How To Move Forward During Challenging Times

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster
Updated October 12, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many of us have had “one of those days” where we seem to experience one bad thing after another.  Even if it’s just a series of small inconveniences, these annoyances can add up and make you feel frustrated or overwhelmed. Often, the best way to handle days like these is simply to accept them feel the emotions that come with them, and then move on. Taking care of your mental and physical well-being and reaching out for support is often key as well. However, underlying conditions like depression and anxiety can make it hard to move forward after being faced with challenges. If you’re having difficulty moving past tough times or don’t feel like you can cope on your own, you may wish to consider online therapy.

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How Do I Move On?

Maybe you find that you’ve been blocked on Facebook, Twitter, or another social media by someone you’re close to. Perhaps you discover that your partner wants to take a break, or that your child has been in a car accident. Any of these things could be incredibly upsetting and even life changing, and it may feel impossible to bounce back from that moment and continue life as usual. 

Since these events can cause a wide range of emotions, they may quickly and easily take over your life. You might be unable to function normally, maintain your relationships, or focus on work or school. You may find yourself awake at night, wondering what you could have done differently or why you deserve for this to happen to you. It might even feel like everything around you is a part of a dream or an unfamiliar story.

These often upsetting and isolating feelings may drastically impact your quality of life. By practicing acceptance, focusing on your mental and physical well-being, and reaching out for support when needed, you can learn how to cope with and move on from bad circumstances so you don’t fall into unhealthy coping habits. 

Accept And Respond

Moving on usually involves accepting the honest truth that you can’t prevent bad things from happening, but you can control your response to them. Whether you’re experiencing one of those frustrating days or something more traumatic, you might even ask yourself "why do bad things keep happening to me?", the reality is that bad things may pop up in your life from time to time happen to everyone at one point or another. Coping with the pain of these difficult events as an emotionally healthy person can require managing your response to these events and supporting yourself through healthy coping mechanisms.

You can do several practical things to help yourself recover smoothly from challenging circumstances. It may be helpful to learn more about your mental and emotional health so you can realize why you react in a certain way. Every human being is different, and everyone is likely to have unique responses to the events that occur in their lives.

For example, receiving upsetting news about a friend, your child, or your partner could make anyone feel bad, but how you process those challenging feelings is a response that can be unique to you. Honestly recognizing how you respond can give you the insight you can use to move forward, and you may feel glad you took the time to learn more about yourself.

Different Responses To Life’s Hard Moments

People respond to challenges in life in all sorts of different ways. As Dr. Seuss wrote, “When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”

Some people may process sadness as anger. Instead of crying or feeling upset, you may feel angry at the world, and you may use this as an excuse to lash out. You may create conflict that isn’t there or imagine that innocent people have wronged you.

What happens when things go wrong? Others may experience fear or self-criticism as a result of upsetting circumstances. After experiencing something sad, some people may turn inward and wonder things like, “What’s wrong with me? Why did they do that to me? If I did things differently, would they still love me?”

All of these can be common responses to the hurt that accompanies upsetting events, so if you’re feeling any of these emotions — or a mix of all of them once — you should know that what you’re feeling can be completely natural.  It’s normal to feel anxious, sad, angry, or a combination of emotions when things aren’t going your way, so don’t get down on yourself for feeling negatively.

If you want to move on healthily, it generally starts with becoming more emotionally healthy. You might try to understand and learn more about your mental health and how you deal with these emotions so you can develop the best positive coping strategies for your future.

For example, if you’re living with anxiety or depression, it may be helpful to navigate your experiences with this in mind. Neither of these emotional experiences may be very pleasant, but they don’t have to define your life. Both conditions are treatable, and there are a wide range of resources available to get help. Let’s take a closer look at depression and anxiety, how they can affect your life, and the treatment options that may be available to you.

How To Know If You’re Experiencing Depression

If you’ve recently experienced something traumatic, it can be normal to feel sad about it. But if you experience excessive and overwhelming feelings of sadness that continue for more than two weeks, it’s possible that you may have depression. 

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America defines depression as a mental illness that affects 264 million people worldwide. The ADAA explains that depression is characterized by having at least five out of nine common symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • An overwhelming and pervasive sense of sadness that doesn’t go away
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Loss of motivation
  • Loss of interest in the things you usually enjoy
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicidal ideation

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.

When these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, they may meet the criteria for someone to be diagnosed with depression. However, please do not attempt to diagnose yourself or anyone else. Only a qualified mental health professional can make an official diagnosis.

How To Know If You’re Experiencing Anxiety

Most people feel anxious about something in their lives at some point. Whether you have a big deadline looming at work or school, or you’re worried that a friend is upset with you, nearly everyone knows what it’s like to feel a little bit anxious from time to time. But if you’ve recently experienced something upsetting or traumatic, you may find that you suddenly shift to feeling on edge about everything on a regular basis. Common symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Imagining the worst-case scenario and assuming the worst will happen
  • Feeling tense
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance or feeling as though you need to look out for potential danger

In addition to these mental health symptoms, anxiety can also manifest as a physical health problem. These anxiety related physical symptoms can include:

  • Sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • Diarrhea or upset stomach
  • Insomnia
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Shaking
  • Shortness of breath

After experiencing something traumatic, it can be normal to feel both anxious and depressed. It’s also possible that you were living with undiagnosed depression or anxiety (or both) before the incident, and they became worse after living through a traumatic situation. Understanding these things about yourself can be crucial to moving forward, recovering, and finding a new sense of stability and peace.

Online Therapy May Help You Move Forward

If you’re finding it challenging to live with unhealed trauma, undiagnosed mental health conditions, or both, it can be very difficult to manage these issues on your own. A licensed therapist can help you unpack your feelings and equip you with positive coping mechanisms that may assist you in reaching a turning point towards moving on during difficult times.

Those experiencing mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may have a hard time functioning throughout the day. Specifically, those with depression might be prone to staying in bed due to a lack of energy. It can be hard to make it to in-person therapy sessions when you can hardly get out of bed, but online therapy may allow you to get care from the comfort of your home.

The Efficacy Of Online Therapy

There is no “one size fits all” approach to therapy; your therapist’s goal will typically be to get to know you as an individual and, after they’ve talked to you, to find the therapeutic solution that will help you live your happiest, healthiest life. Whether you choose traditional or online therapy is up to you, but please know that each has been shown to be effective.

One study found that internet-delivered CBT could be efficacious in reducing symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, and other kinds of mental health conditions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often considered the gold standard in therapeutic treatment for depression and anxiety disorders. This form of therapy generally works by teaching people to reframe their thoughts and providing a positive alternative to the stories we tell ourselves.

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Is Something Difficult In Your Life Holding You Back?

Takeaway

Dark times and difficult moments can be a natural part of life. Although they may take a toll on your physical and mental health, you may find that you can learn to cope with and move past them by taking care of your well-being. Sometimes, this can mean accepting the situation and moving on. In other cases, this may involve getting extra support from a therapist or seeking advice from a loved one. No matter how you choose to cope, please know that your efforts matter and can help you become more resilient in the future.

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