It’s an unfortunate fact of life that we all face hard times at one point or another – these simple techniques help disrupt negative thought patterns and prevent spiraling in a difficult situation.

Over the last year I’ve struggled with mental health after finding myself in a stressful environment with little support network. The brain is a complicated thing and it can be really hard to recognize and pull yourself out of a low point; mending a broken mind is a lot harder than a broken bone.

It’s all about little habits that build mental resilience and help you balance wallowing in emotion with numbing out completely.

These four simple tools – that I’ve used and recommended – can help you get there.

  1. STOP

    This acronym is a handy disrupter to negative thought patterns that are only going to make you feel worse. When you notice yourself feeling low, anxious, sad, or spiraling: S: Stop what you’re doing, just pause; T: Take a breath, feel your breath in your body and let it anchor you to the present moment; O: Observe what is happening, what you’re feeling, what your environment is like; and P: Proceed – ideally with something that makes you feel good.

  2. Circle of Control

    All too often we get bent out of shape by things we straight up cannot control. Draw a circle on a piece of paper and write everything on your mind that is not in your control (like other people’s feelings or actions, external forces, illness) on the outside of the circle, and everything that is in your control (like your attitude, choices, and actions) on the inside of the circle. Take some time to consider what you can act on within your circle, and let go of what’s outside it – use your circle to keep you accountable!

  3. Mantras

    This is a little “woo” for some, but mantras are simply prepping the way you’re going to talk to yourself that day. It’s a short phrase that brings you a sense of strength, hope, focus, or resilience. This article from Thrive Global shares a few mantras that I think are spot on, and if all else fails, stick to the old faithful “it’s all going to be ok”.

  4. Look for the lesson

    I’m not about to preach “everything happens for a reason” and “it is what it is” because I personally think the world is more complex than that, and we have a lot more ownership over our reality than those phrases allow. But it can be incredibly empowering to reframe difficult times as a lesson you need to learn. Ask yourself what the situation is teaching you, and open to the opportunity that even difficult times can bring.

All of these tools are designed to help you reframe pain, and tune in, not out. In hard times, we humans have a tendency to numb out instead of feel (and deal with) pain.

Bonus point: Notice if you’re using food, alcohol, drugs, even TV to distract from the situation. Instead, see if you can find a little time in a safe space to sit quietly with what you’re feeling. Let yourself experience the physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and hold yourself with compassion and kindness.

And if none of these work – cat videos.

Do you have any mindfulness practices you use when you’re feeling down? Share below!