Personal growth is that shiny object we all gravitate toward to some extent, even if we don’t really know what it means or how to satisfy the craving. Just the term alone has such a great ring to it and many of us feel drawn to work on ourselves in one way or another; whether it’s reading a great book during our downtime, continuing our education and training or attending workshops and retreats. Yet, when life throws us real challenges, personal growth and our daily practices can be the first things to fall away while we navigate the fallout of what’s happening around – or within us.

Personal growth is a continuous process of learning to become the best version of ourselves we can be. It’s an ongoing journey that involves getting out of our comfort zone, settling into a practice of self-reflection and taking consistent daily action. The term itself refers to several approaches and techniques for improving our attitudes, behaviors and interactions with others. Ultimately, self-improvement is a means of breaking out of old patterns and ways of being that no longer serve us, so that we might launch into the person we’re meant to become.

Sounds exciting, right? It can be, for sure, and embarking on a path of personal growth demands that we be more committed to our evolution than we are to our reasons and excuses. It requires, first and foremost, an honest desire to make changes in our lives and a willingness to go the distance and do whatever is required for that evolution to occur. Sometimes that leaves us standing in a doorway and needing to make a clear choice about whether to stay in the past or move courageously forward.

Sometimes we wake up with the desire to grow as a result of experiencing a loss, a breakup or divorce, a career change or any one of life’s struggles. Other times, the trigger can be watching an inspiring movie, attending a workshop or training, having what they refer to as a “spiritual experience” or even reading a great book. Sometimes it’s sparked by being around certain people.

Once on the path of self-development, we begin to manifest things we only once dreamed of. Our self-confidence is boosted and we’re able to make clear choices that are aligned with who we truly are. Some of our relationships grow stronger and more meaningful, while others fall away in order to support our continued growth. We aspire to understand ourselves at a deeper level and have learned that sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. We strive for personal and professional excellence and we also seek new ways of connecting with our people, our communities and the world as a whole. Life becomes overall better and, while it’s not always easy, life has taken on a new hue and we are feeling more inspired, fulfilled and purposeful. Until the moment when life throws us an unexpected curveball.

Let’s be real: life can be extremely challenging at times and it can even seem as though we’ve been targeted by the powers that be to deal with circumstances that are just plain unfair. To a person who is consistently tending to their personal growth, most hiccups are easily recognized as being ordinary everyday life “stuff”. We’ve learned to ride the wave, so to speak, and to go with the flow of things to see where it takes us. It’s usually not too much of a stretch to find the opportunity or the learning within our experiences. Yet, when the big waves roll in and we’re sent tumbling below the surface, it’s hard to know which way is up or down. And this is precisely when it’s most crucial for us to remain focused on and anchored into our daily practices.

This is also the most difficult time for many people because, depending on the circumstances, we may experience difficulty even functioning in daily life. When things go way south, we may be managing to get through the days, the hours or the moments; sometimes walking around in a daze, while other times being in the thrust of our anger, our sadness or hurt, our fear, our guilt or our grief – maybe even all of the above. It can be hard to see beyond the moment we are currently in, let alone find the energy or strength to do the things that usually energize, ground and inspire us. When life feels as though it’s falling apart around us, we’re thrust into fight or flight and our sole focus is on spiritual, mental, emotional or physical survival.

Of course, we know at a conscious level that we need to be adhering to self-care and our personal practices and yet it feels just out of reach. We know what we need to do and it’s just too much of a stretch right now. It’s not a question of reconnecting to the tools and techniques we’ve adopted, it’s a matter of how. How do we find the strength, the focus, the fortitude to get back there in desperate times? Here are a few tips for achieving personal growth during challenging times.

 

1. Allow Yourself to Feel into Your Emotions

One of the biggest mistakes we make is to avoid feeling into our mental and emotional discomfort. We tend to sprint to the nearest distraction in the hopes we can avoid the reality we’re currently experiencing and, unfortunately, this only creates baggage that we end up carrying with us into future experiences. Instead, allow yourself to just sit and breathe while allowing yourself to be with whatever you’re feeling for as long as it takes. This helps you to metabolize your thoughts and emotions, allowing them to pass through you.

 

2. Lean on Your Close Friends

Having close family members or friends to sit and talk with when you just need to fall apart can be incredibly cathartic. Many of us tend to isolate ourselves when the going gets rough. Allowing someone you trust to be there for you—to offer advice, to simply listen or just to sit in silence—helps us let go of our protective mechanisms and just free-fall into another. Allow yourself to just be held in the space you’re in without judgment or expectation.

 

3. Do 1 Thing Each Day to Remind Yourself How Amazing You Are

Chances are, there’s been at least 1 inspiring event in your life that you can call upon to remind you that you aren’t what is happening to you right now – you’re simply moving through a difficult time – and you WILL be ok. Make a list of your positive qualities, even though you may not be feeling so positive in the moment and ask yourself which of those qualities you need to draw upon to help you get through this time. Journal about it, meditate on it and do your best to feel into the energy of that quality.

 

4. Spend Time in Meditation

Meditation anchors you into the present moment, which may not exactly be the place you are wanting to be when in challenging times. And, that being said, silence is our greatest teacher. In those moments when you are connected to your breath and feeling yourself relaxed and nested, repeating your mantra will take you to deeper levels of consciousness where you’re able to transcend your thoughts, connecting you to who you truly are at the core of your being. It’s here where you settle into the oneness of all that is, even if just for a period of time. You may find that guided meditations tailored to what you’re going through are more suitable during tough times.

 

5. Practice Self-Care

Never underestimate the power in nourishing yourself through healthy food, exercise and restful sleep. While these things may be a challenge in themselves when you’re dealing with bigger problems, the best thing you can do for yourself is to choose wisely what you put in your body, to be sure you’re moving your body and that you’re sleeping soundly. Fresh pressed juices and lighter meals are ideal when the body-mind is stressed. Some people like to exercise hard when trouble sets in, while others prefer to be guided through a yoga class or take a nice stroll in nature. As you wind down in the evening, light a candle or a fire, do some journaling, take a hot bath (or shower), maybe infuse some essential oils in the air to help soothe your mind and emotions.

Cultivating emotional intelligence, leaning on others, reminding yourself of your magnificence, meditating and practicing self-care are some of the primary pillars of well-being, and they also enable us to grow and evolve even through the most difficult of times.