10 Tips to Stay on Track When Life Gets Tough


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  73 comments   :  39,511 Views

Last week I wrote about the trials of moving my 90 year old father-in-law from independent living, to a hospital to rehab and finally to his new home an assisted living facility not too far from where I live. It has been a roller-coaster of emotions and decisions and it can be tough to not feel as though the whole world is caving in around you. But as with every obstacle in life, when we face them head on, we usually come out stronger than we did before we were hit with them.

It's tough when you are being pulled in a million different directions and what seems like little time to get everything done. When one is working against the clock, this can only exacerbate the stress levels, which is why routine is such an important part of my life. Unfortunately, decisions have to be made and they don't always align with my schedule, but I have come up with some tips to keep me on board until I weather the storm.

1. Ask for help

You do not have to go through life alone. It's OK to ask family and friends to help you out. You do not score any brownie points by trying to do it all. In fact you may find yourself so overwhelmed that staying committed to your healthy lifestyle is much harder than when you have others to help you along the way.

2. Keep exercising

This can be tough when you feel as though you are being pulled in a thousand different directions, but I remember my former running coach telling me years ago, "no run, no matter how short is ever wasted."  As many of us are well aware,  exercise is a big stress reliever. Even if you can't keep up with your normal exercise routine, going for a quick walk around the hospital or even doing some stair climbing in the hospital stairwell can do wonders to clear your mind and more importantly reduce the stress.

3. Rest is important, too

If you have children you know that when they get overly tired they are much more difficult to manage. Sleep and rest help us recharge our batteries. Even if you find yourself sneaking in rest when your loved one is resting, it may be just what your body needs.


Deep breathing  seems like such a simple act, but it can do wonders in helping relieve stress and tension we hold in our bodies. Just three short minutes of concentrated breathing can help lower stress levels and release tension and anxiety.

5. Be sure to eat

Remember food is fuel for your body. It is what gives us energy especially when our meal time schedule is off. Sugary foods and junk food from the vending machine can actually leave you drained, therefore bringing healthy snacks is a great option, especially if you miss getting to the hospital cafeteria before closing.  I keep nuts, raisins and a granola bar with me in my purse so that I never am without a little something.

6.  Talk with others

While it may seem overwhelming to have a loved one in the hospital sharing your concerns with other families who are experiencing similar problems can actually validate your feelings. As my therapist Ann told me months ago, validations of emotions can make us feel normal-- that it's OK to feel the way we do. And you may be surprised that sometimes others who have walked this journey can offer you help and insight to your own situation.

7.  Accept that you cannot do it all

This is by far one of the most difficult areas for me to accept. As a type A perfectionist, I do not like when I am forced to shorten my workout sessions, maybe not eat as well as I should, get upset with the way things are done or not done, etc, but this is life. A few weeks of not so healthy choices will not knock me down UNLESS I allow the guilt to consume me. I can only do the best I can do knowing that it will only be a matter of time before I am back to my normal, or maybe even my new normal, routine.

8. Seek guidance from others

The social worker at my father-in-law's rehab facility was instrumental in helping us locate an assisted living facility in a very short time. While my husband and I did have to visit the places she recommended, we did not have to waste time wading through the lists of facilities. It is amazing how many people are willing to help, you just need to step out of your comfort zone.

9.  It's OK to let things slide

I love an immaculate home, but when I am spending more time packing and cleaning my father-in-law's place than I do my own, accepting that there is only so much time in a day to get everything done has become my new way of living. It's OK that I do not get EVERYTHING done. It will still be here when things settle down, but giving myself permission to let the household duties slide is a huge stress reliever, too.

10. Smile

After 50 years on this planet, I am learning to accept that there are many things out of my control. I can either wallow in my sorrow or I can take on the challenges. Smiling can do wonders to lift our moods along with the release of the mood calming endorphins. It can make us more positive when things in life appear to be so challenging.

While there are many things in life we can't control, there are many things we can. Life is not meant to be experienced without sorrow and stress. As I have stated in many of my previous blogs, it is how we manage the curve balls or the obstacles in our life that allow us to grow, change and transform into the people we are meant to be. It doesn't mean it will be easy, but having a few tips to help you through can do wonders in making a not-so-great situation in to the best situation we are to deal with.

What tips do you offer for those trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle in times of stress?

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  • 73
    So true how we tend to take on so much forgetting to take care of ourselves. I enjoy taking time out of my day to sit, relax with a tea and read these stories and articles. Thank you! - 12/18/2017   6:35:11 AM
  • 72
    Correction.., i finally got sick myself. Apologies for the masdive typo - 12/7/2017   6:33:09 PM
  • 71
    We sometimes think we are stronger than we really are. After months of being the sole caregiver I finally became run diwn and git suck myself. If you possibly can get help with sone area in your current role, get it. I had to fend off ‘visitors’ who stayed too long, disturbed meals etc- and could nit bring myself to say it’s time you ket us both rest. Speak up - do gooders often do not realize they coukd ask what is needed. So tell them gently- time to go. - 12/7/2017   6:31:55 PM
    Thank you - 10/22/2017   8:34:40 AM
    great tips. Thank you. Keeping healthy snacks in my purse is one I practice. - 10/21/2017   9:51:17 AM
  • 04SUZY
    Yes I know it is okay to ask help. But swallowing my pride and actually doing it was tough. So I did something that didn't hurt my ego...I hired a va!! yay!! now i don't have to worry about deadlines..since my va at habiliss gets the work done way ahead of it !
    - 7/25/2016   2:24:27 AM
  • 67
    Thank you so much for this article! I totally agree with it all! In reaching midlife, I have experienced much, all of which makes me who I am! Right now, I am working with older people whose families are dealing with much stress! Every once in a while, I can give a few tidbits of advice! Thanks for the back-up! - 2/27/2015   12:09:11 PM
    Great Great blog,so many good thing's to say in it. Great reminder's of what I need to do to make my life easier on myself today. I am my own worst enemy when it come's to these thing's listed above I am 57 it is long past time I start acting on it."This to shall Pass" is one of my favorite's that I have to start using again more often. Thank's all - 1/12/2013   4:22:32 PM
  • 65
    Thanks for the reminders.....just what I needed today!
    - 6/13/2012   8:21:32 PM
    Thank you very much for this blog. I to have some major decisions to make and I will be turning 50 in November. My mother is progressively aging and yes she is slowing down. However I have to be thankful for many things. 1. She is in great sound mind. 2. She still lives independent;y at the age of 83 1/2. 3. She is aware of her bills and finances. 4. Although she has mobility issuses with her knees due to arthiritis and weight she and I have traveled for the last two years from Washington, DC to Miami to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was a very exhausting trip for me however very enlightning.
    It was not the fact that I had to arrange a wheel chair from DC Reagan to Miami and back but the trip was so enjoyable. We spent the afternoons on Lincoln Road where I got much needed retail therapy. We ate outside and shared laughs all day. When we returned to our Villa in Doral we sat out looking over The Famous Blue Monster Golf Course where most golfers dream to go.
    You see it is not that you have to place your father in-law in asisted living; he has earned the right to be assited for the remainder of his life. Maybe he can not travel to a hot spot like Miami but you can certainly stop by with a crab cake sandwhich and an ice cold coke. Live a little do not worry about the laundry, the dish in the sink or the dry cleaning you did'nt pick up.

    When yo do not have time to work out. Go see your father in-law and wheel him around the grounds for two hours. I asure you you will have worked out. I know I wheeled my mother from one end of Lincoln Road in Miami to another.

    Remember a walk to the mailbox or a mile run it's all progress. I am getting back into shape and reclaiming the athlete inside of me. Somedays it will be a mile run, 20 minutes of spinning and other days what the heck it will be a 10 block walk to 7 -11 for a slurpee. No matter what remember to reward yourself and always dig yourself.

    PS;;;, if you ever forget how to live look at your father-in-law; he has 40 years on us
    - 6/10/2012   7:13:49 PM
  • 63
    When life gets stressful I eat... this is where I have to stop! I love these too.. I am printing them for my fridge. - 5/23/2012   5:05:23 AM
  • 62
    Thank you - I have made a copy of this and tucked it into my elder care/grief counseling folder - so often I want a concise list I can put into someone's hands and let them take it home to ponder - several have come to me at services or after loss and told me thank you for being there and telling me in is OK to....or that I have permission to.... both are principles I was toaught by hospice caregivers during the passing of my Mama 6 years ago. - 5/20/2012   4:55:52 PM
  • 61
    After being told last week that DH has terminal cancer and only a short time left on this earth I had the week from hell. I've realized that I need to keep my routine as normal as possible and take pleasure from the small things that come along. - 5/20/2012   11:39:44 AM
  • 60
    Thank you so much for sharing this - perfect timing! I could totally relate with your situation as I am currently in a similar situation with my parents and the last two months have been a real challenge for me. These tips we be helpful in the days to come! - 5/19/2012   6:44:25 AM
    Thank you for this blog. I really needed this to remind me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The tips will help me immensly. - 5/18/2012   12:03:42 PM
    My mantra is "Crisis is temporary". Remind yourself of this. "This too shall pass." - 5/17/2012   5:07:04 PM

    Check with your Department of Social Services. Many times the social workers, which I have found to be an invaluable source for help, can direct you to charity and faith-based organizations when one does not have any family or friends to help you out.

    I wish you well!

    Coach Nancy - 5/17/2012   3:48:58 PM
  • 56
    Great blog! Very helpful! - 5/17/2012   9:04:39 AM
  • JANIS43
    I am going thru the same thing with a dear friend who has family out of state and are unable to help. My friend has a strong network of friends who have helped me so much as while she is going thru her cancer with hospice I have been diagnosed with breast cancer so I've had to take time to treat myself. Everything you said is so true you can't do it yourself. - 5/17/2012   8:42:47 AM
    These tips are great but I have a question? What does one do if they don't have family or friends to ask for help? That is a great tip and I am happy for those who are blessed with supportive people in their lives. There are many people like me who are alone. - 5/17/2012   8:21:35 AM
    Thanks! I wish there was a way to give this info to folks as they need it. Wonderful advice. - 5/17/2012   3:24:11 AM
  • 52
    Thanks so much for this blog. I understand what you are going through - three years ago we went through the same thing as we had to move our dad and step-mother from intensive care to rehab to assisted living. It was so painful for all of us.

    Right how I am under a lot of stress due to a different situation, and your suggestions remind me of things I can and should do to lessen the stress levels which are really affecting me health-wise and emotionally. Thank you for sharing these ideas!

    Blessings and hugs! Marge - 5/17/2012   2:04:47 AM
  • ANDYGIRL1219
    Thank you for sharing - it really helped me. I am in the same situation with my mother.

    Best wishes, Patricia - 5/17/2012   12:30:11 AM
  • 50
    Thank you for this article. My family is going through this same thing right now . It is very tough on my husband (it's his mom) as we live 3 hours away. Days off are for traveling, you dont rest well when you are somewhere else, and it is very emotionally draining, but the love for our parents doesn't subside .... It grows stronger as they need us more. Best of luck and thanks for the advice! - 5/17/2012   12:28:44 AM
  • 49
    Thanks for sharing. Changes that involve parents are tough ones and so emotionally charged with "shoulds". Giving up on "doing it all" can be hard but also very freeing.

    KD - 5/16/2012   7:14:11 PM
    It's amazing as we age, we tend to let go of that perfectionist attitude we have. Four years ago, before my Dad died, I was flying back an forth from VT to FL to help my Mom out because he was so ill. I had to rely on my husband to deal with the household and kids.

    This taught me that I don't really have to do it all; others are quite capable. I still have trouble asking for help, but I'm not so stressed out about the small stuff now. - 5/16/2012   4:38:29 PM
  • 47
    Thanks for the tips. I helped take care of my Dad at his homebut was lucky to have 7 sisters who shared his care at the end. Couldn't have done it without them. - 5/16/2012   2:31:48 PM
    even in the happy times there is stress. these are great tips. thanks - 5/16/2012   1:40:13 PM
    Your blog shows that you have some excellent strategies for coping with all the stresses. Especially being able to accept help. Many struggle with this. If you have a friend/family member of someone who shows signs of stress - offer to help! Many are too shy to ask for it - but will accept if offered. If you can help by making one dinner (even soup or salad!) it will be appreciated. Offer to babysit younger children (if any), or anything else you can think of. Be creative - I will cut your hair (if skilled at that), mow your lawn, help with holiday decorations, etc. You will feel better when you look for a void and fill it. It appears that you have a good support system with people helping out. All the best to you! - 5/16/2012   12:38:27 PM
  • 44
    Thanks. These are all very good tips we should remember and follow. - 5/16/2012   12:23:15 PM
  • 43
    I'm always surprised at how a 10 minute walk can make crystal clear those decisions that seem so muddy at the time. Whether it's solving a problem at work or deciding what to do for a party, taking a quiet walk (preferably outside), seems to clear my mind and the path immediately becomes clear. - 5/16/2012   12:04:14 PM
  • 42
    Thanks for sharing. - 5/16/2012   11:59:51 AM
    Great advice. Thanks! - 5/16/2012   11:23:21 AM
  • 40
    Thank you for sharing this. Aside from the father part, it's like it was picked from my brain. I share a lot of the same issues being the type perfectionist and too often do not follow these tips.
    I will refer back to this often as I am someone who does not typically ask for help when needed. Thank you! - 5/16/2012   11:11:25 AM
  • 39
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful advice.
    - 5/16/2012   10:27:41 AM
    Thanks so much for sharing. I need help in asking for help. I believe I can do it my self when really I can't..God bless you at this time of great stress. - 5/16/2012   10:06:48 AM
  • 37
    You are so right about asking for help. Most people are only too happy to step up and assist, they just need to know how they can help. - 5/16/2012   9:40:26 AM
    great tips! - 5/16/2012   9:34:40 AM
  • PAYDAY10
    Been there - Done that. If I had it to do over, I would opt for in-home care for awhile because we ended up placing parents in a nursing home environment. Not the best solution but sometimes necessary (one had Alsheimers, the other severly diabetic) and we had to work to help. Assisted living is sometimes a wonderful option & doable for awhile. Nursing homes seems to be a place to wait to die. Not life to the fullest of ones abilities. Praying that I never get to that point. - 5/16/2012   9:27:44 AM
    Thank you for the blog. I am in a similar situation where I am losing my husband. Between dr appointments and working graveyard shift it doesn't get me much time to myself. I talk to a stress coach and journaling and breathing and excersizing, even if it is just a quick walk were what he recommended. And not be guilty if I can't get something done because we are not superwoman there are only so many hours in the day and enjoy what you have. - 5/16/2012   9:27:30 AM
    Nancy, this is a wonderful list - thanks for posting it! And good for you that you are taking care of yourself first. So many of us forget that part and we need reminders like your post. I agree with both you and CarolJean64 that breathing is our most fundamental stress reliever. So is laughter and I'm glad to see that you included smiling on your list. Many people don't know, but there are laughter clubs specifically designed to help us deal with grief, stress, overwhelm, and they really work! Laughter releases endorphins (feel good hormones). Twelve minutes of sustained laughter each day can lower risks for heart disease, which is the number one killer of women in the US, by ten percent. While it may at first feel crazy to be laughing out loud when dealing with a stressful family situation, it's actually one of the best things you can do for yourself. Try it, you'll like it! - 5/16/2012   9:20:39 AM
    I can identify with you I remember what my family went through when we had to put my grandmother in a home. I pray that I will never have to do the same for my parents - 5/16/2012   9:10:29 AM
  • 31
    Needed these reminders today! Thank you so much. - 5/16/2012   9:01:56 AM
  • 30
    Thanks. I'll probably need some of these advise down the road, hard times ahead... - 5/16/2012   8:56:38 AM
    This advice is spot on! We need to remember we cannot help others if we are not well ourselves. Thanks for the post. - 5/16/2012   8:45:57 AM
  • 28
    This is a great blog. Thanks to spark people I am learning to take care of myself so that I can take care of any of the emotional situations that life presents.
    Yoga has helped me more than anything.
    Running, or walking even though I did not do my planned training, over the stressful 3 months of having to look for a new home, pack up, store and unpack, whilst keeping routines for food, rest & school for my little guy & family, made everything doable. Asking my MIL for assistance (she invited us to stay), and many others were supportive of us, I just feel more connected to my community now. Happy, even when stressed if that makes sense. - 5/16/2012   8:24:07 AM
  • 27
    It's always great to read posts like this from a fellow perfectionist.... Great reminders, all. Thanks. - 5/16/2012   7:56:15 AM
  • 26
    Thanks for sharing this. We can all use a boost and reminder when we are going through things. - 5/16/2012   7:21:18 AM
    I have heard all of this before. From my mouth to someone else's ear. I'm great at giving advice, but not so good at listening to my own words of wisdom. Seeing it written by someone other than myself makes it more real somehow. And it is applicable to so many everyday life situations. Maybe now I'll take some of my/your advice to heart.


    - 5/16/2012   7:10:40 AM
  • 24
    Great tips! Very practical. It shows that they were written by someone who's going through a challenge herself. The advice reflects the reality of challenging situations. - 5/16/2012   6:58:49 AM

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