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How to Stay Positive (Even When Things are Really Tough)

02/02/2015 13:16 GMT | Updated 03/04/2015 10:59 BST

If someone had told me six years ago all the things I would go through, I would have given up there and then. That's why "psychics" scare me a little. Anyway, I did get through it all - and continue to do so.

Through that I'm now actually calmer and so much more forgiving of myself.

When you feel low for far too long, you re-evaluate your way of thinking. When your body fails you on a day to day basis, you end up stopping sweating the small stuff.

You change. By accident and intentionally: you have to find a way to cope and to get stronger.

So, here are some things that might help you feel a little happier even, and especially, when things aren't great.

Knowing that "this too will pass"

Being a positive person doesn't mean you don't feel pain or that you learn to suppress it - that wouldn't be healthy or helpful. It's more about knowing that while you may feel terrible, that feeling will pass. It genuinely helps.

There have been times when I've got sick and tired of feeling and sick and tired - and I'd just feel full of despair and so emotional. I've learned to ride it out and that's made a lot easier by being aware of the inevitably temporary nature of that kind of pain. It will pass.

Please note - if you're suffering from depression, these things alone won't help. Depression clouds your thinking to the point of irrationality, and your pain will seem permanent. Please try to know it's not. Talk to someone you trust and also to a doctor. (Read about my experience with depression here).

Clocking your inner monologue

I used to suffer with bad anxiety and self-esteem issues when I was younger. A lot of that stemmed from just not feeling good enough. So, if something went wrong, or even if not - I'd have thoughts of inadequacy and wanting to give up. I'd feel overwhelmed and the whole situation would seem a lot worse than it really was.

Now and then, especially when hormonal or if feeling really shattered, I still get those thoughts. The difference is I notice them - and know they're just thoughts. They're not necessarily true.

From that I'm able to try to turn it around, thinking and knowing that I am good enough, that people aren't judging me (or so what if they are - they don't know the whole story), or whatever the case may be.

Counting your blessings

One of the things that helped me the most was learning to reflect on my life, and to feel gratitude. Even on my worst days, I still know and feel how lucky I am to have the lovely family, job and general life that I do.

I think that really is a learned behaviour. For a few months I kept a daily structured diary (inspired by Susan Jeffers' Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway) with a gratitude list, alongside a list of ways I'd contributed to different areas of my life (creativity, work, family, friends etc), and little achievements.

Although I didn't keep it going that long, the mindset stayed with me.

Learning to say no

One of my favourite moments in the sitcom Friends is when someone invites Phoebe to an event and she says "Sorry I would, but I don't want to." I love it.

While that may be a tad rude, it is a lovely example of a guilt-free way of saying no. So often people do things because they feel pressured to: they can't think of a good enough excuse not to, so they say yes.

While I'm an advocate of being a "yes person" in terms of opportunities and living life to the full - being able to say no, and not feeling terrible about it, is also hugely important.

Asking for and accepting help

This applies to living with my chronic illness POTS but also life in general. I used to be so stubborn - insisting I was fine then crumbling when alone. Now, if I need to talk to someone, I do. If I need practical help, I ask for it. That took time as it felt embarrassing but it's necessary and the people that care are happy to help and to listen.

Needing help doesn't imply a weakness of character - it implies life is difficult, which it is. Being honest about how you're feeling lets the people that care about you in. It also helps to talk about it - even if there's no solution, just to rant or cry about something alleviates some of the struggle. If you knew a friend was suffering you'd want to help, so try to view it that way.

Being kind to yourself

There's cross-over from clocking your inner monologue with this one but it's also about remembering to do the things you enjoy - and not feeling bad about taking time just for you. It sounds simple but it's too easily forgotten.

So if I'm in a slump, mentally or physically, rather than pushing myself to keep going (which I'm often a bit guilty of) - it's sometimes a case of making a choice to sit in bed with hot drinks and good food and watch a heck lot of Netflix. Other times I'll make myself go for a walk. It's learning to gage what you want, what you need, and what's going to make you feel better - again, without feeling bad about it.

Stop comparing

It's so easy to look at someone's life and get jealous. Don't. You never know what's truly going on and everyone's fighting their own battle.

You don't have someone else's life - you have yours. As soon as you start comparing, you're not appreciating your own unique life. So try to focus on the good people and things within it.

Also question what it is you're jealous of. If it's that their life looks easy then that's silly but if it's what they're working on and the things that they're doing - then put your energy into working towards something exciting for yourself. You don't have to wait for an opportunity, make one for yourself. ie if you want to be a writer, then write!

Basically, don't presume, don't fester, and try to turn these thoughts into motivation and something good.

And finally, a quote that saw me through

"If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do - you have to keep moving forward."

Martin Luther King

A version of this post was originally published at on performance & positivity