Too often, the feeling of being in a dark hole, completely alone in my misery, overwhelms me. Feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy, and even stupidity assault me. When I am in this dark place within, compliments do not reach me. A visit from a friend might temporarily bring me to a happier place, but afterwards, I soon slip back into my mud hole of misery.
What is so frustrating is that, logically, I know I should not allow myself to feel these emotions—if I could just focus my thoughts on positive things, these dark moments would fade away, like a fog hit with the sun’s bright rays. However, this is much easier said than done.
So, please know that as I share the following with you, that I speak from a place of too familiar experience. These are helps in moving us from these dark holes in our lives, but I have learned that sometimes we are called to simply endure through the darkness, trusting that light will come. We are asked to stay true, even though we feel that the end is nowhere in sight. Perhaps this is our particular thorn in the flesh: this inner struggle against the demons of self-doubt.
I offer four keys that have helped me to unlock the door to my own dark prison during these times of struggle. These are in no particular order. Sometimes one tool works better than others. I have learned to do all of these activities on a regular basis to keep myself in a better place.
- Take care of your physical body. Eat right and exercise. Maybe all you can manage is a walk around the block because you are completely emotionally depleted. That is okay. Just focus on walking to the corner and coming back. Just that little bit will help!
Make healthy food choices—junk food is comforting, but sugars and fats do NOT help our bodies and our emotions!
- Take time for self-care. Allow yourself to nurture your own soul. What activity soothes you and makes you feel joy?
For myself, I enjoy hot chocolate with a good book out in my garden. I also find strength in being in nature. Sometimes, I just need time with a true friend—the kind who will sit together in pajamas and just BE, with no expectations. I have found my spirits lifted by simply buying a pack of bubble gum and blowing bubbles like I did as a teen. The activity doesn’t matter, what matters is that it feeds a part of your soul and brings a bit of joy to the gloom.
Taking care of our emotional needs allows us to better serve those around us.
- DO what needs done. Make a list of three things that need done and DO them. Maybe your house is beyond a mess. Focus on clearing off the couch. Then focus on clearing off the counter. As you do one small task after another, you will discover that you feel lighter and better able to accomplish some of the bigger tasks that felt too overwhelming before you began.
Often, I am surprised at the lift my spirits receive when I tackle a task that felt overwhelming, only to discover that I was capable of doing it! (Then I feel a bit stupid for not having just done it sooner and saved myself the moments of doubt and uncertainty!)
- This is my favorite of all of the keys because it is the most powerful: Gratitude!
I keep a small blank notebook by my bedside and every night before praying, I take a moment and write down at least three things I am grateful for. (As a child, I saw this idea on Oprah and it stuck with me!) Sometimes my list is far longer than three items … and sometimes, when I am struggling most with the demons of despair, it takes me a long time to think of three.
What I have experienced, no matter how dark my emotions as I begin, is that as I ponder about what I have experienced that day that I am truly grateful for … every time, my heart has been lifted. There is power in gratitude.
This habit of taking time at the end of the day to write down things which I am grateful for has often opened my eyes to Heavenly Father’s tender care for me and His perfect awareness of things that bring me joy.
Something as simple as my daughter sleepily rolling over in her sleep to hug me good night is something to be grateful for, after a long day of struggling with feelings of failure as a mother.
Something as simple as noticing how beautifully blue the sky is, makes me then think of my husband’s blue eyes, which makes me grateful that the Lord blessed me with such a wonderful man, who stands by my side, even in my doldrums.
Gratitude is truly a powerful, powerful aid during these dark moments in our lives—as is prayer and the loving support of those around us. The truth is: every one of us has these moments of misery.
Loneliness and doubt might simply be a part of our human experience. Perhaps through experiencing these emotions, we come to rely more upon God’s love for us. I do not fully understand why we struggle, but I do hope that these four ideas will help bring a measure of peace.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.