We all have those days. Nothing is going well, our plans got changed, and the date night we were looking forward to ended in an argument.
And when those days arise (as they will) we often end up adding to the pain by resisting our experience, or trying to fix it, or trying to make it go away. We want the resolution already! Otherwise we may fall headlong into despair, forgetting that everything—and I mean everything—is impermanent.
Of course, this all makes perfect sense right now. You’re likely not in the throes of despair. Or maybe you’ve had a string of really great days that are allowing you to read this while shaking your head at the foolishness of it all.
But when we’re having a rough time, none of this logic matters. And really none of it makes sense in that moment. We find ourselves deep in the muck, doing our best just to breathe.
So what to do?
The first thing to do when you’re having a rough time is to acknowledge it. “Oh, I’m having a rough time. Yes, this has happened before.” Simply let yourself be with the fact that things feel rough at the moment. That the plane of your life isn’t flying in a straight line and turbulence is bouncing you everywhere.
The next thing to do is to pay attention. Are you starting a war within yourself? If you are, see if you can let that go for a few minutes. (Or even just a few seconds if that’s all you can muster.)
We start wars with ourselves every day regarding just about any topic we can find. We go to war with our bodies, our personalities, our kids, spouse, colleagues, and where and how we live. When we are having a rough time, it all feels like a battle. So, let the war go, just for a second.
Then, sit quietly and speak gently to yourself, “I’m having a rough time. I’m not at my best at the moment. This won’t last, and I don’t need to push it away or start a battle. I’ve done this before; it doesn’t last forever.
Then, give yourself some love. Yes, I said love. How do you do that? Like this: Even if you’ve taken the most unskillful action, or said the most unskillful words ever uttered by a human being, recognize that ultimately, you want to be at peace, happy, and at ease in your life.
Remember that we are all trying to figure this out, and that even though you may not have handled things well, this isn’t a time to criticize yourself further. Think of how you would treat a dear friend who is struggling. Would you kick them and shout at them? No. So let’s not do that to ourselves either.
Maybe you’re having a rough time because of what someone else said or did to you. All the more reason to offer yourself kindness and wish for yourself to be at peace. Simply sit quietly, and wish for ease, just for a moment. Later, you can decide if you want to work it out with that person or not. For right now, let go of the war, and give yourself love and attention.