5 Strategies for Coping With Hard Times

Patient Expert

I've lived in recovery for 28 years now. I've learned many things I wish my younger self knew when I was just starting out. It's because I've decided to live my life left of the dial (with things in balance on an even keel, like I wrote about in my memoir) that I figured out five tactics for coping with hard times.

  • Be true to yourself. Pretending to be someone you're not just to prove to other people that you're normal always backfires. In my twenties, I took a job in the gray flannel insurance field and pushed myself so hard that I decided to go off my medication. This failed big time.

  • If you don't fit in someplace, find the place where you do fit in. At 35, I started my job in a library where I could dress in fashion, read books, and help people - the things I love to do. Goodbye, offices.

  • Instead of giving yourself a restrictive deadline, give yourself a lifeline instead. Your life hasn't ended if you don't achieve a goal by a certain time. It took me 13 years to find the job I love. It took me 13 years to publish my memoir.

  • Understand that wellness is not the total absence of illness. My psychiatrist told me that most people diagnosed with schizophrenia go in and out of episodes. I started to have a harder time of it from 2004 to 2007. The goal is to minimize the hardship. Your version of well is not going to be the same version as mine. If you can't cope on your own, get help. See my SharePosts on using cognitive therapy to cope better and using cognitive therapy to change perceptions.   Also see the SharePost on relaxation and stress reduction techniques.

  • Envision the life you want by remembering this motto I created: "Today is what it is and tomorrow can be different." This is a form of dialectic thinking: to connect two opposites using the word "and." Neither life nor recovery is "all" or "nothing" or "either" one way "or" another way.

Four takeaways about living with challenges:

  • Rome wasn't built in a day. Your goals will take time to complete one day at a time. Often things change over time not dramatically all at once. One day you will realize that things have changed.

  • The most important thing to remember is that we can't measure our self-worth by the money in our bank account, the degrees hanging on a wall, or any other external marker of success like a car or house. We should like ourselves for who we are, not what we've achieved. If you're a good person, that's all that matters.

  • A marriage, our status in society, our glory days in sports, all these things can end. Yet if we decide to like ourselves regardless of what happens or doesn't happen in our life, we'll truly be happy.

  • Your circumstances can change for the better at any point in your recovery or your life. Giving up is not an option. It might seem like right now a dramatic change isn't possible. Simply keep taking action to get closer to where you want to be.

Getting from where you are to where you want to be:

Setting a goal
Following through on a goal

Completing or changing a goal