How to sustain gratitude during life's most challenging moments

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know I just moved from Washington, D.C. to Detroit – my hometown. While this move came with a promotion, a position I can truly grow in, and the ability to see my family far more often than I have in the past 4 years, it also came with major life adjustments.

In DC, I commuted on foot, by metro, or by Uber – in the “Motor City,” you can imagine I do a lot of driving (think 2-3 hours a day in a car). I now leave my house around 6:45 a.m., tote 3 bags (my work bag, lunch, and gym bag), smash out a workout at a small gym near my office in Downtown Detroit after work, and get home around 8 or 9 at night. I tried waking up at 4:30 in the morning, rushing through my workout at a gym near my parent’s house, and getting ready alongside countless women in the locker room, but it just wasn’t my jam. I had to give up my old “routine” of 5 a.m. workouts in my kick-butt apartment gym in DC, and enjoying homemade omelets before heading off to work a mile away.

Was my commute better on the East Coast? Without a doubt! Was I able to see my fiancé every day and enjoy life together? 100 percent. But life is ever-changing, and this likely won’t be the last time I move, so I decided to use this as an opportunity to refine my resiliency. I had to stop comparing my circumstances to what I had before, because they are two entirely different times in my life. In today’s age of instant gratification, I believe gratitude and resiliency is a lost art form. To quote the ever-resilient Helen Keller, “Some much has been given to me; I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.”

Let that sink in: a woman who was deaf, mute, and blind found gratitude despite getting dealt arguably some of the worst cards in life. She was labeled as “disabled” and “less than,” but she never once let that affect her gratitude for what she did have. Helen Keller epitomizes what it means to have a resilient spirit, and is someone we should all admire.

Expect Stress

If you’re going through a tough transition, and your spirit is weary, you might benefit from a few tips I’ve found helpful in my own journey:

Be prepared physically, emotionally, and mentally to undergo a bit of stress for the first few weeks, maybe even months. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, I think it takes double that to adjust to a new routine. When you have realistic expectations about how your new life will function, it will be 1,000 times easier to adjust.

Control the controllable

Who is here is a control freak? Yep, me too! I was recently asked by a college student how I handle the constant stress of life and the “fear of the unknown,” to which I said, “I control what I can – my reaction.” I don’t just mean my emotional reaction, but also my preparation. I make all my lunches on Sunday, not because I love cooking for 1-2 hours on the weekend, but because I know my work week will be considerably less stressful (and fiscally sound) when I have lunch ready to go each morning. I also try to control my reaction to things like traffic, last-minute requests at work, etc. by remembering – literally – this is not rocket science. I am not curing cancer. Not one life will be lost by messing up a report, or creating a PowerPoint presentation, and for that, I’m thankful! I cannot begin to imagine the stress our military, first responders, and police officers undergo throughout their careers.

Repeat after me: “This is not forever”

On a daily basis I have to remind myself that my current situation is not forever. Inevitably, your situation will change – you will move, get that new job, meet the “right guy, and graduate – I promise you that. What I can also promise you is that it won’t happen all at once, and that is OKAY. Life throws you curve balls; there’s never knowing what will happen today, tomorrow, or ten years down the line, but that’s what makes life so beautiful. Embrace the hardships and you will enjoy the blessings much more.

Find joy in every day

Even if it is for 5 minutes, seek out joy every day. I don’t know what tough time you’re going through right now, but I guarantee you can afford 5 minutes each day to find joy. Take a walk, call your mom, breathe deeply, listen to your favorite song, pet a stranger’s dog, look at the sky – there are so many little blessings we overlook when we’re busy living life, but they can really carry you through some tough times.

Whether you take all my advice, some of it, or none of it at all, I hope your perspective has shifted just a smidge in the positive direction!