Accepting Hard Times Can Lead To Growth, So You Don't Have To "Get Over It" To Move On
The holidays can be a time of deep reflection for a lot of people. New Year's Eve in particular often encourages people to take a breather and reflect back on their past year: Accomplishments, failures, hopes, and disappointments. Of course, when difficult or painful experiences occur, it's tempting to push those things out of your mind and tell yourself to "get over it." But here's a little secret: You don't have to get over it — and in fact, sometimes ruminating on the sad, scary things and working through them? That's the way you grow and develop as a person.
Don't get me wrong. I understand why people experience denial. Life is busy, and between school, work, family, friends, and relationships, it's very tempting to put yourself last while you focus on those around you. Your best friend is fighting with her significant other? Talk to her on the phone for three hours. Your parents' anniversary is tomorrow? Bake a cake. Your professor is offering extra credit at the end of the semester? Prioritize that along with your finals. Sure, these things all have value, but somewhere in there, you have to make time to be alone with yourself and your thoughts. You have to make time for yourself and you have to put yourself first.You have to search in yourself and figure out what's causing you pain. Basically, you gotta face the tough stuff, and sometimes, you gotta do it alone.
First Things First: See the Situation for What It Really Is
You know that horrible feeling when you sit down to think about something, and all of a sudden, you're obsessed? You can't remember exactly what words you said when someone asked you an inconsequential question, and suddenly it's the biggest deal in the world? You can't figure out if your crush really did smile at you in the hallway after class, and now you feel like the biggest idiot to ever lived?
Cynthia Kane at The Washington Post advises not to spend too long ruminating and analyzing the past. "We need to focus on and acknowledge the circumstances for what they are, and then make a conscious decision not to ruminate," she says. "The situation happened, we can’t make it un-happen by obsessing and resisting." So the first step to confronting those deep seeded issues? Revisit them for what they are, but don't over-analyze. Beating yourself up forever is not the healthy way to deal with your tough stuff.
Sometimes, You Just Gotta Cry
Growing up, a lot of us were taught that crying is a private, shameful thing. Many people are particularly ashamed of crying in public, worried that we'll appear childish, weak, or immature. In fact, crying is actually healthy, as the tears relieve built-up stress and tension we carry with us for far too long.
In reality, people cry all of the time: In fact, 41 percent of women have cried at work at some point in their careers. While I'm not suggesting you explore your heart and soul's hardships in the work place, remind yourself that you are human, and you, like everyone else around you, experiences the urge to cry, and sometimes, you have to let it out. After all, crying is rooted in biology! When you face the hard stuff, give yourself permission to cry into your pillow (or friend's shoulder, or cat's fur, or a pint of ice cream...) for as long as you need.
Make a Plan
So, to recap: It's OK to revisit what's bothering you, but you're trying not to obsessively analyze the details, or speculate on things you don't know. After you've cried your eyes out, what's next? Make a plan. How come? Apparently, roughly 25 percent of our happiness is connected to our ability to manage stress. And let's be real: Digging through the deep stuff might make you cry, and it's almost definitely going to give you some stress.
Do you feel guilty for wronging a close friend, but never confessed? Be honest with them. Do you feel haunted because you betrayed your significant other? Offer them the truth. Is your pain stemming from someone other than yourself? If your aunt's comments about your weight are lowering your self-esteem, tell her so. If your partner's been a little too friendly with someone at their office, talk about what's bothering you. The key here is to establish the root of your pain (to the best of your ability) and figure out how to ease it. Communication is key, whether you're the one at fault, or if it's time to speak up and advocate for yourself.
Reach Out for Support
Never hesitate to reach out for support. While you might need some distance and alone time to begin to tackle what's bothering you, it's also important to give yourself resources for support and guidance. Think about close friends and family members you trust: Can you talk to them about what you're struggling with? Can you write them a letter or send them an email, if things are too painful to speak about in person? Also, never hesitate to seek the support of a mental health professional. Can't get to an office, or don't have insurance? Check out awesome programs like The Crisis Text Line, which allows you to text a counselor, 24/7, and for free.
Change is hard. Change is stressful. Change, let's be real, is sometimes terrifying. But when you work through the hard stuff, you learn about yourself (and sometimes, those around you), and you have to be willing to embrace change. When you grow and acknowledge hard things in your life, sometimes you have to take a step in one direction or another, and change is going to come. But remember, change is a process, and not everything will happen overnight. You don't need to change everything all at once, and you don't need to face everything all at once, but it's healthy to sit down and face it eventually, whether on your own, or with the support of a trusted person in your life. What better time to sift through the hard stuff than the New Year, when you have a clean slate right in front of you?