Struggle Wellbeing

How to Survive Hardship and Move the Hell On

Tragedy is real

We all have known misery. It’s that dark dingy place where no ones wants to be. But we are stomped there every time tragedy strikes. Life is very erratic. In the best of times the worst things can happen and in the most horrible times, the finest things can happen. Your worst nightmares can come true in the split of a second. Just when you think it cannot possibly get any worse, it does. And when it strikes, it hits you hard. Just like a bullet through your heart exasperating you by sheer shock.
Disaster enters our lives in different forms and times. Death, illness, deception, loss, divorce, poverty, accident, joblessness, poverty or seeing your loved ones hurt are some of its common forms. 
If you’ve been through any of the above, this article is written for you. Many times it feels like one really will not be able to live. We say to our loved ones all the time, “I will die if something happens to you.” But if God forsake something happens, we do survive as we don’t have a choice. Even though we move on, the wounds turn into scars and we have to live with them for the rest of our lives. In most cases, we are never the same again.

Stages of grief

Life isn’t always easy. When our worst nightmares come true, we have no choice but to accept the challenge… come what may!  We go through the following stages of grief:

    1. Shock
    2. Denial
    3. Self-pity (why me?)
    4. Anger
    5. Hatred
    6. Blame
    7. Guilt
    8. Bargaining
    9. Depression
    10. Acceptance
    11. Forgiveness
    12. Well-wishing

The biggest challenge for us is not to dwell on stages 3-7 but to swiftly march towards stage 12 which is the ultimate stage of freedom. By this point, your past doesn’t even bother you anymore and you have learned to wish your enemies well too. I know it’s easier said than done but we need to be determined for our own betterment.

Most of the tips I’m sharing in this article are the tips I learned from my mother Shireen Gheba who was my strongest pillar in the most difficult times of my life. 

If you want to know more about the struggles I’ve personally faced in my life, you can find them in Struggles category on my blog. Following are some ways to cope in the most nerve-wracking times and emerge stronger and tougher.

27 Tips to Cope with Traumatic Times/Depression & Boost Happiness

The following tips are also for those who are in depression or those who feel their life isn’t exciting enough. Practicing the following will make you a happier, healthier individual who lives life to the fullest!

1. Breathing exercises

Your heartbeat is irregular and affected badly in stressful times and you may have the heart-sinking feeling which you really can’t avoid. I get terrible sleep issues every time I’m in a difficult time in life. I even sleep-walked during the hardest months of my life. My heartbeat would go crazy and I would wake up early morning with upset stomach. All these are signs of severe stress.
Regular breathing in and out exercises can help you control your heartbeat. Yoga is ideal too.

2. Talk to people in the same community

Reach out to people who have been through similar tragedies and talk to them. In dark times, we get a tendency to just stay alone and not talk to anyone but we have to avoid being in that comfort zone.
For our own well-being, we have to push ourselves and reach out to people who have been through the same hardship/situation and see how they coped with it and survived. This is probably one of the best ways to recover from a loss.

3. Find solace in divine powers 

Dua (prayer) & Quran are the magic words which can cure better than any medicine. We shouldn’t take out the Quran only in our darkest times. It should be a continuous routine throughout the year. This is the time of the year when we need it the most. Through my experience, I can surely say that reading the Quran with translation and Tafseer makes you feel so much lighter and more relaxed.
I recommend Nauman Ali Khan’s podcast where he explains Quranic verses and concepts so clearly in English.


4. Keep yourself busy & distracted

Keep yourself busy with a full-time job, a business and hobbies like:
  • Painting
  • Stamp collecting
  • Genealogy
  • Journaling
  • Writing
  • Horse-riding
  • Cycling
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Watching entertaining movies (not dark ones)

Don’t let yourself be free to think and over-think.
Your mind at this time will replay the tragic moments over and over crushing you from your core and making you feel helpless every time those images come flashing back.
If you surrender to your mind in difficult times, it will ruin you eventually.
The best thing to do in your darkest days is to force your self to be so busy that your mind doesn’t get any time to wander. It is rightly said that an idle mind is a devil’s advocate.

5. Physical exercise

Many times, when you are going through a trauma, it’s very difficult to exercise. Your family member might be admitted in a hospital, you may have to go to different offices for paperwork etc. You may not realize it but you need your exercise at this time the most. Take out time for yoga or sports even if its only ten minutes a day. If nothing else, make sure you go out for long walks. That way you’re close to nature and exploring neighbourhoods. There are endless sports options:
  • Get a membership for a nearby Tennis, basketball, volleyball, soccer club
  • I prefer outdoor sports but if they’re not available indoor sports like table tennis, snooker are great options
  • Go out for a trek on nearby mountains
  • Put exercises on YouTube and start working out in front of the TV
  • If none of the above work, go out on a walk
If you feel your mind is still wandering into the dark areas of your life while you’re on a walk, give yourself an agenda during your walk. Ask yourself if you know the names of trees around or start collecting different types of leaves for a journal. Think of how you can do a project with leaves.

6. Beware of bad habits

Dark times are the ones when a person can really go off the rails. This is the time when you are being tested the most. This is the time you must act up and not get into any bad influence. A person is at his weakest when he’s going through a turmoil and it is easy for him to get under the influence. You lose sleep, you are feeling extreme emotions and you tend to lose balance/control. But you better put yourself together and make sure you stay away from habits like taking sleeping pills, drinking, drugs etc.


7. Seek help

In our society, people think only mental cases go to psychologists or psychiatrists. That is not the case. Perfectly sane people who are going through a bad patch in life have every right to talk to a counsellor, psychologist or a wise friend. Talk to anyone who can make you feel better about yourself and life.


8. Travel

During hard times, one really forgets about the world. All you have been doing is focusing all your energies and attention on something which in most cases isn’t even in your control. You will not be noticing whether it’s cloudy or sunny or if the mountains are covered with snow outside. Being far from nature will naturally cause depression and make you feel worse about life.
You do not necessarily have to travel far. You could just take a picnic blanket and lie down in a beautiful garden/park where you can just do nothing and be close to nature, butterflies and trees. They have natural tonic to make you feel better, if not exuberant.

9. Surround yourself with happy people

We all have friends with whom we can be ourselves. But there are different types of people. Some have a positive aura around them, some have a really miserable and negative aura. Surround yourself with those who uplift you, not those who pull you down.

Choose to surround yourself with those that make you laugh. With whom you are a funny person. Don’t choose to spend the majority of your time with those who keep wanting you to stay in the past.

Remember talking about what happened to you and your horrible past is only going to make you feel worse. 


10. Prepare a short answer for peoples common (annoying) questions

Since you are already going through a bad patch, people’s interrogation will upset you badly. You may not yourself know all the answers and when they ask you, it’s just infuriating. When you’re hurt, sleeplessness, irregular heartbeat and stomach issues will be yours to deal with. Of course, people will ask, talk and want to know stuff.

Most of them don’t realize that their words are hurting us, the ones who do want to do just that. It’s best to think of a precise short answer of what to reply to commonly asked questions. It may even be:

‘Thanks for asking but I’m not ready to discuss it yet. I’m better now, let’s talk about something else. Change the subject or throw them a question (works even better).

I know there are so many chipkoo type irritating people who just want to only talk to us about our past. Even if you say the above, they will change the subject for a minute and then come back to the question: Tell me what happened?

I learned how to handle such people much later. I feel that when we’re raw, it’s better not to go there as it’ll only hurt yourself. They only want gossip. Most of them are not compassionate about you! They only want to discuss your life with others and want to dig more. I feel its best to avoid meeting such people altogether.

If someone keeps interrogating about your life shows they’re probably not true to you. Best is to stay away from such people who spread negative vibes. The most important thing is to surround yourself with positivity.


11. Read self-help books & survival stories 

Recently, at work, we had a session on Change Management and I could so relate to it thinking of all my life’s traumatic times. It is natural to feel apprehensive, anxious and vulnerable during hard times. Studying change management makes it a whole lot easier to cope with change.

Other than this, there are books available literally on every topic now. Search for books which relate to you. Self-help books are accessible which help you through difficult times in your life and make your tragedies far less painful. My mama has a whole library of books and all kinds of friends.

So every time I’m in the soup, she fetches just the perfect book for me for my exact situation. If I need more help, she will take me to a friend who is the perfect counsellor to heal my sorrow. It really helps!

There are many books available in libraries and stores on:

  • Break-up survival guides
  • The after effects of divorce
  • Relationship advice
  • How to move on after a loved one’s death

Choose the ones best suited for you and start reading! 

If you haven’t read Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to stop worrying and start living’. You definitely need to read it. It’s a life-changer.

12. Count your blessings

One of the ways to come out of a miserable state is to be grateful for all that you are blessed with. It’s a great way to enjoy and appreciate the present moment you are in.

If your present is free of any intense physical pain, or you have the gift of working organs in your body (sight, touch, hearing, feeling and smelling), you are blessed and you have every right to celebrate life. 

When we are depressed, we have the tendency to keep thinking of all that we don’t have. Look around you to see all that you have. Family, friends, things, luxuries, pets, sunny days, beautiful landscapes, grandparents, career, colleagues, money, savings, furniture. When you start counting how much you have, it’ll be easier to forget the pain you were in.
Life is all about glass half empty or full. There may be a 100 things that we may not have in life or that have been taken away from us. But there are also those 1000 things which we have and have been blessed with. Let’s make it a habit of thinking positive.
We forget how much Allah has still blessed us with. It is a great exercise in such times to make daily lists of:
  • 5 things I’m thankful for
  • 5 things that could go wrong but didn’t
  • 5 good things I did today

13. Don’t think about your problems after 5 pm

My family and I have had our share of hard times in life. My mom made a rule in our house not to think or talk about our problems after 5 pm every day. In your hard times, your mind is overwhelmed by endless thoughts and possibilities. It never rests. So she made this rule and made sure we gave our minds a break by cutting off all our problems and only thinking happy thoughts after 5 pm. This also makes sure that you tackle your issues during the daytime only just like office life.

14. Play board games

Our family is obsessed with board games. Our idea of night time is to get together and play all sorts of games and have fun together. I have recommended a lot of games you can play in my article Zero Dollar Fun Ideas.

15. Listen to loud music

The best time to listen to loud music is in the car when you can sing along and have a good time without disturbing others. However, there may be other times when you are alone at home or your room is away from others where you can take advantage and play your favourite music as loud as possible. If you sing along, it’ll almost make your pain go away for some time.

16. Quality entertainment

I love the following quotation by a great scholar Abbas Hussain:

I take my entertainment very seriously. 

These days, it is way easier than before to choose exactly what you want to spend your time watching or listening to. Make sure its worth it! When it comes to entertaining yourself, choose TV shows which you love watching. If you’re watching something, ask yourself:

  • Is this show making me laugh
  • Is it making me feel good?
  • Am I learning something important in life?

If none of the above are true, take charge of the remote and put on something that will make you grow as a person.

17. Dance

There is no doubting that dance really makes you feel better. Night time is when my sisters, mom and I make it a point to dance away. It really uplifts your spirits and makes you forget all the pain. These precious moments are what life is really about. Isn’t it?

18. The weaker your interior, the stronger the exterior

We falsely believe that when people see us crying, they’ll run to us, hug us and kiss away our sorrows. But unfortunately, that doesn’t happen in this world. The weaker they know we are, the more they exploit us and tend to take advantage of us.

I’m talking about most people in the world. I’m not talking about family here. This is one of the most brutal facts of this world. So if you feel really down and miserable, you should still deck up, get ready and face the world with a smile.

19. Letting-go exercise

Hard times are never easy to forget. They say ‘time heals all wounds’ but the scars always remain. It’s very difficult to move on. It will always be a war that you fight against yourself for the rest of your life. But let’s accept the facts, we must move on for our own sanity. The sooner we carry on and start our normal lives, the better it is for us and for those around us.

Letting go and moving on exercise can be both mental or physical. You may realize it and at one point in time and tell yourself that this point onward I will never look back. Tell yourself that you are leaving this loss behind. Write down your loss on a piece of paper and go to a lake/pond/sea and throw it, let it go and move on. Throw away all gifts or things that remind you of that person and just truly free yourself of all the baggage physically and mentally.

20. Fake it till you smile naturally

I remember in my worst times, my mama asked me to smile. I was pretty shocked and said ‘I’m struggling to stop my tears, how can I possibly smile at a moment like this’. She asked me to still try.

When you fake smile, it eventually starts to grow into you. Your muscles used to smile will start doing it naturally even if you were pretending the first time. Try it, it is a tried out way to slowly feel better. Plus its better for your skin to smile than to frown.

21. Practice mindfullness 

Practicing mindfulness keeps us in the present moment and doesn’t let us worry about the future or past. It is amazing how good you feel after this practice. If you don’t know about it, you can search for 15 minute mindfullness/meditation sessions on YouTube and start learning. There are many apps available on your phone too.

Practicing meditation, yoga, Reiki, reflexology are also forms of mindfullness which you can aim to learn. Getting a massage done is also an effective way to feel more present and happier.

22. Practice minimalism

We may not realize it but all the junk that we keep surrounding our houses with, makes us feel down. Minimalism is not only about the stuff we own in our closet/home but also in our lives. Practicing minimalism means letting go of everything in our life thats not needed. It also includes managing our energies, time and effort better. Automating our life/procedures and making it easier and simple. The book I recommend you all to read is:

Less by Rachel Aust

23. Listen to podcasts

My favourite way to start a day is to listen to podcasts. Almost every single morning I listen to podcasts while doing my day chores. The best part is that you can listen while you’re driving, excercising or doing house chores.

This is a sure-shot way to instantly boost happiness and grow as a person. While I’m bathing, feeding or spending time with my baby, I do it too. Anyone with a smart phone can simply go into Podcasts app and subscribe to shows which you like. Following are some of my favourite motivational shows that I love listening to. Some for business and others for personal/professional growth. I would highly recommend subscribing to the following and checking out their list of episodes. You’ll find so many that you can’t wait to hear:

24. Talk to family and friends in a funny tone

My mama and us sisters made this rule. Whenever we are stressed out, we talk to eachother in a funny tone. All must mimic and reply in an equally funny tone. This rule applies while talking on the phone too. Trust me, its so funny and cracks you up even when you’re in a serious mood. Actually it sounds even funnier then.

Tip: Try some really exaggerated paindoo/villager accents.

25. Gratitude journal

It has been proven that if we keep a journal and write:

  • 3/5 things that I’m thankful for every day
  • 3/5 good things that happened to me today

We will live happier lives.

26. Learn a new skill

Learning a new language or skill is therapeutic. Following are some ideas:

Learn painting, gardening, guitar, singing, boxing, karate. Anything… Sky is the limit! Here are some great ideas to get you started.

27. Be close to nature

I feel like the further we are from nature, the worse we feel. It has been proven that spending too much time in artificial lighting in front of gadgets has an inverse effect on our wellbeing and happiness. Being close to nature like walking barefeet on the grass, watching the sunset at a beach, walking in the rain, going for trekking in the woods makes us feel so good.

Spending time with animals is a great way to boost happiness.

Conclusion

Whenever I was going through a misfortune in life, my dad reminded me with a smile on his face:
“This too shall pass”.
When we both were on the longest trek of our lives (from Taxila to E-11 Islamabad), he said:
“When your knees quiver and you can not take one more step, that’s when you must not stop.” We all have heard the saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Let’s all try to be stronger individuals who accept catastrophes as part of life and move on. Let’s not get stuck in aw, self-pity, anger, or ‘why me’? Instead let’s move on, accept life’s challenges and think positive!
Image result for tough times dont last but tough people do
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10 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Lovely article. keep it up. XX huma

  2. This was 100% on the mark. Excellent.
    From someone who lives with a diagnosed
    manic depressive, we suffer too. When they
    don't recover we suffer some of the same conditions.
    So, this advice can offer us help too while we try in. Aim
    to help others. Sometimes it seems overwhelming though. ��

  3. *while we try in vain.

  4. Thanks alot.

  5. Thank you for your comment Tommy. Sorry to hear about depression. Really hope you feel better soon. Sympathy pain is real. we really start to feel the signs too. Will be remembering your in prayers. All the best!

  6. Thank you Nadiya. I appreciate your concern.

  7. Rida says:

    Your articles are literally the best! Always so helpful! Love your work!

    1. Nadiya Najib says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. So glad they’re helpful.

  8. Faryal S says:

    Wowww amazing article! Loved it.

    1. Nadiya Najib says:

      Thank you so much for the precious feedback.

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