Reader Question: How to Stay Positive When Times are Tough

This week I received a question from a reader asking how to stay positive in a bad situation. Here is what is going on:

I’m in a very difficult situation and would like to have your suggestions to be able to think positive.  My father suffers from a serious cancer, and I have developed a major depression after learning the news, and right now I’m on sick leave. I have almost no social support (no friends) except members of my family. My family like me is tired because we have all been taking care of my father. I have always worked hard at school, but even then things haven’t come easy. I have never had a passion for anything that I could now rely on to try to get out of my situation. What should I do?

First off, I want to say I am sorry to hear about your father’s diagnosis. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

The impact of cancer is a tremor felt by every member of the family and it is never easy to deal with. I can only imagine what you and your family are going through.

When I have faced adversity in my life, I have found a few things that I can do that seem to provide some relief and comfort. I can only hope they will provide some solace for you. Below is what I have done:


When we are stressed and overwhelmed our basic body functions are affected, even our breathing. The first I do when I am upset or stressed is take a few deep breaths. I find it grounds me and I feel a release. For each moment in a day when you feel like you have hit your max, stop and take 5 deep breaths.

Think about Today not Tomorrow

I find that being mindful about what is happening right now and not worrying about tomorrow helps a lot. I save a ton of energy because I only need to focus on one thing. I also am able to relieve myself of worrying about things I don’t even know for sure are going to happen. Dealing with things as they come and in the moment has been a great stress reliever for me.

Find a Positive Influence

Associate or mix around with people who can provide something of value. Avoid those who zap your energy and motivation. If you can’t avoid them, or don’t want to, learn how not to let them get you down. You can find assistance doing so with I find volunteering a great way to meet new people and take my mind off things. When you volunteer you are focused on doing something good and everyone around you is happy and appreciates the effort. You can’t help but go home feeling good about how you spent your time. This feeling good can transfer into others areas of your life.

Try New Things

You mentioned you don’t have any passions. Well it is time to find one. Experiencing a wide variety of life in a positive light will do wonders. Something as simple as trying a new restaurant can lead to new tastes and different sensations. It’s all about the simple pleasures of life.

Read a Book

Read about how those people who fought fear with courage and succeeded in life. Through reading, you will gain new knowledge and understanding and it will help you clear your mind and create a new perspective. It is also a great distraction for your mind.


I find exercise really helps with my moods and emotions. When we exercise our body releases endorphines which are ‘feel good’ hormones. Not only will you feel good after exercising but you will also sleep better which is great for helping you cope and manage the day to day.

These are just a few things that I have found to help me cope and stay positive during rough times. There are many other options out there. This is just a start.

Above all else, remember this quote: “I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be;  for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” – Martha Washington

Readers, how would you try to stay positive and get through this situation? What kinds of things do you think they should try? Please share as your ideas may just be the key to providing some relief in this troubled time.

PS: If you have a question, please submit it here.



Reader Question: How to Stay Positive When Times are Tough — 49 Comments

  1. Some good advice here. I think talking it out is important and should be at the top of your list. This could be with a confidant or a professional. Keeping emotions inside is the worst thing anyone can do.

    A very troubling time, my thoughts are with this person and others inflicted by this terrible disease.

    • I agree. We need to be able to let our feelings out so they don’t bottle up and cause us to be self destructive. I had a program at my work that I could utilize as part of my benefits package. It is something anyone could look into to see if they have access.

  2. To take time out be kind to yourself, to take some time in the outdoors every day for fresh and air and sunshine.

    And to not to try to be Superwoman – that working for 15 minutes on a task is quite enough (and how surprised you will be at what you can actually achieve)

    To delegate – if everyone is tired, then everyone can just do a little.

    My thoughts are with you and your family BTW

  3. I agree with Jeremy in the fact that professional help is always a good idea. Most people don’t seek it though because they think ‘there is something wrong with them’ by choosing to go that route. However, it’s what they do and some of them are very good at it.

    For me, I think all of the recommendations Miss T mentioned are things I have tried and that work. Running and working out really allows for me to get my mind off things. It wears you down too so sometimes you’re too tired to stay up at night thinking about things.

    At the end of the day though my ultimate solution to get me through tough times is my faith. Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions, but finding Jesus and relying on him through trails has changed my outlook on a lot of things.

    • Good point. Many people think something is wrong with them because they need help and that is not true. We all need help sometimes.

      Good call on the running. It is such a release. I have clocked a fair few miles in some of my troubled times.

  4. Breathing is a great tip – it’s almost impossible to be tense when we are breathing deeply. A lack of a support network is how people end up unemployed and homeless, so I urge the reader, like others, to seek out counselors to talk with.

  5. All of these ideas are great, and I would strongly recommend doing all of them. The one that I think would work the best for me is your last suggestion of exercising. More specifically, it’s taking a long walk that would make the difference for me. It gives me the opportunity to connect with God while getting my head straight about what’s bugging me.

  6. That is a very tough situation. I’ve found that counseling can be a great avenue to talk it out with someone if you’re having difficulty doing that.

    I also agree about focusing on the present, and finding a hobby to keep you busy as well.

  7. Miss T – great post. I’d suggest looking for caregiver support groups – try online or looking in the paper. Even an online forum where other people know what you’re going through can be helpful. If you want to get out and don’t know people – try There are groups for everything, and since they’re large, it’s not a big deal if you come sometimes and don’t other. Best of luck.

  8. I’m so sorry that your reader is going through such a tough time. I was there 3 years ago – my dad was 53.
    I got through it by balancing my time spent taking care of him with time away from the house. It’s hard to stay grounded in reality – when you breathe, think and eat the illness. I also visited a therapist – and she recommended I video tape/record my dad… it was the best decision I ever made. I can now spend time with him whenever I want =)

  9. Miss T please ask your reader to spend alone time with her/his father. let him speak what he liked/disliked and what would like his son/daughter to do in life. Let dad’s wishes be new goals of your reader.

    Breathe, exercise or reading nothing could help, they only read good not very practical in this scenario. All he/she needs is some trigger which would tell that everything in life is uncertain. uncertainty is normal. I see tomorrow is happier for your reader, let him/her think about tomorrow and fulfill the unfulfilled aspiration of the dad. Finding new meaning of life that is.

  10. Right before I left to go to college my mom was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer. I knew it was serious but had no clue how serious it was. I quit my summer job and went home for the rest of the summer to help out as much as possible. Once I went off to college I had so many new things to focus on that it made it a bit easier. My advice would be try to find something you can focus a ton of energy into. Hopefully that can help you. Also, maybe try to find a support group. My mom found a group for people with ovarian cancer online and I know that helped her a lot. I am sure there is one for people who have family members with cancer as well online if not one locally in person.

  11. I was in this same exact situation 4 years ago with my father. While in the end things did not go well since he passed, there are many things that you can do to make the situation better.

    Try not to regret ANYTHING. And I mean this. If you want to say something to him, say it now. Try and be happy when you’re around him. Don’t be sad, that honestly makes it worse. Just try and make the best of every second.

    Also, I know what you mean when you say that you feel alone. Yes people out there honestly feel bad for you, but in the end most people don’t fully understand. If you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here.

    • Sorry to hear about your loss Michelle. Great words of wisdom though. We definitely don’t ever want to regret anything that’s for sure. I like your point about being happy and not sad. That is easier said than done but can really do wonders for the situation.

  12. Take one day at a time, and try to do something that makes you happy at least once a day. You need to focus on one thing that brightens up your day, and do it consistently once a day. At least then you will have something to look forward to. Other than that… it is tough. When a loved one is seriously sick, nothing can really help much. Do you have close friends? Talk to them a lot. Pets! Maybe get a cat or even a dog. Pets are so much work 🙂 AND they give a lot of love. My best wishes to you! Hang in there. Nothing is permanent in this life. It shall pass.

    • Great idea on the pet Aloysa. Not only will they provide distraction but they also make you feel so loved and not alone. There are plenty in shelters that need homes.

      I find that being outside for a few minutes a day really refreshing. This would be my happy activity.

  13. The only thing that works for me during tough times is exercise. There is something about getting the heart pumping that takes away my sorrow or uneasiness.

  14. Sorry to hear about your trouble. If you have health care, you probably want to go see your doctor. Here is what she can do to help you.
    1. medication to stop you from sliding further into depression. Medication may not be right for everyone, but if you’re doing very badly, it can help.
    2. hook you up with a counselor. The counselor can help with how to cope with the problem and perhaps help with the future as well.
    3. Exercise. Physical activity will help. If you are already active, don’t stop.
    Don’t try to get through it by yourself. Hope you feel better soon.

  15. A very similar thing happened to me. In 2008 my Dad died of throat cancer aged 56. 3 weeks ago my Mum died of stomach cancer also aged 56. The deatyh of my dad hit me the hardest, I think because I naturally learned to cope, and took this experience to help me deal with the death of my mum.

    I now try not to feel sorry for myself. After all I am in good health – it is not me or my partner who has died. I have instead tried to use these expereinces to make my life better. I realise all the time that we are only here for a limited amount of time.

    I am a clinical hypnotherapist by trade, and some time ago I made a positive thinking hypnosis audio session. It is available for free at this link

    Stay positive!

  16. I am a really big advocate for therapy. It does wonders when you have someone who is not emotionally involved. Therapy, along with physical activity and healthy eating, hopefully will help.

    Also, I’m really sorry to hear about your father.

  17. It’s hard when someone you love is going through something like that, and it’s not surprising to experience situation depression. I know I felt completely overwhelmed when my mom was dying from cancer. The best things you can do for yourself are to eat well, try to get enough sleep, exercise (which could be a walk around the block at the very least) even though you may not feel like it, and participate in a cancer support group. They will know what you are going through, which helps.

  18. “Serious cancer” can be a very difficult health challenge. I think pretty much everyone knows someone who has been affected by at least one type of cancer. This is why I think cancer research is so vital. When I switched my therapeutic focus from cardiology to gastrointestinal cancer a few years ago, I began to understand just how much patients relied on us to make a difference. It was very touching and provided a lot of motivation during the “difficult” times.

    Thanks for offering your reader a glimmer of hope.

  19. Hello, I agree with many posts above, in order for you to help your father you need to take care of yourself, try and find out about classes in your local area for relaxation and stress management, and counselling may help – have you got a local womens centre – the courses are free and confidential.

    I too suffer from severe depression, so i can empathise with how you feel

    With regards to your father, could you set up a rota of what each of the family will do on a day to day basis then maybe you could do 1 shift every two days giving you a day off every two days to relax and look after yourself.

    My thoughts go out to you and your family.

    Leanne (you will see me on Mortgagefreeinthree, posting comments)

  20. I’m very sorry to hear about your reader’s situation; I’ve had a few family members suffer in this manner, and it’s always rough to work through. Here’s hoping that your advice, as well as that of all the other readers, helps your questioning reader through this troubled time.

  21. I just wanted to suggest that you contact Hospice. They are wonderful help if your dad qualifies for this and they also offer support to family members to cope with their loved ones illness. It only takes a call to ask for an evaluation of your families situation and it can be a life saver for everyone involved. This is a free service offered to anyone who is facing a life threatening illness.

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