I spent most of my life certain that life was too hard for me to handle. I was not cut out for this sad and miserable existence that was basically a game where humans are perpetually playing roles, or “acting” (faking?). Life just felt too overwhelming for me and I didn’t want to “play” anymore.
The thought of having to endure a life like this for many more decades made me severely depressed. Unless perhaps it’s because I was depressed that I was seeing things this way? I’m not sure.
But anyway, lately my opinion on the topic has evolved. Thank God. I’m now beginning to understand that yes, life is hard but often, we are also the ones making it harder on ourselves, and others.
Why is life so miserable and sad?
Don’t get me wrong, life can be incredibly difficult and sad, and it never stops. But as Jordan Peterson said in one of his YouTube videos** : “Life is a tragedy, but you can make it hell or you can try and make it better”.
The world, or “life”, is not inherently good or bad (except perhaps in very rare cases?). We are the ones interpreting everything through our own individual “filters”: our senses, past experiences, values, thinking patterns, what we know, what we don’t know, etc.
We create our perception of life and reality, so if you see everything as being great or everything as tragic, you are most likely contributing to those things appearing one way or the other.
This isn’t to say that some of us don’t have obvious challenges, but sometimes, (often?), we erect the barriers ourselves.
Here are a few ways I was making (and keep making) my life harder, and how you probably are too.
1. Are you seeking help? Are you giving your mind and your body the respect they deserve or do you just shamelessly abuse them?
If you feel incapable of handling most situations life throws your way, or if life just generally seems too hard for you to handle, have you taken the time to consider you could be dealing with depression? Have you tried asking for help or advice from professionals, but also family and/or friends?
Disclaimer: I only share my personal experience here regarding my own mental (and physical) health journey. The information contained on this blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your doctor or other medical experts regarding your health.
Your physical and mental health is important. If you don’t take proper care of your mind and body, they will let you know… by getting sick. But most people, and for the longest time I used to be one of them, take their mind and their body for granted without even realize they are doing it.
Or worse, you see people who are obviously struggling but they just completely shut you out the second you bring up the words “depression”, “therapist”, or “diet”.
Check out this book by Dr. Gabor Maté: When the body says no, the cost of hidden stress. I highly recommend it.
The thing is, sometimes we simply lack the knowledge and perspective to see what’s wrong with our behavior. That is exactly why we should seek help from professionals, from people more knowledgeable than we are and who will teach us how to understand and manage our physical and mental needs better.
Ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist (like a psychologist) instead of waiting for him to magically guess that you have mental health issues. You are the only one responsible for your well-being.
And don’t give up on finding help simply because you didn’t find adequate support the first few times you tried asking for it. Keep searching. It’s important to find help, but mostly it’s important to find the right help.
Speaking from my own experience, only one therapist out of many made me feel heard and actually helped me get better.
2. Are you making time for the things that bring you pleasure?
Have you considered the possibility that your life might be so miserable and difficult because you only do things that make you miserable?
When life gets too hard, we find strength and meaning in the things that make us feel good. If we never do those things that are good for our soul but instead spend our time doing things we hate or are obliged to do, we might end up, in the long run, in a constant state of misery.
Heck! You might not even know what things are good for your soul because you never gave them any importance and instead you spend all your time and energy doing things you think you are supposed to do.
I did that for 30 years.
Related article: 12 reasons why you are miserable even when things are good
Some cultures, more than others, appear to value that “work hard”/“hustle” mentality at the expense of everything else as if there was dignity in systematically killing yourself for your job or “responsibilities”.
You know, a martyr behavior.
Do you know what happens when you are constantly behaving like a martyr? You are constantly miserable.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t work hard for the things you want or care about. Au contraire! You should. But there is something called balance, and another thing called meaning (i.e., what is the meaning behind what you do).
3. Are you simplifying your life?
Life is too hard and overwhelming because we overwhelm ourselves with a bunch of stuff that don’t matter: physical and mental stuff, relationships, etc.
Want to stop feeling like life is too hard or overwhelming? Then it’s time to become painfully selective and start embracing simplicity and minimalism. Build a habit of systematically getting rid of all the things that are unworthy of your physical and mental space.
We don’t need much to be happy. We need nature, food, a safe place to sleep, and we need love.
By the way, “needing love” is not just about receiving love from others. It’s first and foremost about you loving yourself (not in a narcissistic way but in a “kind” way), and about giving love.
Related article: How do you give (and receive) more love when there’s no one around?
Back to the “stuff” that don’t matter.
Have you been carrying around a lot of stuff that add extra weight on your shoulders?
- Do you have credit card debt that you are avoiding?
- Is your house over-crowded with furniture you need to constantly clean//replace/repair?
- Is your closet overflowing with clothes you don’t even wear or that no longer fit?
- Are you constantly bombarded by alerts on your phone from your 16 social media apps?
Clutter. Every way you look at it, clutter has a cost. It’s costing you energy, attention, time, money, mental space, and it’s weighing you down. What you own you worry about.
But understand that minimalism is not only about stuff. It’s a way of life.
Related article: All that stuff you own is ruining your life
4. Do you set boundaries?
Perhaps one of the reasons why you feel like life is too hard or too difficult for you to handle is because you accept too much on your plate.
Something I used to do a lot in the past was to either blame others for my misery or pretend I didn’t have a choice.
Playing martyr and victim are the least empowering behaviors you could adopt. Seriously, get rid of that mentality or you will just spend the rest of your life enduring life instead of enjoying it.
Related article: This is why your life will never change.
But setting boundaries can seem hard, at first, because it takes self-awareness and courage.
Playing martyr is the bogus reason we give ourselves so we don’t have to go through the painful act of personal transformation and learn new behaviors.
This is why we prefer playing victim or martyr: it lets us off the hook. Why should you do anything to alter your own behavior? You are not the problem, others are.
5. Do you carry resentment in your heart?
When you carry resentment in your heart, it’s like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die (I’m not sure who said this).
This statement is true.
If you are resentful, bitter, vengeful, or if you carry negative feelings towards another person/other people/mankind in general, then you are making your own life even more difficult, and miserable. You are poisoning your own heart with your own thoughts.
Forgiveness is hard and sometimes you can spend years trying to figure out how to do it. It’s not even that you don’t want to forgive, sometimes you just can’t seem to figure out the way to get there!
Well, keep trying.
If you are in a permanent state of resentment, it will make your life more miserable.
Remember that you are not the slave of your thoughts, but most humans allow themselves to be.
Make it a priority to constantly mind the quality of your thoughts and rid your heart of negative feelings.
6. Are you present, or do you over-analyze everything in your head?
Do you know what makes life appear so difficult? You constantly trying to “solve” it in your head. Over-analyzing things, trying to find rational explanations with words is what makes everything overly complicated and overwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong, I am an over-analyzer, or I used to be, so I get it.
But I don’t think we have the intellectual capacity to “understand life” (whatever that means).
Maybe I’m wrong, but my interpretation after three years of meditation practice is that in order to be “happier”, we need to stop giving so much importance to what is happening in our head, and just feel things, the way they are in the present.
When you feel like life is too hard to handle and there’s too much crap going on, perhaps it’s because you’ve been spending too much time “up there”, in your head, and not enough time down there, “in your belly”. In your center. Breathing.
Go outside and admire a tree for 30 minutes. I’m serious.
And no, you will not find “the answer” to “life” in the 70th blog article you’ve read today (yes, including this one). People cannot “give you” the answer. They can give you clues, maybe? But at some point, you just have to stop and feel and appreciate the present for what it is.
7. Do you cultivate self-awareness?
You might find that life is sad and miserable because you are not living the life you want.
And no, by “life you want” I don’t mean sitting on your ass all day eating grapes. Trust me, that would not be a fulfilling life in the long term. I mean, are you living in alignment with your true needs and desires?
(Of course, I speak from a Westerner’s point of view, with all the advantages and opportunities that this implies).
Do you know what your deepest feelings, desires, and motives are? And if yes, do you act in accordance with those things, or do you keep stifling your heart’s voice?
“Human life becomes beautiful, not because we do the right things. Human life becomes beautiful because we put our heart into what we’re doing” Sadhguru
Self-awareness is defined as the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires (source: Oxford Languages), or the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection (source: Positive Psychology).
Are you self-aware and do you act accordingly? Are you paying attention to yourself? To your self-talk? (Oh, and btw, constantly obsessing over your thoughts is not self-awareness).
Some ways you can improve your self-awareness include, but are not limited to:
- Writing in a journal. (I will not shut up about journaling! I think everybody would benefit from writing down their feelings so I wrote an entire article on the benefits of journaling and how to start one here).
- Mindset coaching.
- Talking to a friend.
- Creative activities like writing poetry, painting.
8. How are you maintaining your life the way it is?
Are you taking consistent steps to make your life less hard, difficult, or miserable?
If you hate, but I mean hate everything about your job, are you searching for another one? Looking for a side hustle? Creating a plan to get out of debt so you can focus on doing the things that make you happier? Educating yourself and preparing for a change of careers?
If you are exhausted, are you resting? I mean resting; I don’t mean slouching in front of your laptop every night.
Are you seeking professional help to help you make sense of all your unresolved issues (psychological, financial, health, mindset, etc.)?
All that complaining, over-analyzing, escapism (social media, streaming, drugs, alcohol, parties, oversleeping)… these are all coping mechanisms to ESCAPE having to face your life and do what needs to be done to change it.
Complaining that life is hard is easier than having to change your behavior.
Well, the truth is, it’s not really easier, it just appears that way but it comes at a subtle, but high cost: our long-term health and happiness.
9. Are you accepting, or are you resisting?
“Suffering is the non-acceptance of what is”
Here’s the thing, acceptance has nothing to do with apathy or resignation. I think acceptance simply means being realistic with where you are. It doesn’t mean that your situation is fair, or okay, or good, or bad. It just is.
How the hell can you get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are with all that it entails?
“What you resist, persists. Face, embrace, erase”
Stop lying to yourself. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Stop avoiding the pain. It only prolongs it.
Make an audit of your current situation, accept where you are, accept responsibility for your part of the equation, and give yourself the time you need to heal, and then the tools to change it, if that’s what you want to do.
It’s not about “life” being “too hard” or “miserable” or “sad” or “overly complicated”, but rather: what about your life do you find hard and why? Ok, so now, what are you going to do about it?
- You are tired? Take a long break.
- Are you sick? Go see a doctor, and be tenacious.
- Don’t have the means to pay for therapy? Find ways to earn more money, or raise some, or sell your crap, or start saving.
- Are you depressed? Find a therapist. You don’t like your therapist? Find another one.
- You are miserable in your relationship? Work on it, or break up.
- You hate being around other humans? Talk to a therapist about it, try coaching, work on yourself or get a career online and move to a remote community somewhere.
10. You don’t care about others “the right way”
I know, life can be so overwhelming it feels as if you can barely keep your head above water. So when someone tells you that you should put more focus on others instead of yourself, your reaction might be: “Wait, what? You want me to drown?”.
And I get it. As a matter of fact, I believe when you are struggling in life and are drowning, you should take time to rest and take care of yourself first.
Related article: How do you heal a wounded mind?
However, I think one of the reasons why, for many of us, it might feel impossible to go through life is because we put:
- waaay too much focus on what other people think of us, i.e., their opinions, expectations, judgments, etc.
- but not enough focus on helping other people, i.e., creating an impact, serving those less fortunate than we are, sharing what we have, etc.
Basically, we put a magnifying glass on our problems because we are so self-centered, but then we think we “care” about others when in fact, we are doing it wrong.
The first situation (a) is a reactive state where you keep reacting to others and thus, you never do, or figure out, what you want or think. Whereas for b), you are in a more active state, which not only makes you feel empowered but also provides more opportunities for self-expression, creativity, gratitude, connections, etc. All things good for the soul.
You should care, to some degree, what other people think of you but if not done right, you can find yourself in impossible situations that simply make your life miserable.
Related article: How to stop caring what other people think…. Well, sorta.
But I strongly believe that the key to a happier, more meaningful life is one where you focus a little less on the Self and more on helping others and creating a positive difference in their lives.
11. Where is your focus?
“Focus is controlled by questions. If you ask a different question continuously, you will get a different answer. Lousy questions create lousy answers. Ask a better question and you will get a better answer” (Tony Robbins)
This is probably one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever received (indirectly!) and one that has truly changed my life.
Human beings are problem solvers. If you keep asking yourself “Why is life so hard? Is life supposed to be this hard?”, etc., your brain will get to work to either look for the answers to exactly those questions or find information to reinforce those beliefs.
When you frame it in terms of “How do I get through life?”, sounds to me that life is something you are enduring, don’t you think it?
So, if you keep asking “How can I endure life”, you will get just that: a life you are enduring; not enjoying. But if you shift your focus to different questions, better questions, more empowering ones, you will find different answers.
Yes, I said you shift your focus; this is an active, conscious activity. Don’t just wait for your brain to send you different questions; it won’t.
Different, more empowering questions you could ask yourself are:
- How can I be happier?
- What can I do to be healthier?
- How can I make an impact on someone else’s life?
- How can I bring joy to my grandmother?
12. You are the one judging yourself, and you sound like a mean b**tch
Let’s say that your life is so hard right now, you don’t know how to be strong anymore. Well, one aspect of the problem could be that you are not allowing yourself to be weak.
By “allowing” I don’t mean that you don’t have your “weak moments”: you probably cry, feel low, angry, or upset at times, or often.
What I mean is that your inner dialog doesn’t allow you to be weak. Instead of letting yourself feel whatever you are feeling, taking some time to rest and care for yourself like you would if you were someone you love, what you probably do instead in your “weaker” moments is beat yourself up.
This opens the door to feelings of shame, guilt, unworthiness…. No wonder life is miserable and overwhelming. You are constantly bullying yourself!
Related article: Don’t beat yourself up, do this instead.
Sometimes, you are the one making your life hell in your own head. And one way to avoid this is by allowing yourself to be tired when you feel tired, sad when you feel sad, angry when you feel angry.
Only when you do that will you give yourself the space you need to finally regain your strength, and better face the constant challenges life will inevitably keep throwing at you.
I hope you find a way up. Life can get better than this, I promise, once you find the right tools to support you mentally and physically.