9 Tips to Keep Your Head Above Water When the Going Gets Tough

By Marilyn Galan | Posted: March 12, 2019

There is usually a certain amount of stress in day-to-day life, but when you’re going through an especially tough period, a few lifestyle adjustments can help you keep moving forward. Here are nine of our favorite tried-and-true ways to help yourself break out of a period of stress and unhappiness.

1. Remember that you are what you eat

Key areas of your life that often go neglected are your diet and your state of mind. When you’re dealing with higher-than-normal stress levels, these two areas can be the first place to focus on.

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How have you been eating lately? Food has a direct correlation with our mental state. Extra anxiety can result from eating too many overly-processed foods laden with high levels of sodium, fat, and sugar. Eating food that’s more than a day old can also cause low energy. Instead, opt for foods rich in antioxidants and nutrients, like fresh fruits and vegetables. Reducing heavy meals and avoiding non-veg food and alcoholic beverages will allow the body to function with much higher energy, and in turn, in much higher spirits.

2. Reconnect with nature

In this nonstop world of mental agitation, there is one place you can always go where there is no judgment - to Mother Nature. Nature doesn’t care whether your hair is out of place, or if you didn’t wear the right makeup color. Living footsteps away from the beach, I love to visit the ocean. Nature revels in twists and turns, in the snarls of tree trunks, in lashes of surf abandoning the ocean onto sultry sand. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I get a chance to watch dolphins playing. What a joy to witness them squeaking to each other, deftly weaving and jumping across ocean currents, and every so often, topping them off with glorious belly flops.

Whether you live near the ocean, mountains, fields, deserts, or forests, allow yourself more time with nature. Breathe in the cool air rustling through tree branches. To cool down your nerves, let yourself take off your shoes to walk barefoot in the grass. Sit and take in a sunset in all its colors. Look up to watch the moon bathe the night sky in its soft, milky light. When immersing ourselves in nature’s rhythms, the world’s clamoring just seems to melt away, and life returns to harmony.

3. Chant or listen to soothing mantras

Here’s where I have gratitude for the powerful energy of the Sanskrit language. Mantras are syllables and words, usually in Sanskrit, that when spoken, transmit the energy of the words being conveyed. My favorite healing mantra is the slow version of “Om Namah Shivayah”. Relax and allow the sounds of the mantra to wash over you while you close your eyes. I usually feel a more calm, clear mind, and any anxiety is washed away by the chanting.

4. Remind yourself of your strength

Often, we find ourselves dealing with the same issues, and the same anxieties. Think of it this way: the same me was here when the problem was happening, and the same me was here when it became resolved. When you are faced with an issue, don’t lose hope. Start to think back through your life, and remember when you were faced with a similar problem. How were you able to overcome it? Do you see the victory and valor in yourself when you remember that you were able to deal with the problem and resolve it? Let your own past experiences keep your faith alive through these tough times, knowing that in the past you regained what was once lost, and you can do it again. 

Practice forgiving yourself for the past and here in the present, once again, where a problem has arisen. Healing the present problem and regaining harmony will be much easier when you know that you are on your own side in the situation. And even though material gains may have been lost, know that your own self-worth and self-love is greater than any material possession.

5. See the things that are non-changing

Remember when you were a kid, how much you loved to dance? It took just a whisper of a song, and you were off, twirling and side-stepping with glee! Yes, the years have passed, even decades, but has that same kid really vanished? Remember the joy of your favorite things, hobbies and pastimes. See the people who have remained in your life through all its ups and downs. Notice the same quirks and habits in yourself that have remained unchanged through the years, the same hopes and fears. Yes, situations and people in life do change, but there is also an element that does not change. Find solace in the things that do not change, just as hope remains within each day of life.

6. Try yoga and meditation to find inner peace

Gandhi was famous for meditating. On especially stressful and busy workdays, he would quip that instead of spending the usual one hour in meditation, he would double up to two. You don’t have to be a Nobel Peace Prize nominee to gain the benefits of yoga and meditation practice. The Art of Living has a great app for meditation available from the App Store. Download The Art of Living app and choose a guided meditation to access inner bliss within 20 minutes.

Yoga can also increase energy levels and help achieve a heightened sense of clarity and peace. Find an Art of Living yoga course near you, where a local yoga teacher can give you a few yoga poses to learn, along with breathing techniques you can practice at home.

7. Find balance

Life is a constant effort to find balance. If we didn't have the bad times, we wouldn't know how to appreciate the good times. Looking at life as a constant dance between the opposites will help us to expand within our comfort zone to allow negativity to be present in our lives, and to help us begin to balance back towards the positive. Another way to look at this is like riding a bicycle, sometimes we sway to the left and to the right, but we know that the movements help us to keep balanced and moving forward.

8. With an eye on self-care, offer service to others

Every opportunity you get, be kind. Doing something kind for someone else can help us to grow in gratitude for life as we bring a smile to another person. We gain a positive source of energy that flows back to ourselves in the form of grace, happiness, and inner peace. 

9. Surrender and let go in faith

Sometimes, when we learn to surrender, a flash of clarity comes, and we realize the solution to the problem. Many times, we have been caught up in a sense of feverishness, holding on so tightly to a person or situation that we end up out of balance. Surrendering helps to find our center, and the source of inner peace within. Letting go and allowing ourselves to regain clarity and peace of mind helps so that we can begin to reflect on the lesson learned. Often, a problematic situation resolves itself on its own when we let go and let time carry out its healing work. 

Meditation teacher Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar tells us that "[d]ifficulties and unpleasant times come in everyone’s life. Faith becomes your anchor during these difficult times and keeps you steady. On a completely dark night, even a flickering lamp can help you find your way and keep you walking forward. But if you try to extinguish that very source of light, then it is no good. Faith is your armor. The Divine is your true security and faith is giving the Divine a chance to act." 

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The next time you find yourself going through a rough patch, remember these nine points. Nothing exists but the present--so remember to celebrate the present moment, even if it seems less than ideal.

Marilyn is a yoga teacher with over 20 years of experience with meditation. She began her meditation practice at the age of 6 years, and has taught yoga across the US, Europe and Asia. She currently teaches yoga with The Art of Living.

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