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7 Ways to Cope When Times Are Tough

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Challenges in life -- whether trivial or tragic, personal or global -- are unavoidable. In a period of four years, I lost my mother, father, younger sister and a close aunt. They died from various causes: brain tumor, bone cancer, breast cancer and suicide. People look at me in disbelief when I tell them my story. They ask how I survived, and I asked myself the same question. I found I used many coping mechanisms that I didn't even know I had. Here are seven of them that will help you cope when times are tough:

1. Be grateful.
There is something to be grateful for in every minute of every day, whether it's the warm sun, a phone call from an old friend or just another day of living. When you make a list of everything that's great in your life, your one problem may not seem so terrible. And remind yourself that there are people that would trade their problems for yours in an instant.

2. Divert your attention.
Challenges can be all-consuming, and it seems the more you think about them, the worse they get. Focus on something or someone else, and you'll give your mind and emotions a needed break. Work on a hobby. Take a child to the park. Go out to a movie. It's okay to escape for a while.

3. Call upon friends.
Research shows that social connections have a positive effect on well-being. Reach out to friends and let them know what you're going through. You'll feel less alone, and a sympathetic listener with a kind word or two is sometimes all you need to cheer up.

4. Laugh.
Laughter is as much of an emotional release as crying, particularly when we can laugh at ourselves. There's always humor to be found in any situation as long as you're willing to look for it. Give yourself permission to laugh, even when times are rough. Find that one isolated moment that is funny regardless of the terrible big picture.

5. Accept what you can't change.
You can find little things to do that will help make a dire situation better -- like visiting a sick loved one or cooking dinner for a neighbor -- but you must accept things you can't change. If someone has died, they will remain dead. If you've lost a job, that particular job is gone. If a hurricane flattened your house, that house is no longer standing. If you dwell on things you can't change, you're only setting yourself up for more stress. Accept what you can't change and take action on what you can.

6. Connect with your inner spirit.
Amid the turmoil in my life during the time of all those tragedies, it was prayer and meditation that calmed me down and made me feel like I was not alone. It makes no difference what your religious beliefs are. Prayer and meditation are merely forms of communication that connect you to your inner spirit and power. Once you do that, you realize you can get through anything.

7. Move on.
If you dwell on painful parts of your life, you drain your spirit with negative emotions such as anger and resentment. Let go of that baggage like a hot potato! Only then can you let new positive experiences, opportunities and people into your life. No matter what challenge you might be facing, know that nothing ever stays the same. Your problems will eventually end.

It's easy to feel defeated and sorry for yourself when challenges in life arise, however, you can take another approach. While you may not be able to always control what happens in life, you can always choose how to react to it.

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