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10 things to tell yourself when life smacks you down


Sometimes life is just really nasty and smacks us right down to the ground.

It feels awful and can leave us flailing, trying to figure out how to get back up again.

Here are ten things to tell yourself that might help you do just that. Be sure to check out the resources that go along with each idea.


1. I’ve made it through this (or worse) before.

Unfortunately, we can’t permanently escape pain in life. But this can actually be helpful: Remember that this is not the first time you’ve faced heartbreak, grief, emotional distress, or any other kind of calamity.

You made it through then and you will now even if you think this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you.

Great resource: Joan Borysenko’s It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change


2. I accept myself just as I am – warts, shadows, and all.

Maybe you made a mistake. Maybe you failed at something. Maybe you were unkind. Or maybe you’re just having a hard time living with your painful emotions right now.

It’s okay.

We all have shadow sides – those parts of us that aren’t pretty and that we’d rather push away.

Ever try to get rid of just the tails side of a coin? Pretty tough isn’t it? Just as the coin has two sides that make up its whole, so do we.

Accept yourself fully  in this moment -both sides of you – just as you are. Notice your thoughts and feeling and make space for them. Realize that these thoughts and feelings are a part of you and, as such, need to be accepted rather than pushed away.

Great free resource: RAIN – Tara Brach


3. This, too, shall pass.This too shall pass-2

Everything does. Think about it.

Simple, but true, is it not?

Great resource (and one of my favorites): The Art of Resilience: 100 Paths to Wisdom and Strength in an Uncertain World – Carol Orsborn


4. Is there another way I can look at this?

It’s really easy to get stuck looking at a problem or crisis from just one angle.

See if there are other ways you can look at it.

Is there something to learn?

Is there another way to approach it?

Great free resource: 3 Simple Ways to Get a New Perspective on Monstrous Problems


5. Who can help me with this?

This is not the time to go it alone.

This is the time you gather your tribe and ask for their support in whatever way you need.

Great free resource: Ya Gotta Have Friends: 4 Essential Ideas for Bouncing Back


6. I will treat myself as I would my best friend were she going through this.

Give yourself a little love!

You would never say to your best friend the things you say about yourself in your head.

You probably wouldn’t even say them to an enemy!

Picture your best friend going through what you’re going through now. How would you treat her? What would you say? Now do and say those same things for yourself.

Great free resource: Soften, soothe, allow meditation by Dr. Kristin Neff. Or any of these compassionate meditations (including soften, soothe, allow) by Dr. Chris Germer.


7. How can I be kind to someone else?

Research is piling up  showing that helping someone else when you’re feeling down not only assists that person, but also helps you generate positive emotions within you.

And experiencing positive emotions during adversity not only helps you feel good, but it expands your ability to problem-solve and handle difficult situations.

Scientific facts, folks, scientific facts. (You can find them in the Great Resource below.)

So get out there and do a couple of random acts of kindness. We’ll all feel better.

Great resource:  Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life – Barbara Fredrickson


8. What good things are going on for me right now?

It’s true. Gratitude helps.

And it gets us more involved in life and out of our heads – a sometimes dangerous place!

Check out this quote by gratitude expert Robert Emmons:

In effect, I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness. We spend so much time watching things—movies, computer screens, sports—but with gratitude we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators.


Great resource: The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want – Sonja Lyubomirsky


9. Sometimes life sucks.

Although having gratitude, creating positive emotions, and being self-compassionate are essential to making it through life’s storms, you don’t have to be Pollyanna.

You can do all of those things and still acknowledge that sometimes life is just plain hard.

It’s possible to hold two opposing things at once – both pain and joy. It’s hard, but possible.


Great free resource: On pain, tolerance, and why there are no bullet points.


10. [Deep breath] Stay . . . stay . . . stay . . . in the present.

Take a deep breath.

No, really, do it now!Sam

There, doesn’t that feel better?

Taking a deep breath and exhaling as though it were a huge sigh of relief stimulates your vagus nerve, a long, winding nerve that helps calm our bodies.

The other thing that taking a deep breath can do is serve as a trigger to remind you to stay in the present moment rather than ruing the past or fretting about the future.

When practicing staying present, American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield suggests treating the wandering mind as you would a puppy that you are trying to teach to stay.

When the puppy gets up and moves after you tell it to stay, you wouldn’t yell at it, “No! I told you to stay! Can’t you do anything?”

Instead, you would set the puppy back in place and gently say, “Stay . . . stay . . . good boy . . . no, stay . . .”

Treat your mind as you would a puppy who is just learning about a new world.

Great free resource: Jack Kornfield – Meditation for Beginners


What do you think? What are some ways that help get you back up after life smacks you down?



Photo credits: Me 😉



  1. I love this list and the resources you added. I haven’t read them yet, but am going to now!
    Sheila Bergquist recently posted…Why I Stopped Being So NiceMy Profile

  2. Bastiaan says:

    Hello Bobbi,

    I was looking at the top 100 self improvement blogs on the Start of Happiness and I came across your blog. I really like the message on your blog. Helping people to bounce back from life’s challenges is a very rewarding thing to do.

    I like the article you’ve written. Especially points number 2 and 8 resonated with. We are humans and we make mistakes all the time. Anger, sadness, frustration & failure are all part of life and we have to accept that. We can’t be happy all the time and it’s very important to accept that and accept yourself when you don’t feel happy.

    Also it is very important to focus on the things you are grateful for in your life. It can really help you to overcome challenges in life. A very good thing to when you feel a bit down is to make a list of all the things you are grateful for and hang it on your wall and look at it every day. It will make you feel much better :-).

    Thank you for sharing this wisdom and if you have time you are more than welcome to visit my blog at Want2discover!

    Kind regards,

    Bastiaan recently posted…The Reason You’re Not Happy (And How to Change it)My Profile

    • Bobbi says:

      Hi Bastiaan and welcome to Bounce! I like your idea of being able to see a list of the things we’re grateful for; it makes it more tangible.

      Want2discover looks like a great blog!

  3. Maureen says:

    Thanks this is so helpful and I love the Puppy idea to use to stay present.

    • Bobbi says:

      I’m glad it was helpful for you, Maureen! The puppy analogy is one that has really stuck with me over the years; a good reminder to be self-compassionate.

  4. Doug Toft says:

    Bobbi: Another practical and powerful post. Thanks for all the resources.
    Doug Toft recently posted…Staying Loose Versus Staying on Schedule—Pause Before You Set a Due DateMy Profile

  5. Great tips here. I especially like the first one as it’s one I use myself. If I’m ever feeling anxious about doing something, for example, then I think back to other things I’ve done and how if I did that then I can do this. Can be very helpful with something that is stressful.
    Melissa Wilson recently posted…What It Means to Be HumanMy Profile

  6. KW Stout says:

    Great list! The deep breathing exercise is so easy to overlook, but it’s actually very important. When we get stressed/anxious/depressed our minds get so rattled and don’t think clearly. I’ve found it’s always important to maintain control of my mental state to focus on solutions instead of problems. Sometimes life sucks, like you said, but you gotta push through.
    KW Stout recently posted…Life Advice From Arnold SchwarzeneggerMy Profile

    • Bobbi says:

      Hey KW! You’re right about how our minds get rattled and can’t think clearly when we get stressed. That’s why it’s so important to do some of these items. Taking care of ourselves and creating positive emotions even in times of trouble actually helps expand our abilities to be creative and problem-solve well. Great to hear from you!

  7. Jo says:

    Hi Bobbi,

    I am another person who thinks that deep breathing is important.

    It stops us from being overwhelmed and helps us see things more clearly. It is quite amazing how just focusing on your breathing for a minute or two can give you a better perspective. I have often found that I go from I can’t do something to I can do something this way.
    Jo recently posted…Read Something New: 11 Blogs for 2015My Profile

  8. Dan Robey says:

    Hi Bobbi

    I loved your article so much I posted a partial version with link back to your site on my
    Positive Habits blog. I will also send it out to my list of 50K Self Improvement subscribers .

    Here is one of my articles that I think complements yours ….feel free to post it or any of my articles to your blog


    Keep up the great work

    Dan Robey

    Author of the Best Selling Book
    The Power Of Positive Habits
    Dan Robey recently posted…10 Things To Tell Yourself When Life Smacks You DownMy Profile

  9. Helpful recommendations to follow anytime we face any challenge in life. I like the question: “Is there another way I can look at this? There are many perspectives and it helps to open our horizons and increase our awareness
    Y Raisefrequency recently posted…What to do when heartbroken? How to heal from a breakup?My Profile

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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.