Romanticism is the idea that our lives should follow a specific, healthy trajectory. We grow up, have a great childhood, find fulfilling partners and careers, and everything ultimately works out well.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it goes – even for people who do manage to find great work and love in their lives. Even these few lucky souls still face massive challenges that rock them to the core from time to time. And they have to find ways of dealing with them.
Being alive is less a project you plan and more of a storm you attempt to ride out. We need to go into it with the mindset that things will be tough because that is the way it is likely to be. The world is chaotic. Things will go wrong. And we might have to accept the fact that we’re not going to get what we want.
Through all this, though, it is possible to maintain a sense of wellbeing. Life has its foibles – we all know this – but that doesn’t mean that you have to rule out being healthy. When you adopt sound mental practices in the face of adversity, you can often weather the storm and come out the other side better than before.
So, what should you do?
Remind Yourself That Everyone Has Major Problems In Their Life
Because we can never step inside the minds of other people, many of us go through life believing that the worst things happen to us, and the not-so-bad stuff afflicts everyone else. But there are a couple of issues with this line of thinking.
The first is the observer-relative way in which we experience the world. None of us can ever really get a sense of what other people go through. We have an idea of what it must be like for them through our own experiences. But because we don’t experience their feelings directly, we only ever get a snap-shot, making their sensations seem more distant and less gritty.
The second issue is that a lot of people don’t want to talk about how they feel. They might be going through some awful torment, but we would never find out about it from the way they present themselves.
So you can see the issues here. One the one hand, we can’t peer inside the feelings of others. And on the other, they might not want to share them.
Thus, through no fault of our own, many of us come away with the idea that we’re somehow more afflicted than other people. Usually, we’re not. We’re all in the same boat. Everyone goes through it sometimes. That’s just the way it is.
Knowing that helps give us comfort. Our suffering isn’t unusual. It is something that we share with everyone else.
Avoid Thinking About How Things Could Have Been
If you want to make yourself feel even more miserable, you can focus on how your life could have turned out if something, in particular, hadn’t happened.
For instance, you might wonder how your life would have worked out if you hadn’t met a particular person. Or you could fantasize about how much better things would have been for you if you hadn’t gone to a specific school.
Whatever your bugbear, focusing on it probably isn’t a good idea. You don’t know how things would have turned out because that universe never happened. You also can’t change it now, so focusing on it is just a form of self-attack. The past is gone forever, and there is nothing that you can do to bring it back.
Force Yourself To Live In The Present
Many of us find it hard to live in the present. Our minds wander to events in the past or fears about the future. We find it pathologically impossible to absorb the sensations of the present moment.
However, living in the present is one of the most powerful tools you can use to preserve your mental health when things get tough. Often, when something goes wrong, we don’t experience any immediate discomfort through our senses. Instead, the problem is in our minds.
We fear, for instance, how the coronavirus is going to affect our job. Or we worry whether our partner is having an affair.
Whatever it is, the thought is often at odds with our direct sensory experience.
Thus, one tool you can use is to shut off your inner narrative for a while and just enjoy the sensations you have right now.
Accept That Nobody Wins In Life
Everybody acts like they’re going somewhere in life. People imagine that once they have millions in the bank and a large family, time will somehow standstill, and they’ll be able to bask in the experience for all eternity.
Unfortunately, that never happens. Companies will still be selling funeral caskets in a thousand years from now. Ultimately, nobody “wins” in life. Everyone eventually passes away.
It sounds bleak – but it is also a great way to maintain your wellbeing when things go wrong. It reminds you that the baseline of existence is fundamentally tragic – so it makes sense that sad things will happen. Your job is to accept that and then enjoy the good times when they arrive. They’re a bonus.
Focus On What You Can Do
When life presents you with a challenge, we often feel a loss of control. Our boss wants us to complete a project by tomorrow morning, which will take at least another week. Or our finances are in disarray, and creditors are knocking at the door.
Whatever it is, focus on what you can do. That way, you can accept that there are elements of your life that you just can’t change.
Find An Outlet
Feeling frustrated by life often requires finding an outlet – somewhere you can let off steam.
For many people, this means doing more exercise. For others, it could be talking to a friend.
Getting what ails you off your chest can help a great deal, allowing you to recalibrate your emotions.
What do you do to keep your wellbeing intact when bad things happen? Let me know in the comments below!