As humans, we tend to believe that we exercise a high level of control over our lives. We make all kinds of choices, about work, health, education, family, what Netflix series we watch, and we are chuffed when these choices have the consequences we desire. It gives us a sense of control.

It’s when we are in situations that make us feel out of control, that things can start to unravel. Losing a job. An unexpected break up. The illness of someone close. Our sense of self is called into question. We suddenly feel powerless, and our framework for viewing the world is undermined.

Recently I have experienced a series of situations that have, in their own ways, sucked. Unexpected bad news. Difficulties in the family. A career setback. Some (minor) health challenges. All these things at once has felt pretty overwhelming.

Friends and family have been amazing. Yoga has been essential, as has nature. And here are three things I can do myself that are helping me cope:

  1. Not blaming others. Blaming others is super tempting, but blaming disempowers me. Blaming means I’m getting into that very human tendency to judge: right or wrong, fair or unfair.

When I feel myself playing the blame game, I step back. I stop trying to understand why the situation is happening to me, or who is responsible, or whether it is fair, because this hands over my power and makes me a victim of whoever I’m blaming.

  1. Accepting the situation as it is. Again, there is a natural proclivity to rally against what is happening, to shake a fist at the sky and howl at the moon. There’s no harm in shaking off some frustration. But if we get stuck in anger or denial, we are powerless to move forward. As I learned during therapy for an eating disorder many years ago, acceptance is a first and essential step towards change.

I remind myself, “It sucks, but it is. It’s hurtful, but it is. He’s an idiot, but it is.” And eventually, just “It is.” This helps me accept, which puts me in a much more empowered and healthy position to deal with what is going on.

  1. Choosing my response wisely. When I am tired and/or overwhelmed this can be tricky, but even in the depths of despair, there are options and my intuition knows which one is wise.

Let the tears out. Take a deep breath and walk away. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Leave. Stay. Don’t react to the provocation. Sit with the unknown.

This takes courage, and when I am low, courage seems a long way off. But the universe wants me to be courageous. Even – especially – when things are hard, it wants me to be the brightest, wisest, bravest versions of myself.