No one goes through life unscathed. We all have problems from time to time. We all at times go through bumpy periods in our relationships. We all have to deal with unexpected tragedies, such as job loss, divorce or the death or illness of loved ones. As a result, stress is an inevitable part of life. Since we all have stress, the key to our contentment and happiness in life lies in how we deal with these stressful periods. If you can only be happy when every part of your life is perfect, you are going to be unhappy for the majority of your life. The key to being happy is being able to maintain your serenity, regardless of your circumstances.

Below are some strategies for Coping with hard times this New Year. Consider applying them in your own life.

Focus on What You Can Control: Here is what you can actually control in your life: You can control how you behave. You can control how you react to others and to situations. You can control how much or how little you work to achieve your goals. You can control how you spend your free time. Every other aspect of your life is outside of your control. You cannot control what others do or say. You cannot control whether people like you. You cannot control the economy or your career opportunities. You cannot control if your marriage will be successful or will end in divorce. You cannot control whether your loved ones will become ill, and you cannot control when they will die. So, spending your mental and emotional energy on these issues is pointless. To maintain your serenity in the midst of stress, it is important to spend your energy on what you can control yourself. When you are under stress, focus on what you can control yourself. If you give your mental and emotional energy to what you cannot control, you will make yourself miserable. If you solely focus on what you yourself are able to do to improve the situation, you will feel more at peace.

Ignore Negative Feedback: The older I get, the more I realize that the negative feedback that I receive is rarely about me. Why? Because people are only critical of others when they are unhappy with themselves. Outside of parents and teachers, people rarely criticize to help or teach other people. Unhappy people typically point out the imperfections of others to make themselves feel better. So, for the most part, the negative feedback that you receive from others is not useful. As a result, you have to develop a thick skin and ignore those negative comments. But you also need to become adept at selfassessment. While trusting the criticisms of others is a bad idea, you can’t live in LaLa Land. You may be a lovely person, but you aren’t perfect. No one is. So, you need to try to look at yourself in a loving, but objective manner. You also shouldn’t listen to anyone’s opinion as to what you can or cannot accomplish.

Have unshakable confidence: What we all seek is unshakeable confidence. We want to be confident in our skills, ability and appearance, no matter what type of feedback that we receive from others. If you have confidence issues, you are not alone. People can struggle with their confidence for a variety of reasons. Some people didn’t have parents who encouraged them. Some may have suffered failures and can’t seem to rebound back from them. Others may have had their confidence undermined by unfortunate circumstances that happened. Unfortunately, the world can be a very critical place. As a result, your selfesteem has to come from within. If you rely on positive feedback from the world in order to feel good about yourself, the world effectively will hold your confidence hostage. You will like yourself only when others happen to approve of you. That is a terrible way to live.

Focus on Your Qualities: Not one of us is perfect. But God has blessed each of us with certain talents and attributes. The world will have you focus on what you lack. But I implore you to instead focus on what God has given you. That is the mental switch that you need to make in order to be confident. This is particularly hard for women. We can be very critical of our appearances. For example, if you don’t have a perfect, little nose, don’t give it any thought. Instead, focus on the fact that you have been blessed with beautiful eyes or healthy, long hair. Alternatively, you may have funny looking feet. Well, so what? Stick shoes on them, and instead focus on the fact that you have a great figure. You have to forget the idea that you are going to be perfect or the best at anything. The reality is that there will always be someone in the world who is smarter, more accomplished, or more attractive than you are. And that is OK. Because none of those people is the beautiful, unique package of attributes that makes up you. Each of us brings something unique to the world. It took me a long time to understand that God created me with a certain appearance, intellect and skills for a reason. I now am confident that God knew what He was doing when he created me. He knew what he was doing when he created you too. Now, our only job is to use the body and brains that God has given us in order to fulfill our purpose on this earth.

Have Positive Distractions: Typically, I am not a big fan of distractions. I don’t care for watching television, unless it is to watch news. I like to read books and blogs, but I generally read ones which educate me about a topic. Indulging in entertainment is not something that I do on a daily basis. All that being said, there is a place for distractions. When you are under stress, by all means, indulge in positive distractions. Read books that transport you to another place and time. Watch movies or television shows that are light and funny. Do wholesome things to get your mind off your immediate problem. Unfortunately, you can’t solve your problem by focusing all your mental energy on it. If only that were the case That approach is recipe for driving yourself crazy. Instead, once you have done all that you can to improve the situation, give your brain a break. By engaging in positive distractions, you can give yourself that much needed mental break from what is causing you stress. Then when you return to the situation, you will be refreshed and ready to face it with a clear head.

Remember That This Too Shall Pass: Life is not static. It is constantly changing. If you look back over the course of the last year, I am sure that will be surprised at how much your life has changed in these last short 12 months. So, when facing a stressful situation, try to be mindful that these circumstances will not last forever. I remember when I was in the middle of getting divorced, I thought, “How will I manage this stress?”

Comforting thought for the month

This year, focus on developing unshakeable confidence, focus on your abilities, Ignore Negative Feedback and Focus on What You Can Control also remember that whatever you are facing at the moment too shall pass. Create a confidence within you that is surrounded by a wall that cannot be penetrated by the outside world. Remember that you are God’s perfect creation. He made you in a certain way for a specific purpose. Be confident that He knew what He was doing and be confident in yourself. Life simply does not stay the same. Our circumstances constantly change. And if you work hard, are kind and keep a good attitude, very often your circumstances will change for the better. So, take solace in the fact that any situation that you are facing is temporary. Practice using the above strategies the next time that you face a stressful situation. Maintaining your serenity in stressful situations initially will not come naturally. It will be something that you have to work at. However, over time, it will become easier, and you will be able to maintain your serenity in all situations.