Working through hard times can be difficult. After all, it can feel like the weight of the world is on us and that we’re losing control. When it feels like the weight of the world is on you, it’s crucially important recognize the need to take a step back, breathe and give yourself time to figure things out.

Let me offer an example of how I learned to work through a hard time I was going through:

It was January of 2013 and I was feeling very depressed about my future. My marriage, my job and my sense of self were all suffering as a result of decisions I was making and the way I was making them. Add to that the fact that I was putting more pressure on myself than ever and the fact that I attempted suicide two years earlier and you begin to understand the amount of stress that was taking over my day-to-day life.

I decided to check myself into the hospital’s mental health unit, since I knew that having the feelings I was having inside weren’t good for my health and that I was beginning to research ways to end my life. With my wife looking on, I signed the papers necessary to commit myself to the psych ward. That wasn’t an easy decision to say the very least, and yet, as I look back now, it was the best decision I could have made. I realize now that I needed people to understand the fact that I had to have the pressure taken off of myself if only for a short period of time so that I could have a chance to “hit the reset button” and begin to take my life back by finding new purpose and meaning in the present and in my future.

It’s All Relative – Don’t Minimize Your Challenges Compared to Other People’s

Your situation might not be nearly as serious as mine was, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as important to take a step back and be gentle on yourself as you figure out the next steps to take toward getting things back on track to work through whatever issue(s) you’re facing.

You might be feeling pressure from your employer, your spouse or other people, but the number one thing you’ve got to remember is that only by taking a step back can you clearly look at the challenges you’re facing and figure out ways to deal with them. We’re often in such a rush these days that we don’t stop and allow ourselves time to figure things out before we make quick decisions. That can end up in disaster as I know only too well from personal experience. Even though in the moment you might feel like you need to come up with the perfect answer or solution for what’s happening, in reality that can be the worst way to go. Instead, take some time for yourself and allow your brain to work through things. Yes, that can take major patience when you’re stressed, but you don’t want to make sudden, impulsive decisions that might make things even worse. Again, I speak from personal experience on that one. Couples therapy can be a crucial tool for success when it comes to working through mental health challenges within a marriage.

Self-Awareness is a Game-Changer

The more self-aware you become with your thought and behavior patterns and how you deal with stressful challenges, the more you’ll be able to recognize the role you play in any challenge you face. From there, being honest with yourself and being open to finding different ways to work through a challenge can make the difference between moving on and making things worse. I’ve burned a lot of bridges in my past, for example. I no longer do that, but it took a ton of time, self-honesty and recognizing how I played a huge role in making challenges come into my life that simply didn’t have to.

I no longer beat myself up for those past mistakes – I have learned from them and also learned to be compassionate on myself. As long as I stay committed to learning and being honest with my patterns, that’s half the battle right there. Life has gotten much better since those days, and it isn’t a coincidence.

Jeff