Wise Words for Tough Times

Whenever I'm going through a tough time, I look to the experts. I consult the people in my life who I look up to and who know me well, and I research quotes and ideas via books, podcasts, or online sources for helpful, uplifting advice. I did a lot of this type of outreach and research during my PhD program (it was a tough four years). I was going through one of my notebooks from that time and found a few quotes I had written down that were really helpful. I thought I would share them here in case anyone else needs to hear them during these tough times.


The first page of one of my Ph.D. notebooks


Sometimes going through hard times helps us learn how to use the tools and resources that can better help us through those times in the future. They can help make us stronger, allow us to learn more about ourselves and how we deal with adversity, and teach us more about what we want out of life, and what we value and prioritize. It's also OK if nothing seems to help a situation feel better or less hard. Sometimes we just need to feel what we are going to feel. I've included some quotes and passages below that have been really helpful for me to quickly reference when I'm having a hard time.


1. Quote by Benjamin Franklin, shared by my mom:

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what might never happen. Keep it in the sunlight.

2. Quote by Thomas Jefferson, shared by Gretchen Rubin:

How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.

3. Quote by my dear friend, Lottie Ou:

Once you are filled with positive energy and happiness, then there is less room for worries and sorrow.

4. Quote by Matthew Kelly:

The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great. We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.

5. I really like this introduction from a This American Life podcast episode (#585), titled In Defense of Ignorance:


So one of the people who works on our radio show, her brother was going through a rough time. And he called their mom, kind of panicking. And the mom was like, you know, you just need to stop thinking about this stuff. And he was like, Mom, that is not possible.


And she was like, that is totally possible. What you have to do is you have to take the bad thought and put it into a box in your head. Then, you have to take the box out of your head, and put it in a cupboard, and shut the cupboard.


I love the completeness of that. It's like the box in the head was not enough, right? That image maybe worked for their mom when she was young. But then she was like, I have not extinguished the bad thoughts quite enough. I need more. I need a cupboard. Next time our producer and her brother were visiting her parents, she told me, the two of them were all just like, "don't open the cupboards!"


Denial usually gets a bad rap. Compartmentalizing your feelings, keeping it all inside, pretending things never happened-- these are not signs of psychological health. What they're signs of is adulthood. If you do those things, basically, you're an adult because being an adult means sucking it up, getting on with it, going to work even if you have a cold because you're an adult. You do your job.


Sometimes I feel like I need to put something behind me and move on, even if it's not completely resolved. Sometimes talking about something over and over or thinking about something endlessly isn't helpful or productive. I tend to over-think, so these words were especially helpful to me.



6. One of the most helpful things I've heard lately is an episode from Brené Brown's podcast, Unlocking Us, all about calm and anxiety. I've included my favorite snippets below, but I highly recommend checking it out (here).

  • Definition of calm: Perspective, mindfulness, and the ability to manage emotional reactivity.

  • Calm is a practice.

  • Try to be slow to respond, and quick to think: “Do I have all of the information I need to make a decision or form a response?”

  • A lot of times, a panic, anxiety-driven response is due to a lack of data.

  • Anxiety is one of the most contagious emotions we experience

  • Stay mindful about the effect that calm has on anxious situations. A panicked response produces more panic and fear. Anxiety is extremely contagious, but so is calm. Do we want to infect people with more anxiety, or heal ourselves and the people around us with calm?

  • Small things matter.

  • Count to 10 before you respond, or say “I’m not sure”, “I need to think about this some more”, or, “tell me more”