How to Protect Your Energy When Life is Hard

Six strategies to help you cope when life feels overwhelming.

How to Protect Your  Energy When Life is Hard
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Hey there! Happy Wednesday! Hope the week is treating you well so far.

As you might already know if you've read my last few blog posts or followed me on social media, the past few weeks have been hard for me. It's been a little over two weeks since we discovered that our cat, Aslan, has fleas. Though not a huge deal at all, it triggered some pretty bad anxiety that I've been coping with by going to therapy twice a week and indulging in a lot of self-care. The flea anxiety is compounded by the fact that this time of the year is always a little harder for me, as memories of the time spent with my father in the hospital seem to come up a bit more frequently, and the seventh anniversary of his death approaches.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what helps and what doesn't when life feels hard.  I've also talked to a lot of friends and family who have given some really good advice about how they protect their energy when going through a rough patch because it's REALLY important to take care of yourself all the time but even more so when you're struggling with anything, big or small, in your life.

I thought it might be helpful to list some of the things that help me when I'm struggling with the hope that perhaps these things might help you too.

As with all of my posts that speak in detail about my mental health struggles, I must state that these experiences are my own and yours might be completely different. I’m not a doctor and I strongly advise that you seek the help of a mental health professional if you are having trouble coping on your own. Please see my disclaimer for more information about what I share on this site.

1. Surround Yourself With Positive People

This is one of the most helpful things I do to keep myself grounded when life feels overwhelming. Positive energy is contagious so I try to spend my time around as many happy friends and family members as possible.  At the same time, I try to stay far away from people who emit negative energy and drama, as those types of people drain my energy and make it hard for me to manage my anxiety and mood.

2. Get Enough Sleep

Another really important thing I do when I'm feeling super stressed out is try to get a solid eight hours of sleep a night. I make this a priority and plan my whole life around it, even if it means skipping a late night out with friends or missing an early workout.  Getting enough sleep is essential to managing stress and anxiety. When I don't sleep well it's harder to function and do regular day-to-day activities. Making even small decisions seems impossible and I'm much more likely to get upset over things that wouldn't usually bother me.

3. Take Extra Time to Reflect

Whether you take a yoga class, meditate, or take up journaling (or blogging!), it's always important to find something to focus on and ground you when you're going through a rough patch. I do all of these things but writing is perhaps my most helpful outlet. The simple act of writing down my troublesome thoughts gets them out of my head and helps me put things into perspective.

Photo by Elijah Hail on Unsplash

Photo by Elijah Hail on Unsplash

4. Make Time to Do Activities You Enjoy

This is SO important. Do more of what you love, whatever that may be! When you're spending your time doing activities you enjoy, you're spending less time focussing on whatever hardship is consuming your life at the moment. If you like to knit, knit! If you like to draw, draw! If you like to hike, hike! Just do it. Fit it into your schedule no matter the cost because continuing to do what you love, even when life feels hard,  is what will end up healing your spirit in the long run.

5. Guard Your Free Time and Realize That it's OK to Say No

On the other end of making time for what you love, you need to fiercely guard your free time and use it for what YOU want to do. This means learning that it's OK to say no and take care of your own needs first. Your true friends and family will understand, and if they don't, they kind of fit into that category of negative people you shouldn't be hanging around anyway, don't they? Maybe your friend is having a party but you feel like you need to stay home and read: do it! Maybe someone is asking you for a favor that would interfere with a fun activity you already had planned: say NO! In the past, I've been guilty of saying yes to everything whether I wanted to or not.  It's caused a lot of stress and resentment and I've learned that saying no is incredibly freeing and essential to protecting my energy, especially when times are rough.

6. Give Yourself Permission to Just Be

This is the hardest thing for me, as I suspect is true for a lot of people. Just acknowledging that life is hard right now and it's OK to feel not so great is probably the best thing you can do to protect your energy. Spending your time feeling bad or anxious about feeling bad or anxious is a complete waste of energy and makes whatever you're going through seem that much worse. Another thing to do is try to embrace impermanence. Nothing in life is forever and as cliche as it might sound, this too shall pass. It really will.  Meanwhile, being OK with not being OK is something we all need to get more comfortable with. Nobody is 100 percent happy all the time even though it might seem that way on social media. These bumps in the road gradually make us stronger and better able to deal with the next hurdle life throws our way.  As a dear friend recently quoted, "You grow through what you go through."  And, as a wise tweeter once said,

"Studies have shown that it do be like that sometimes."

I hope this post has been helpful if you or someone you know is going through something right now.  Since my father died in 2011 I've relied on one particular Robert Frost quote that I feel is applicable in many aspects of my life: "The best way out is always through."  In other words, there's no way around the struggle, whatever that struggle might be, you just need to embrace it and ride it all the way through.

As always, thank you for reading!