How to Struggle Gracefully

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This post is for anyone who is in the midst of struggle, whether big or small.

There is no denying the struggle is there.

But, is there a way, is there such a thing, as struggling well?

Are you flailing your arms everywhere in fear of drowning?

Would you be willing to try floating instead? Until you make it to shore?

Struggle is a part of life and we must accept this, at least to some degree. But maybe we can struggle a little bit differently. Maybe there is a better way to struggle.

I know struggling gracefully sounds like an oxymoron. And I am not saying that there isn’t a time for venting, frustration, and crying. But sometimes, not for anyone else, but for ourselves, we must learn to struggle gracefully.

 

GIVE YOURSELF GRACE

The first step to struggling gracefully is the obvious – give yourself grace. But not only yourself. Give your life grace.

I shouldn’t be having this struggle.

Give yourself grace.

I should be over this by now.

Give yourself grace.

I never thought this would be a problem I would have.

Give yourself grace.

As you may already know, much of a struggle, is the struggle we give ourselves. Either for having the problem in the first place, or not knowing how to fix the problem quick enough.

We also must give our life grace, and allow it not to always be perfect.

I didn’t think my life would go this way.

Give your life grace.

I didn’t expect to have this problem in this time in my life.

Give your life grace.

If you are a parent, or could imagine being a parent, my guess is, you would want to be a parent that gives grace. Sure, you could have high standards for your child, but you would allow them to make mistakes, have slip ups, and give them time if they don’t have everything figured out right away.

Do the same for yourself. Give yourself grace. Give your life grace.

 

GIVE YOURSELF ENJOYMENT

Sometimes when have a struggle in our life, we have a bad habit of turning our whole life into that struggle.

It feels like we have to spend all our time and energy on that struggle until it is completely resolved. We can’t enjoy our lives in any capacity, until the struggle is over.

Again, I am not saying there is not a time to be problem solving and addressing your issues. There definitely is.

But, you also need allow time for enjoyment. The only way you are going to be able to cope with this struggle is by still giving yourself the “good stuff” of life, to balance out the “not so good stuff.”

Maybe your life feels really “not normal” right now…all the more reason to get out and do something normal. Go out with friends and do whatever it is you usually do with them. Allow yourself to be distracted from the problem and experience normal life. Allow yourself to have fun.

Also, allow yourself to do something that really interests you. Become completely engaged in an interest of yours that has nothing to do with your current struggle.

Even in the midst of your struggle, remember there is such a thing as fun, normalcy, and interest. Access these things as you are able to.

I am not saying ignore your problem, but don’t spend all your waking hours focused on your struggle. Spend some time forgetting about it.

 

GIVE YOURSELF A MEANINGFUL PERSPECTIVE

Give your struggle meaning. Think about how you may be able to help someone someday because of the experience you are having now.

Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist behind this approach, did this very thing in his own life. He was in a Nazi concentration camp nearing death, and the one thing that kept him alive was the thought,

One day I will use this experience to help others. One day I will share these stories and help others with their own struggles, because of the pain I have gone through.

And he did. He spoke at conferences, he wrote books, he helped patients in therapy.

He changed lives.

By thinking this way in the midst of the struggle, he gave his own struggle meaning. Struggle is never easy, but if we can give our struggle meaning, it changes it. The experience becomes richer and deeper, even if it is still painful.

I have experienced this myself. I went through a bout of intense anxiety – something very different than the mild everyday anxiety I was used to facing. I feared my anxiety would overcome me, and keep me from living my life normally.

But in my fear, I had the thought,

This isn’t fun. I don’t like this. But this is a learning experience. And as I learn how to move through this anxiety, and once I overcome this anxiety, this experience will give me insight that will help me help others who are also facing this same intense anxiety. This experience will give me knowledge I would not have otherwise had.

Of course, the struggle still remained a struggle, but after this thought, the struggle had meaning and the struggle had purpose.

 

GIVE YOURSELF A REDEEMING PERSPECTIVE

This goes along with having a meaningful perspective.

What are you learning because you are going through this struggle? What wisdom are you gaining? What insight? What skills? What character traits?

We never wish struggle into our lives. But we tend to learn a lot from struggle. Struggle is often the best teacher.

When I was going through the bout of anxiety, I kept thinking to myself:

This is a crash course in Mindfulness. This is a crash course in Mindfulness.

I know that seems kind of funny, but it helped. I have always wanted to develop my mindfulness skills, but the truth was, I truly was not good at anything related to mindfulness and meditation. And although these skills would have always been helpful in my everyday life, I was able to manage without them.

Until the anxiety hit. I had no choice but to learn these skills. My anxiety would start. I had no choice but take deep mindful breaths. I had no choice but to mindfully focus my attention. If I didn’t do these things, it would turn into a full blown anxiety attack.

Was it fun? No. Did it teach me mindfulness skills that will help me throughout the rest of my life? Yes. Definitely yes.

What is your struggle teaching you? Once you move through this struggle, what lessons, wisdom, skills, insights do you get to take with you because this happened to you?

Every struggle leaves you with an amazing gift card, make sure you redeem the value of it.

 

GIVE YOURSELF GRATITUDE

I know that being grateful is one of the most difficult things to do while in the midst of a struggle. And I know it also sounds funny to think of it as a gift you give yourself. For most people, having gratitude feels like work.

Well, it is a discipline, at least. But, a discipline that is very rewarding. Exercise is also a discipline, but there are wonderful rewards to be gained from it.

When you are within a struggle, gratitude may feel the hardest, but this is the time that it is most important.

Yes, maybe your life feels like it’s falling apart right now. But, what is in it, to feel thankful for?

Supportive friends?
Supportive family?
A warm cozy home?
A passion to write?
Something you are good at?
Hope for the future?
Wonderful memories in the past?
A job?
Food?
Your life?

Write down everything you are grateful for. In a time of suffering, it is incredibly important to remember and think upon these things.

And if you can tie gratitude to your suffering, do that. Maybe you have become closer to your friends or loved ones because of this suffering? We don’t need to call the suffering “good,” but there is likely some kind of gratitude that can be found within it.

 

A LESSON, OR A BLESSING

I once worked with a client who was going through a difficult time. She expressed the difficulty of her struggle but shared that her grandmother’s words of wisdom had helped her tremendously,

Honey, everything in life is a lesson or a blessing.

It’s true really.

And honestly, I think we often experience both at once.

We struggle in our marriages, but have friends that are wonderful blessings.

We struggle with our finances, but have family that is loving and supportive.

We struggle at our job, but have a passion that fills us with joy on the weekends.

There will always be a struggle in your life that is teaching you a new lesson. It will challenge you in ways you may not wish to be challenged. But take the challenge, embrace the challenge, own the challenge. And when it is over, reap the fruit of your labor.

And remember, along with these challenges will always be blessings. Give gratitude for these blessings. Enjoy them fully.

Life is not a lesson or a blessing.

Life is a lesson and a blessing.

Accept this truth and live out a journey full of wisdom from hardship, joy from hope, insight from difficulty, and blessing from the many gifts you have been given.

********

 

JOURNAL QUESTIONS:
I know that I have gained a lot from reading blog entries and I also know if I took the time and journaled about them for a few minutes they would affect me in an even deeper way and bring me to some truths I may have not come to otherwise. So if you have a few extra minutes and your journal handy…here you go!

1. Where do you need to give yourself grace and your life grace? Are you able to give yourself grace in the challenges and imperfections you are facing in your life right now?

2. How can you work on experiencing enjoyment in the midst of your struggle? What is something fun or interesting you can commit to doing today or this week to get your mind away from your struggle?

3. How will you give meaningful perspective to your struggle? How could you help someone else because you traversed this struggle?

4. How will you redeem your struggle? What gifts of knowledge, wisdom, insight, or character traits are being gained because you are going through this struggle?

5. What do you have to be grateful for, despite your struggle? Or because of your struggle? Jot down at least 10 things you can have gratitude for.

6. Do you believe life is both a lesson and a blessing? Where are your lessons right now? Where are your blessings?

 

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS!
Let me know if this entry helped you in any way, if you have any further questions, or if there is anything else you would be interested in learning related to this topic!

Also, I would love to hear how you are learning to “struggle gracefully” in your own life.

Thanks for reading!

Yours,

signaturesmaller

6 thoughts on “How to Struggle Gracefully

  1. Yes! So gLad to see another post, Nicole, I’ve just recently found this blog and really like it! I liked the journal questions especially – I won’t share most of my answers, but for #4, I’ve been stuck trying to work out a relationship with my family for years now – it’s taken so much time and effort, but because of that persistence, I’ve been able to help other people going through the same things. I appreciated the chance to reflect on that, since this was the first time I was really able to write that down. Thanks again for this post!

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    1. Hi Sandy!

      Glad you have been enjoying the blog! Also – thanks for sharing your redeeming value of your struggle – it’s awesome that you have been able to help others facing similar issues you are going through!

      Thanks again for sharing! Best wishes!

      Nicole

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  2. Nicole,

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about your challenge to “struggle gracefully”: my problem is that I sometimes don’t know what I’m struggling towards. I guess the “meaningful perspective” you talk about is exactly what I’m searching for. In some ways I feel like I shouldn’t complain! I’ve got a decent job, which, while it’s not what I thought I would be doing (office work) allows me to support myself – a great boyfriend, I live near my parents… I’ve just felt like I’m in slow motion lately, or like I want to go do something crazy. The thing is, I tried that once – after college I moved far away, tried the whole “new city exciting life” thing, and, well, I was lonely and more depressed there than I am closer to home. I guess this struggle is a struggle as well, and I’m trying to learn to gracefully deal with it! Thanks for the article, I really liked reading it!

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    1. Hi Liza!

      Thanks for your feedback and thoughts. I was wondering if you have read my article called Stuck? I thought this post might speak more directly to your current situation. Just scroll down a few posts and you should be able to find it.

      Also, I just want to say, I really REALLY relate to everything you wrote about in your comment! I too tried the “new city exciting life” after college, and also ended up lonely and depressed. After this, I moved back to my hometown near my parents, started dating my now husband, and had a good job. But there was a restlessness that absolutely would not go away, even though I knew I had plenty to be grateful for.

      I guess my suggestion to you is – yes, be grateful for what you have, but also do not ignore the restlessness inside of you. It is there for a reason. The answer for you may not be to move somewhere new. I know that wasn’t the answer for me. But, maybe you are longing for some kind of new project in your life? For me, it was attending a conference that inspired me. This led to me taking a writing class from one of the speakers at the conference. And this writing class led me to start this blog.

      I will not say starting this blog completely solved my restlessness, but it helped. It at least helped me feel like I was moving toward something new.

      It may be something completely different for you. Also, as I talk about in my Stuck article, it may take some “active patience” and “creative openness” along the way.

      Anyway, please let me know if there is any way I can help. If you have any other questions or thoughts feel free to reply or if you’d prefer e-mail you are always welcome to contact me at nicole@livemeaningful.org

      Thanks again for your feedback!

      Best,

      Nicole

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  3. Hi Nicole!

    Thanks for your answer back, I really appreciated hearing from you – reading this was just the kind of confirmation I was looking for! I’ve been worried about where my path would take me after moving back home, and I think I was so anxious to have my whole path mapped out that I was afraid to do anything, unless it seemed really dramatic, like moving to a far-off city or something. The truth is, I do have a lot of things I want to develop – projects like photography, and things I think I put on hold. Maybe this is the time to look into those, like you said, who knows where a path will lead?

    I have to say, it was a real relief to hear confirmation that my restlessness wasn’t just some early midlife crisis, or the signs that I was doing things wrong. That’s my other problem, I think – I think feeling restless is something I’d only feel if I was failing somehow.

    Anyway, I’ve still got a lot to think about. I want to say thanks for your reply! I’ll probably have more to say later, but for now I want to do the exercises on your latest post! Thanks so much again!

    Like

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