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“Cause there’ll be hard times...who knows better than I?” Ray Charles sang, and don’t we all know it. Difficulties are a fact of life, and it isn’t easy to see how to get through them while you’re singing the blues. But there are some antidotes that might help:
Don’t dwell in silence: Obstacles, setbacks, and losses are a vital part of experiencing the fullness, and even sweetness, of life, suggests Wendy Mogel, PhD, a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles and the author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. “The key is not shutting down in shame or walking around wearing the brittle mask of being ‘fine,’” she says. “Give people the gift of being able to help you.” That said, Mogel cautions against letting ourselves “worship the idol of suffering. Our minds love to be on the hamster wheel where despair and rumination feed each other.” To maintain a healthy balance between pretending nothing’s wrong and letting your troubles consume you, Mogel recommends setting aside a specific amount of time each day for feeling low while you’re waiting for the dark clouds to lift. She also suggests making a soundtrack for your sadness session, an idea she got from a group of college freshmen who coped with homesickness by creating a playlist called “Have a Good Cry.” “They would listen to the songs, feel sad, talk, and move on with the day,” Mogel says.
Be open to the bright side: Actress Annabelle Gurwitch was shattered when her hero Woody Allen fired her from one of his plays. She found solace in friends’ tales of termination and turned them into a play, documentary, and book, all called Fired! “Being let go allowed me to reexamine the direction I had been taking in life,” says Gurwitch, who can now add author, filmmaker, and radio commentator to her résumé. However, before it can be a catalyst for something better, she says, “you do have to affirm that getting canned really sucks.”
Let the spirit move you: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” says Janet Dewart Bell, a Peabody Award–winning producer at National Public Radio. Bell says this verse from Hebrews 11:1 came in very handy 14 years ago when she discovered a lump in her breast during a self-examination just one month after receiving a clean bill of health at her annual physical. Now cancer-free 13 years after treatment, Bell says, “When I have a crisis, I try not to say, ‘Why me?’ but ‘Why not me?’ I believe that my ability to think and to feel are gifts from God that I need to use.”
Tough times may seem like marathons, but the important thing to remember is that they do come to an end. “Don’t look at a snapshot and think it’s the whole movie,” says Mogel. Get out of bed and your comfort zone, build a new dream, have a short cry and a good laugh with a friend, and one day you’ll sing about how you got over the blues too.
O's Mental Health Kit: 32 more ways to take care of your beautiful mind
From the November 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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