I was living in Europe. If you get onto YouTube do a search for it and various videos will come up for you. Religion never did it for me the way philosophy did.

The Author

Harriet Cabelly is a clinical social worker and positive psychology coach. She is passionate about helping people cope and grow through their critical life-changing circumstances, guiding them towards rebuilding their lives with renewed meaning and purpose. Visit her website, and sign up to get free chapters from her book, Living Well Despite Adversity.

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