When You Are Going Through Low Times

Low tide at the beach. When you are going through low times.

Are you going through low times? Do you know someone who is? Few, if any, of us get through this life without experiencing seasons of trial and difficulty. Times like these knock us off of our game, interfere with our intentions, and undermine our determination. Being “productive” falls to the bottom of the priority list, replaced with a sheer need to survive. Frequently, we don’t know how long the low times will last, making it hard to chart a course for the future. What is the best way to persevere when low times show up?

I live along the Connecticut shoreline outside of New York City. Since moving here many years ago, I’ve been fascinated by the daily change in the tides. In fact, my family teases me about how the first thing I notice whenever we head to the beach is the tide. Recently, my husband and I went out on a boat ride at low tide. Riding along and looking around got me thinking about how truly hard low times are.

Here are the some of the reasons I observed:

Low times are rocky.

You can see in this photo that during low tide, the shoreline is a bed of rocks. Of course, the rocks are always present, but they are neither apparent nor troublesome during high tide. During high tide, the water rises to about halfway up the rock wall in the background.

Low tide often reveals issues and problems that we may have been “floating over” when life was easier. During low times, we not only see the rough parts of our lives, but we also have to contend with them. Whether it be our living conditions, family dynamics, financial situation, physical health, or even our own personality flaws, the less-than-desirable aspects of life are harder to manage during periods of adversity.

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Low times are tricky to navigate.

To get out of our boat club and into the sound, we have to drive though a narrow channel. During low tide, this channel is especially small. We are always thankful for on on-board navigation device that helps us know how much clearance we have beneath us.

Low times can be tricky. New situations, circumstances, people, and challenges usually leaves us feeling insecure and hesitant. We often don’t know how to proceed, and in many cases, even the “experts” around us lack concrete answers. We usually have to trust our instincts and make decisions, even when we worry that we might make a mistake.

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Low times are unpleasant.

I much prefer to sit on the beach or dine near the water during high tide because during low tide, the mud comes out. Mud isn’t inherently bad. In fact, when it is covered with water, it provides nice housing for a variety of wildlife. However, during low tide, the mud is yucky. It smells bad and attracts insects. It is also very unpleasant to walk through.

Low times can feel like a slog through mud. We can feel stuck, unsuccessful, and unattractive. Depending on our situation, we might be attracting pests, such as unwanted attention, comments, opinions, and judgments. We lack momentum, and moving forward feels daunting.

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Low times can be isolating.

One of the hardest things about going through low times is how solitary the experience can be. In the photo above, this gazebo looks rather forlorn at low tide. When the tide comes in, it seems much more inviting and accessible (you can see from the water line that the tide reaches almost to the base of the gazebo itself).

In many cases, while we are struggling through a low time and trying to keep our head above water, the rest of the world seems to be humming along without a care in the world. It is a weird dichotomy, and one that can leave us feeling very alone. I’ve heard it said, “We cannot truly understand what we have not experienced.” As a result, when we are in a low time, most people around us – even the well intentioned – don’t really know what to say or do. Unfortunately, many choose to avoid us and our situation altogether.

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Low times are hard work.

During low tide at our little boat club, the ramp to the docks becomes quite steep. It takes a decent effort to walk up to the top. In contrast, during high tide, the ramp to the docks is practically flat.

Low times are almost always accompanied by hard work, such as:

  • Going through painful medical tests and treatments
  • Cutting back on spending
  • Experiencing rejection or criticism
  • Attempting to “stay positive” with those around you
  • Rallying to make connections with strangers
  • Struggling to navigate a new location or setting
  • Changing a well-entrenched habit
  • Persevering through failure
  • Battling unknown or unfamiliar states of mind

During lush times, we can just drift along, behaving in a predictable and comfortable manner. But during low times, it can feel like every day requires us to live outside of our comfort zone… often for the foreseeable future.

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Hard times can feel hopeless.

On our boat ride we drove past this beautiful yacht club. As pretty as it was, it felt quite unapproachable, perched as it is high on the bank of the river. During low tide, accessing this club requires either a steep walk or a climb up a ladder.

When we are experiencing a low time, it can seem like we will never be able to climb up and out to a better spot. The “nice things” are for others, not those of us in the trenches. We wonder if we will ever be healthy, meet the right person, land a decent job, receive positive feedback, have a baby, or get any number of other things for which we long. Of course, there are no guarantees in life, and some things may remain out of reach. At the same time, it is possible that our fortune will change, and that the path forward may get easier.

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In light of all the obstacles that low times can bring, the question remains, “What can we do when it seems like everything is wrong?” Platitudes are not particularly helpful, nor are encouragements to simply “buck up.”

Therefore, I humbly offer a few thoughts…

  • Allow yourself to acknowledge the difficulty of the present moment. It’s okay to not be okay. If you can find someone you trust with whom to share your sadness, all the better.
  • Make an effort to notice whatever is going well (no matter how small).
  • Avoid comparisons to those around you. No one is in your exact same shoes! The internet is unlikely to make you feel better during low times.
  • Make an effort, even if it isn’t perfect. Go to the appointments, submit the resumes, do the homework, show up for the exam, make wise food and spending choices, exercise in any way you can, attend the awkward social event, etc.
  • Remember that it is okay to experience joy, even when you have problems. You don’t have to wait until everything is perfect to be happy.
  • Remain hopeful. You never know when the tide may turn.
(same photo as the first one,
but at high tide)

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Nobody enjoys low times. What has helped you get through some of your toughest seasons?

Seana's signature

20 thoughts on “When You Are Going Through Low Times”

  1. Whoa…..how did you know just what I needed at this time? I’m heading into my 4th “low month” of financial worries. It’s very hard not to compare when one lives in Fairfield County. However, I’m making an effort and have a plan and hope. My positive is my church community and my faith. Thanks Seana!! XO

    1. It sure is hard in Fairfield County. It’s not a typical place, and it is hard to feel that we are making it.

      I agree that the church community, faith, and God’s unending love are the lifeline. Day by day, one foot in front of the other, eyes up and on the alert for even the tiniest blessing. Sending you a big hug today!

  2. The feeling of low times is that things may worsen instead of improve. The best way for things to get better is with self-care. I find that a good night’s rest many days in a row, ample hydration, and a walk with a friend are the best ways to get through the low times.

    1. I love that you have a “go to” way to manage low times. Hydration is always helpful, right? It’s crazy how we can forget about that one. The walk gets you out of the house, and mentally away from the trouble for awhile, which is so healthy. Perfect!

  3. I love your photos of the sea and the analogies you shared. You got me thinking. Sometimes high tide can be challenging too. During a recent beach visit, it was during the high tide that the ocean was more challenging to be in. The waves were so intense that they knocked me over at one point. I got out. I could walk out farther at low tide, swim longer, and feel safer because the sea was gentler. Being in the water at high tide made me more vigilant, whereas low tide was calmer and more relaxing.

    Water has many moods. The opposite is true when kayaking. It’s almost impossible to kayak on our local river at low tide. The water is too shallow, and the boat can’t progress forward. At high tide, the kyack glides easily along the river.

    I guess all of this is to say that challenges can find their way in a variety of situations. Being gentle with yourself and flexible is beneficial. Also, remember that all things will pass, change is constant (like the tides), and you will find your way forward.

    1. I love this perspective, Linda! It is helpful to always look for the silver lining, both in low and high times. There are sweet and tender moments in all situations, and if we can look for and focus on those, that will always be to our benefit!

      I love picturing you kayaking along – such a peaceful and restorative activity. 🙂

    1. Comparison always steals our joy, but when we are in low times, it can be brutal. When we are feeling vulnerable and beaten up, it is helpful to make an extra effort to block out the channels through which we are tempted to compare ourselves.

  4. Love this analogy of low times with the tide. I feel like the low times are particularly hard when you don’t know what is coming next. My tribe is what keeps me afloat when life gets difficult.

  5. Great post, Seana! I find that when I am dealing with the low times, I make it a point to see the unique time it is. Not often do you have a chance to observe where you are, what you do, what you think, etc… than in these times. Everyone has their unique way of dealing with these times and no one way is the ultimate way. Being aware of where you are, how you are feeling, and what is happening will get you through.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Quick Tasks that will Keep your Home Always OrganizedMy Profile

    1. That’s such a good point, Sabrina. We all will react differently, and allowing yourself to do a little self-reflection is very healthy. I completely agree that people cope in their own unique ways, and there is no “one path” to get through. Rather, it helps to cultivate a mindset that acknowledges how you are feeling, and then seeks to move forward is as gentle and positive a way possible.

  6. Oh, Seana, there is so much wisdom in this. As I read each paragraph, I felt seen. Sometimes we’re the Skipper and keep our heads our the task, but sometimes we’re Gilligan and can barely keep up with bailing water out of the boat. (I know I’m mixing my water metaphors with yours, but you know what I mean.) Navigating low times, especially when you feel so lost that you no longer wish the waves to carry you to the short but just power you out into the middle of the sea, is so difficult, but you’ve crafted a moving explanation of how people feel AND simple, beautiful guidance for how to survive. Brava!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll is Clearly Organized — Translucent Tools for Getting it TogetherMy Profile

    1. I’m down for a good Gilligan’s Island metaphor anytime!!

      Low times can be emotional roller coasters, so hopefully everyone can just exhale when they read this, know that this happens, and feel encouraged to stay hopeful.

  7. I think everyone can identify with this issue. We all go through difficult times and we feel out of control and sometimes there seems to be no way out. Waiting is hard and these times often demand long periods of waiting. I turn to prayer and devotional books which help me through. Remembering past times when answers came and problems passed is also helpful. Thank you for insight and suggestions.

  8. Yes. All of this. I, like Julie, feel seen! Also, I’m realizing that I missed something in a conversation yesterday with a friend who was feeling low. In addition to listening sympathetically, I usually do ask: “What’s going right? What are you grateful for (no matter how small)?” It usually helps me when I do that for myself. But I forgot to suggest it. I think I’ll send her this post. And keep it handy. Thanks, Seana!

    The fact that emotional tides rise and fall on a regular basis (more frequently for some than for others), and that we must learn to deal with them, reminds me of the more-frequent cycle of waves building momentum and crashing. Are you familiar with the psychological concept of “riding the wave”? Here is a link to a Google image search that I think you would like because it shows many different charts and graphical ways that “riding the wave” has been portrayed. https://bit.ly/3OPLE57 (Search terms: “ride the wave psychology”)

    Finally, I am reminded of the time when people, during COVID lockdown, were saying, “We’re all in the same boat.” No, we weren’t. We were all in the same storm, but in a variety of different boats, ranging from luxury yachts to leaky dinghies!
    Hazel Thornton recently posted…3 Tips for Organized Grocery DeliveryMy Profile

    1. I remember reading that about our different boats during COVID, and it was so true! This is true for the entire journey of life, and we may find ourselves in different boats during different seasons.

      I love that you always ask “What’s going right?” because I do think if we can find a tiny, positive thing to focus on, it helps us get through. Life is hard, gratitude and perspective can help.

      I haven’t heard of the psychological concept of “riding the wave,” but it instinctively appeals to me. As a beach lover, so I spend a lot of time looking at waves. I gave a presentation last year where I talked about waves, and about how waves aren’t actually moving water, but more moving energy through the water. I find this helps me think about various situations as well. Things may be happening to me and moving through my life, which make me feel up or quite low, but they are moving through. And I’m more stable than I think.

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