Ashwood Therapy Blog

Tough Times

It would be great, wouldn’t it, to expect the best to happen, to plan for the best to happen, and then to enjoy the best when it happens.  If that sounds a little far-fetched, then I guess your experience of life is similar to my own, and to that of the clients I see at Ashwood Therapy.  Without wanting to come across as overly pessimistic, I think it’s a safe bet to assume that – somewhere along the line – the spanner will somehow get thrown into the works, that there will be a fly in the ointment (or the soup, depending on your luck), and that your best laid plans will take a turn in one direction when you were expecting them to turn in the other.

If your misfortune manifests itself in the form of the parcel you have been waiting for being delivered to a neighbour while you were momentarily in the back garden, even if you have waited in all day for it, then perhaps it’s irritating but not really life changing.  It may be a different story, however, when your boss calls you into the office to let you know that the company is “restructuring” and so your services are “no longer required”.  You may perhaps never have thought that your routine test would show a shadow on the x-ray indicating an undiagnosed tumour.  Some things are simply annoyances, whereas others are indeed indicators of tough times ahead.

Resilience, or the ability to ‘bounce back’, is in my view a much under-valued quality.  Sure, anyone can ‘ride the wave’ when the wave is carrying them along, yet getting ‘back on the board’ after you have crashed down from the peak to the trough is harder, I would argue.  We can be tempted to think that when things are going well, we are rightly enjoying the fruits of our labour, yet when things take a turn for the worst, we can call that ‘just bad luck’.  However we view the ups and downs of life, I would suggest that how we react to the them, and not what we put them down to, is of most importance.  We might be knocked flat by an event or state of affairs, but once we are on the ground we then have a decision to make – stay on the floor and try and make ourselves comfortable, or struggle to get back up and on our feet again.  I feel that resilience can be learned, and that it is something that is available to us all, if we decide to look for it.  As Billy Ocean suggested in his song of the 1980s, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’.

But where to start?

Self-belief.  Perhaps the lack of self-belief that you have been nurturing up to press needs rethinking.  You might not have been fully responsible for ending up on the floor, but I would imagine that in large part it is going to be you who gets yourself up again.  OK, so you might not be the best or most qualified person to succeed in the position you find yourself in, but it is nonetheless currently your position, and so accepting that your best effort is what you have to give right now is a solid first step.  Just getting back up (despite falling down again straight after), will give you more of an idea of what it’s like to totter on unsteady legs for a while.  Those unsteady legs will give way to a firmer stance, with your continued effort.  That first step, shaky as it might be, is often the hardest and also the most important.  You can develop belief in yourself, if you are determined.

Adaptability.  If you have suffered a major setback, what can you change in the way you do things that will help prevent you ending up in the same situation again?  If you have just been diagnosed with lung cancer, now might be a good time to stop smoking.  If you have just lost your job and the regular income, maybe now is the time to start thinking about robust financial planning for the future as you tighten your belt to make ends meet.  When you get the rope firmly back in your hands again, perhaps you will feel it wise to leave a little slack, in case of future misfortune or unforeseen difficulty?  We all have the ability to make changes, if we choose to commit to them.

Support.  Although you are responsible for getting yourself through the tough times, the support of a friend, colleague or loved one can make a big difference.  Having a sounding board to bounce ideas off may help you decide which is the best way forward, and is useful when looking at why your efforts are not providing the results you would like.  Although counselling is not really about ‘fixing’ things, people or situations, using the person-centred approach to therapy I often accompany clients while they move into new territory and decide for themselves which is the best path to take.  Having someone to ‘check in’ with can be the handrail on the steep steps, or the buoyancy aid to grab hold of once in a while as you swim the course.  If support is available, take advantage of it.

Once your own efforts have enabled you to fight back from a difficult place, the confidence earned will never leave you.  The tough times are just that – tough! – but often clients report that when they have overcome (or seen through) a testing period, their sense of achievement can make what they have won seem sweeter.  Tough times can allow us to appreciate more fully what perhaps we took for granted before, and give us the opportunity to grow through them and meet whatever challenges we are faced with along the way.

Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy

Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com

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