Going through a hard time? 5 key mindset shifts that helped me through

by | Dec 12, 2022

If you’re going through a difficult time and need some words of encouragement, hope, and wisdom from someone who’s going through a difficult time too, you’re in the right place.

I’ve had a tough past few months myself recently. Can you relate to being so consumed by your problems and what’s going on that you feel like you’re falling apart? Your problems feel so big that you’re completely engulfed in them and desperately trying to fix things? You’re not able to focus, do much of anything, and feel lost on what to do to make things better? That was me.

If you can relate, let me first just say that you’re not alone. This is part of being human, specially if you’re playing big in life. Playing big can look like having big goals and dreams and going after them, or it can look like caring about causes beyond yourself like the welfare of your family, community, or the state of the world.

Having carved out more time to look after my own mental health and now being on the other side, I feel mentally and emotionally good again. So I thought it might be helpful to share my recent experience with you on how I’ve come to be mentally ok, have hope, and peace in my heart again even though the actual situation hasn’t changed yet.

I believe that sharing our struggles authentically can be very helpful and healing. So I hope this can help you to overcome what you might be going through and help create the outcome you want to see. And, if nothing else, to know that we’re all in this together.

What’s happening in my life and my recent crisis

I’m going to share a bit about my life and what I’m currently going through. And although your situation may look different from mine, I invite you to see how it may relate in your life.

In the past few months, there’s been a lot going on in my home country of Iran. You might have heard by now that people in Iran are being brutalized by a theocratic dictatorship government as they fight for their fundamental human rights (see here to find out more). They have been cut off from the internet and there’s been harsh crackdowns by the government’s military guards in an effort to silence and suppress the uprisings.

This is the country I was born in and lived in for my first 9 years of life. A piece of my heart and soul is in this country. Nearly all of my extended family are still there – my cousins, aunts, uncles… I have no guarantees of their safety, and it’s been heartbreaking seeing the mass detainments, killings and the brutal force being used on innocent people.

There is also a real possibility that I may never be able to return to my homeland and see my family again. It’s been an extremely tough time for myself and many Iranians in the diaspora, not to mention Iranians inside of the country.

So with everything going on, I felt an extreme urgency to act and stop everything I was doing. I put a lot of my business and personal life on hold. This further sucked me deeper into feelings of anxiety, anger and helplessness which really took a toll on my mental health. It had me feeling nearly debilitated and burnt out. On one hand, I really wanted to help and knew I had to continue my efforts, and on the other hand I was starting to fall apart.

Have you ever had that dilemma? Where you feel like you have to choose between yourself and something/someone else that’s really important to you? There’s a lot at stake but you feel like you’re falling apart. You feel like you’re not doing enough but you don’t know if there’s any more of you to give. When there is just too much uncertainty, too much pain, too much not going right. That’s how I was feeling.

It’s been a really difficult time. My community, my family, my business, my social life, and my ability to enjoy things took a major hit. And I was feeling the weight of it all.

I believe that we can do more good in our lives and in this world when we are in a good place mentally and emotionally.

About 10 years ago I learned that everything works better when I’m mentally doing well. I realized that I’m not helping anyone when I “sacrifice” myself for any reason, whether that’s for a loved one, a cause, for work, or any other thing that’s really important to me. I learned that this only leaves me at a state of survival and with less to give.

So 10 years ago I made a decision to make my well-being my first priority. Much like when you’re on a flight and the flight attendant tells you to put your oxygen mask on first during an emergency before you attempt to help anyone else, I invite you to just be open to the idea that taking care of yourself and your mental well-being will benefit you, others, and the outcome you want to see. This is because if you run out of oxygen yourself, you’re in a state of survival and it’s very difficult to do your best or help anyone else.

So to sustain my efforts for helping my family and the people if Iran, and still have my mental health, business and personal life intact, I decided to go back to prioritizing my own wellness first. This meant working on making some key mindset shifts.

My 4 key mindset shifts to feel better, stronger, and be more effective during difficult times.

Below is my 4 key mindset shifts to feel better, stronger, and be more effective during difficult times. It helps me create a win/win/win situation for my well-being, for others, and the positive outcome I want to create. I’ll demonstrate how I used it in my recent situation to make things more concrete. This is the same mindset I’ve been using for years to get myself out of tough situations rather quickly and effectively. I invite you to consider each with an open mind and how it might also help you get through your difficulties.

1) Be on your own side. This means be supportive, gentle and compassionate with yourself.

If you’re a high achiever, it’s normal to resist this at first. I understand because I used to resist it myself. I really thought I could be ok and be able to do my best without being supportive, gentle or compassionate towards myself. As you will come to learn, you can only create an optimal positive outcome for yourself if you’re your own ally. This means not being so hard on yourself and practicing being supportive, gentle and self-compassionate during difficult times.

Life is hard enough and you’re only human. I want you to consider that beating yourself up when you’re already down only brings you down further. For example, telling myself I didn’t deserve to be happy, that I wasn’t doing enough, that my efforts were small and didn’t matter, or that I should feel guilty only made me feel terrible and further took away my energy to be constructive.

However, once I started practicing more self-compassion for how I was feeling, and supporting myself through the process (i.e., by being gentle and understanding for what I was going through), was I able to be more effective. It allowed me to have more energy for the cause. It also allowed me the capacity to support others and better take care of my business and my own needs. This is what has helped me continue to sustain my efforts for the people of Iran and take care of all of the other important areas of my life at the same time.

All this to say, if you want to create a winning situation over a period of time, and if you need energy to sustain your efforts, it’s important to be on your own side. This means being supportive, gentle, and compassionate with yourself.

Being your own ally also looks like knowing that you’re enough, even at your lowest. And that you don’t need to be “better” or “further ahead” by now. Really consider this.

Know that you don’t need to be perfect to be loved, and you don’t need to be perfect to be successful. Know that you are worthy, amazing, and brilliant even if you make mistakes, even if you “fail”, and even if you don’t have it all together right now (or none of it together!). The most loved and successful people have moments like this. It comes with being human, and more so when you’re playing big in life. Don’t sell yourself short and do not let yourself be defined by your lows or perceived “lacks”. You are worthy just as you are, right here, right now.

You also don’t need to be “better” or “further ahead” by now. We all have our own journey. I know it’s hard to see the bigger picture sometimes, but that’s why it’s important to trust the process. Specially, again, if you’re playing big in life. Some things take time. Once we stop resisting and judging where we are now, can we be present and stop trying to force and control things that are not in our control. Only then can we have a clearer view. And only then can we make the best of the situation and be effective.

Again, all this to say, you need your support more than anyone else’s. This will allow you to be more functional, better solve the problem, and move through the emotional difficulties faster. I invite you to try being more gentle and compassionate with yourself and see how much easier things get when you’re on your own side.

2) Prioritize your mental well-being. Know that when you’re in a good place mentally, everything works better, and everyone benefits.

During difficult times, we often sacrifice our mental health. I talked about how I sacrificed mine recently, and I invite you to consider how you might be sacrificing yours.

Like I shared earlier, by not prioritizing my own well-being it was an all around losing situation for my community, my family, my business, my social life, and my mental health. I was robbing myself and everyone else of my potential to do and be my best.

Putting myself and my mental well-being first has been a life changer. Not just for this time, but for anytime I want to bring in my full potential. It allows my mind to be more clear and effective. Plus I’m able to have more focus, energy and capacity towards creating the outcome I want to create.

With that said, let me be clear that taking care of your mental health doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the situation, or person/people. I still care, and am still impacted by what’s happening in my beloved country. The defining factor here is that now I also feel empowered, have energy, I have hope, and I’m still fully functional to be there for the people of Iran and for anyone else that needs my support. Plus, now I can also attend to my business, social and my personal life.

This is how we create a win/win situation in all areas of our life that’s important to us. This is only possible with prioritizing our own well-being. I invite you to consider how this may benefit your situation and your life.

3) Accept what is and stop focusing on the problem.

During difficult times, we often focus our attention on the problem and things we can’t control. It’s normal to do this, our brain is evolutionarily wired and biased to look for problems. And once it finds them, it’s designed to focus there. It’s initially helpful to be aware of what’s not working so that we can help create solutions.

However, it’s resisting the problem and getting stuck there that often creates more challenges for us down the road. It often traps us into feeling overwhelmed and like we’re drowning which only prolongs the harm it creates. So once we identify the problem, accepting the reality of it gives us a place to start to improve the situation.

For example, I had to accept that there are horrors happening in Iran and bad things are likely to continue happening until the fall of the current regime. This can take many more months! As much as I wish it was different, this is the situation. It was a tough pill to swallow for me, but it allowed me to stop wasting energy on the resistance, and instead come up with more realistic and strategic solutions to place my efforts.

Acceptance releases us to be able to go onto the next step, which is focusing on the solution. It will help create more space and energy in your mind to start to feel better and at the same time be more effective.

I know it’s hard, I know we desperately want things to be different, but if you want to feel better and be more effective, it will help you to first accept the reality of it.

4) Focus on what you can control and the positive outcome you want to create.

If you want to feel more empowered in a really difficult situation, bring your focus back to you and what you can control. Anytime I’m going through a particularly difficult moment, including this one, I ask myself the following questions to help me. I invite you to try it out for yourself. You might be surprised at just how empowered you’ll feel.

Ask yourself:

A) What am I committed to? What is it that I want to create?

My answer was a free Iran (and a free world) where every person has basic human rights. I also want to live my best life and help my family, friends, community and clients live their best lives.

What are you committed to? What positive outcome do you want to create in your life and in your situation?

B) Who do I want to be? If I looked back 5 years from now, what kind of person do I wish I was during this time?

For me, I didn’t want to be someone who lost myself in the chaos and didn’t do my part. I wanted to be someone who stuck to my core values and remained calm, level headed, determined, loving, and supportive. Someone who did my part to help empower the people of Iran and this incredibly important movement. At the same time, I also wanted to be someone who made the most of my life and took care of myself, my business, and the other areas of my life too.

What does it look like for you? Who do you want to be?

C) What can I do that’s in my control? What can I do to know that I’ve done my part in creating what I want and be content with (or even proud of!) myself?

For me, my answer was to continue amplifying the voices of the Iranian people by attending protests, signing petitions, writing letters to my government, and staying engaged and informed on what’s happening. I’ve also decided to offer free calls to the Iranian community who are negatively impacted by what’s happening in Iran. (Click here to book your free call if that’s you. Please make sure to put “Iran” and a bit about what you’re currently dealing with in the space provided during checkout).

To also be proud of myself, this meant to take care of myself mentally and emotionally and do things that I enjoy so that I could be my best self and make the most of my life at the same time.

How about you? What can you do that’s in your control to be content or proud of yourself?

Some final words

If this all seems too much, and you’re still feeling overwhelmed, it’s completely normal. Know that it’s ok. I invite you to simply be gentle with yourself and take care of yourself in whatever way you think is best for you. Give yourself grace and compassion for what you’re dealing with. It’s often really helpful to seek out supportive people and spaces where you can get the support you need. Whatever you choose, and whatever you do, know that it’s going to be ok. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, it will be ok. You’re doing great, keep going.

Leyla Bagheri
Leyla Bagheri
Founder of LB Well-Being Performance Inc.
Well-Being and Performance Coach
Psychology Research Advisor

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