"Boom-boom! Pow! Can you feel that? Boom-boom! Pow!" There are days when these lyrics remind me more of the overwhelming stress that can hit us from all sides like bombs exploding once-stable air. Like when you find out you have lost your job with no option in sight "Boom!" your spouse leaves because that he/she is in love with someone else. "Boom!" and you are told that it is time to put your 15-year-old Golden Retriever to sleep. "Pow!"
Life will deliver blows, knocking you off balance with a sense of weakening confusion and a total loss of how to get your shaking, bruised feet back under you again. And when the "Boom!" feels the strongest, it can leave you feeling paralyzed from your head to your soul. You can't even remember what it feels like to "be normal."
You ask yourself, "Will I ever feel strong again?"
You are not alone. Let me share something with you. Over the past year, I have used web analytics to see what people are typing into search engines to find my inspiration-based blog. I kept asking myself, "What are people really looking for?" What I discovered touched me deeply. The most commonly searched words that bring people to my site are:
Every hour of every day, people are seeking ways to pull themselves out of crisis and feel "normal" again -- feel strong again. I've been there, too, and it is the main reason why I was led to become a therapist. So I am writing this in hopes of helping you find your strength again, too.
First, here is what I believe completely: you can.
It is inspiring to know that you really can do something to make yourself stronger. Since part of survival is accepting that you cannot change outside circumstances or people, it is imperative to accept and feel empowered by the realization that you can transform yourself. It's a super power. Yes, you can, and here are some pointers to help you get there.
10 Ways to Build Inner Strength
1. Look back on your survival instincts of the past. Remind yourself of times when you survived, got through challenges, and even surprised yourself. See strength in your own abilities and fighting power. Don't underestimate your own resilience. You have roared before and will roar again.
2. Trust your inner pilot light -- your core. Find power in your inner self and know that you were created with a spirit as your force field, even if it feels weakened. Your glow is not extinguishable, and it was created to rekindle itself.
3. Focus on the story of your entire life beyond the crisis. Practice seeing yourself rise above the pain, looking back and peering forward at the values, experiences and goals of your whole life. Remind yourself that you are bigger than this, and that you will get back to you again. You have a lot of living yet to do.
4. Lean on your "trusted few" -- friends, family, or counselors who know you and who will root for you without judgment. Ask for understanding, encouragement and TLC. Ask them to remind you of your strengths and listen to them. That is why these blessed relationships are in your life, and one day, you might do the same for them.
5. Find motivation from your outer strength. The key to feeling strong is holistically creating a solid foundation. While your energy levels might be low, make sure that you are doing something -- anything -- to tend to your physical self. Lift weights (even if they are soup cans), walk in nature, feed your body healthy food and get your sleep.
6. Make real attempts to be surrounded by positive people and atmospheres that make you feel good, energized and motivated. Limit any time around negative people or energy. Exit if you are starting to feel bad about yourself. Stay longer if you are feeling inspired.
7. Keep a "feel-good folder" of emails, letters and compliments that remind you how fierce you are. Anytime you receive a compliment that makes you feel strong, save it in a real or electronic file. You will likely forget the praise when you are at your lowest, and this will give you evidence of the positive effects you have on people's lives. Let these words validate your worth, breathing hope over you again.
8. Carve out time to do that thing that you are really good at. Part of pulling yourself out of a sad place is reminding your body how to release endorphins back into your system. A quick way to do this is to do what you have loved in the past -- your system will reward you. Do you love playing piano? Painting? Writing? Singing? Crafting? Working on cars? Skiing? Whatever made you feel good about you in the past is what your body needs right now. Often.
9. Do something meaningful in the meantime, as time will keep passing anyway. These were some of the wisest words ever spoken to me and why I started volunteering and taking classes after the bottom dropped out of my world. They were actually the two things that ended up making me feel the strongest in the long run. Volunteer. Create something. Finish your degree. Paint that room. Be constructive and your heart will strengthen while you're not looking.
10. Develop and nurture a spiritual connection to a higher power, a purpose greater than this. Ask for spiritual guidance, comfort and grounding in your journey. Stay open to receiving divine gifts in the most wonderful, surprising ways, and believe that you deserve them when they show up. Meditate. Pray. Be mindful. Trust that you are going to move past this thing and that the universe wants that for you as well.