10 Tips to Stay on Track When Life Gets Tough

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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EVIE4NOW 11/15/2020
Thanks for the reminder. Life isn't always perfect and it's up to us to adapt. Report
Go with the flow. Remember, in 50 years no one will know or care. Report
Thanks Report
I'd add don't stress if you can't lose weight or actually gain weight. Stress will do that to you. Focus on good food and exercise while working out your problems. I have just been through 2 years of that and know what I am talking about Report
great tips Report
Great Tips! Thanks for sharing! Report
Very helpful article. My emotional plate has been heaping full due to many circumstances. During prolonged periods of depression in the middle of family health crises, I interpreted admonishions from friends and family to “take care of yourself” to mean eat some more pie, cookies, ice cream, and bread. I’m done with that now. I won’t beat myself up for my choices. I’ll make better choices now. This article is very encouraging. Report
Thanks you for sharing.
I m one who thinks they can handle it all and don't like asking for help.. Report
Great tips! Thanks! Report
Thank you Report
I'm good with all but the *smiling* thing - women are constantly being pressured to smile despite having rough times...….this is not only horribly sexist, but also brings on health issues to have to hide your feelings to "keep appearances" or "put on a brave face/put on the big girl pants and deal".....I'm getting tired of that kind of pressure myself......women, it's OK NOT to smile! Trust and believe! Report
Good basic reminders. Report
Information we all can use Report
Thanks for a great article! :) Report
Rasy doesn't enter into adult life Report
Thanks for sharing. I’m going through the same thing right now with my mom. It’s so true that it helps to share with others and to know that our feelings are normal in such stressful times. Report
I so needed to read this article -- stressful out of work situation. Great tips for coping! Report
Sometimes the hardest thing to remember is that it is okay to be human and not super-human. giving the power over to someone else to assist is the hardest thing for me to do. I am sure it is the same with many of you, as well. Report
Thanks for the share! Report
Great tips! Thanks! Report
This hits me hard as I’m struggling with so much. Sometimes, it’s hard to exercise (go to the gym) when I just want to be alone and curl up with a book and focus on me. It’s learninf about priorities I guess... Report
from my experience: do the best you can and don't obsess about a) what you didn't do, b) what you should have done, c) what you could have done better. Report
Everything written is so true having just lived it. Report
Deep grief can be monumental and debilitating. Being the caregiver for my husband while he had brain cancer was tough. Losing my mom to cancer was tough. This grief after losing my husband is agony. I do use SP to keep my thoughts at bay. Report
I so need this article today I am looking for inner strength to stay on track. Report
Great tips!!! It is SO important to deep breath and remind ourselves to RELAX. And remember this is temporary. THIS TOO SHALL PASS!!! Report
This too, shall pass, SparkFriend. Keep your eye on the prize. Report
All the things you have listed ring so true. I learned to prioritize daily things better when I moved my parents in a year ago, and took on the role of caregiver. It was a balancing act, and to survive I learned to let certain things slide, what I needed to focus on daily as the most important, let others help in the household, and to sleep and rest when I could especially when I undertook being the sole caregiver for my dad when he entered into home hospice here. Exercise for stress, call friends for jokes, know sometimes crying jags are "just emotional poop" as my friend told me- not a weakness, and be grateful for each day. Report
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! Report
Correction.., i finally got sick myself. Apologies for the masdive typo Report
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. Report
Thank you Report
great tips. Thank you. Keeping healthy snacks in my purse is one I practice. Report
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 !
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! Report
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 Report
Thanks for the reminders.....just what I needed today!
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
When life gets stressful I eat... this is where I have to stop! I love these too.. I am printing them for my fridge. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
My mantra is "Crisis is temporary". Remind yourself of this. "This too shall pass." Report

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 Report
Great blog! Very helpful! Report
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. Report
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. Report
Thanks! I wish there was a way to give this info to folks as they need it. Wonderful advice. Report
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 Report