We’ve recently moved cross-country for a new job for my husband, but are now facing unemployment. We have a small baby, and all our family and friends are on the other side of the country. How did you keep going and keep hope alive during your hard times? -Heather
Oh, Heather! I read your email and my heart went out to you.
You see, we were in a very similar situation about 7 years ago when our second daughter (Kaitlynn) was born. We’d moved to Kansas City for a job for my husband and then that job situation ended up not panning out at all like we expected. Soon after Kaitlynn was born, we found ourselves in a city where we knew very few people, without a job, and with very little money.
We were committed to stay out of debt, but as the weeks wore on and no job turned up and our savings began to dwindle, it was hard to hang onto hope. And to be honest, there were many days when I felt completely overwhelmed and stressed.
But looking back, here’s the advice I would give to myself based on things I learned during that time period:
1. Practice Gratitude
You are in the middle of very difficult circumstances. Many of them are not circumstances you would have chosen for yourself.
Life feels difficult, overwhelming, and maybe just downright exhausting. But that doesn’t meant there aren’t at least a few things you can be grateful for right now.
Focus on the good things in your life — whether that’s your baby’s smile, sunshine outside, a kind word from your husband, or the smell of bread baking. If you focus on your problems, you’ll naturally feel discouraged. When you choose to look for the blessings instead, you’ll begin to notice many things to be thankful for all around you!
2. Take Care of Your Health
The last thing you should do right now is let your health slide. But when life is filled with setbacks and burdens, it’s easy to let those hard things affect our ability to make our health a priority.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, going to bed early (if possible), drinking enough water, eating well, and getting fresh air and sunshine. Investing just a little bit of time everyday in your health can give you more energy and passion for life — which will, in turn, help fuel your hope.
On the flip side, if you let your health slide — eating junk food, not exercising, staying up too late, and so forth — it will invariably affect your ability to be at the top of your game mentally and emotionally. The result will likely be that you feel discouraged and lethargic.
Related: Read my series on 15 Ways to Have More Energy.
3. Have a Daily Routine
I’ve found that if you don’t have a plan for your days, they can feel chaotic and overwhelming. But creating a simple plan will give you momentum for getting up — even during the difficult time periods.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew when it comes to a routine. Even planning just 6-10 things you’ll do in the same order every day can give you a sense of structure and peace. Plus, I find I have more energy and get more done when we have a routine!
For help with setting up a routine, check out my series on How to Develop a Routine That Works — and Stick With It!
4. Set Small Goals
You need a reason for getting up every morning. A simple routine give you some purpose for your days, but I encourage you to take it a step further and set a few small goals. This will fuel your drive and help you see some forward momentum instead of just feeling like you’re stuck in a black hole.
You can set goals for how many Swagbucks you hope to earn each day, or a cleaning project you want to tackle, or for specific steps you’re going to take to look for a part-time job. Break your big goal down into bite-sized pieces and tackle a little bit every day.
If possible, find an accountability partner/cheerleader for your goal-setting. This could be someone local, or one of your friends or family members who live miles away. Knowing you have to report to someone on your daily or weekly progress will also help you stay motivated.
5. Cultivate Beauty and Creativity
It’s amazing how refreshing beauty and creativity can be for our souls, even during dark times. Listen to music online that uplifts you, keep your home neat and organized, pick a wildflower bouquet, find a new recipe to bake on Pinterest, work on a handwork project, or learn a new skill.
Figure out what refreshes you and make that a part of your life — even if it requires a little time and effort. Seeing that drawer you organized or that bread you baked or that handwork project you finished will life your spirits.
6. Plug Into Your Community
As much as is possible, plug into your local community. See if there’s a Bible study at a local church you can join, or a mom’s group you can connect with. Go to the park and strike up a conversation with another mom there. Check your local library for possible activities they offer or for a book club you could participate in.
Keep your eyes and ears open for anyone who might be open to come over for coffee or have a play date with you. Invite your neighbors over to hang out in your backyard. Look for that woman who is all by herself at Bible study and go sit by her and ask her about herself. Be hospitable, pretend you’re an extrovert (even if you’re not!), and look for any possibility of friendship.
You don’t need to load up your schedule with dozens of social engagements, but when you are first trying to find friendship and community, you often have to be pretty proactive to make it happen. Keep at it, don’t give up if the first few invites don’t turn into lasting friendship, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll eventually find at least a few good friendships where you’re at. It will take work and effort, but it will be worth it!