I love football. Love it. While I tend to gravitate toward college football, my husband recently introduced me to Fantasy football, and I have surprisingly enjoyed keeping up with the NFL games (for the record, my fantasy team, “Armani Cooper,” is currently 5-2).  It’s no secret though that I’m an Auburn fan. In fact, I thought of this blog topic while attending the Auburn/LSU game in Baton Rouge. If you didn’t watch the game, I’ll spare you the gruesome details and give you the highlights: Auburn got pummeled. Around the third quarter, my husband looked at me and said, “I think it might be a long season.” It certainly was looking that way. Our team wasn’t jiving, and nothing appeared to be working well. This was a far cry from the team who played in the National Championship just two short years ago. How did things go from so great to so horrible?

Life tends to have similar seasons.  One season everything may be great and you feel confident about yourself, your relationships and your work, while the next you may be asking, “What in the world happened? How did I get here, and, more importantly, how do I get through this?!”  Insert tears, anxiety and possibly some mild panic—you’re in a tough season.

Tough seasons come in various forms. It can look like grief from a devastating loss, a highly stressful and uncertain time at work, or a painful, rocky point in your relationship. While these are typically what we associate with difficult times, tough seasons can often look quite different. In fact, sometimes they are joyful times that involve a difficult or stressful transition. Planning a wedding is extremely stressful. Becoming parents for the first time (or second, or third) is a difficult adjustment. These seasons can be considered both wonderful and challenging. Tough, but not necessarily bad.

The thing about tough seasons is that, unfortunately, no one is exempt. We will all experience them in our life on several occasions. Part of my job as a professional counselor is to help women and couples navigate through these life transitions. In doing this work for almost eight years, I’ve come up with some strategies to help others (and myself) get through tough seasons in an effective and healthy way:

Practice self-care. It is critical to stay connected to yourself and what’s important to you. Quite often during tough times, taking care of yourself is the last thing you may think to do. It seems unnecessary or even selfish. However, self-care and selfishness are two very different things. Selfishness means, “it’s all about me,” while self-care says “I need to take care of myself, so I have the strength to handle this in a healthy way.” Practicing self-care helps us stay more grounded during life’s difficult seasons. Whether it’s reading, meditating, working out, having coffee with a friend, taking a bath, or writing in a journal, self-care is about staying connected to yourself and your values by doing the things that make you feel more like “you.”

Prioritize your energy. You simply cannot say yes to everything. Period. During difficult seasons, your emotional and physical energy will fluctuate. Tasks and relationships that were once easy may seem more tedious or heavy. This is normal, and you can expect to feel a little off-balance during this time. Try to focus on what is essential to get through today, and learn to conserve your emotional and physical energy for those essential things by saying no to non-essential tasks and relationships.

Show yourself grace. There may be days when you feel like you’re just going through the motions. That’s okay. Try to reframe the way you talk to yourself in a way that is more gentle and kind. Create space in your mind and heart to cultivate a sense of compassion for yourself during this time.

Ask for help. There is a misconception that asking for help indicates weakness. But really, asking for help takes courage. It takes a lot of guts to be vulnerable, to admit you’re struggling. You are not designed to do life alone. Ask yourself, who are the safe people in your life that you can reach out to for support? The people with whom you can be real and vulnerable? Tough seasons have a tendency to be very isolating, so it’s so important to know that you are not alone.

Keep perspective. This season will not last forever. As with fall, winter, spring and summer, all will transition into the next, new season. Sports seasons will come to an end, only to start again fresh the next year (thank goodness!). Soon, you will look back on this time in your life and say, “That was tough, but I’m still here. I got through it.” It is often those difficult seasons of life that shape us into the people we are today. They can lead to new insights, greater perspectives and a deeper appreciation of the things in life that really matter.

If you’re going through a tough season currently, or if you’re anticipating an upcoming life transition, I’d love to help you navigate through it in an effective and healthy way. Please contact me for more information.