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A Guide to Navigating Our Darkest Days

Our darkest days can feel like many things--though most people would describe them as almost feeling like the end. This inability to look toward a brighter future is common on days like these, making us human. But if we learn to navigate our darkest days with strength, courage, and vulnerability, we can rework how we experience them.

This guide outlines ways to embrace our darkest days so that we can, ultimately, grow closer to ourselves. Since a dark day can look different for everyone, I encourage you to take the lessons within this guide and apply it to your experience as you see fit.

What can be considered a dark day? Well, it’s all relative to your unique experience. Your dark day may involve sadness, anxiety, worry, depression, or you may not have a name to call how you feel. Essentially, our darkest days force us into deep, heavy emotions that can be overwhelming to experience.

There are many guides on the internet about overcoming days like these. Many guides are full of rambles of toxic positivity. You may have heard some of these cliches:

“Stay positive no matter what.”

“Just think happy thoughts.”

“It’ll get better; things always do.”

These are the toxic positivity phrases often heard on our darkest days. They dishonor our current emotional state and encourage us to find happiness without looking inward first.

This guide aims to do quite the opposite. Because navigating our darkest days isn’t about becoming happy. It’s about becoming real. With this guide, I hope you can recognize the beauty that lives inside you on your darkest days. And navigate days like these with hope and awareness.

Making Our Way Through the Tunnels

On our darkest days, it can feel like the light abandons us. We may begin to spiral with heavy thoughts-- or it may be the exact opposite: feeling empty and stuck in a pit of nothingness. It’s important to know that the darkness of these days can also act as a light, illuminating the shadows of our lives.

"The lies we tell ourselves on our darkest days become the truths we live our every day."

Falling deeper into our serious thoughts on these days can feel like we’re going through a never-ending tunnel. On dark days, these tunnels can hold our fears, worries, doubts, or insecurities.

The lies we tell ourselves on our darkest days become the painful truths we live out every day. These lies can begin in the tunnels, stemming from trauma, childhood insecurity, work-related stress, or anything of the sort. Believing the lies we tell ourselves often keeps us stuck in the tunnel.

But we can make our way through the tunnels if we begin with the lie and transform it into a truth that makes life more liveable. The truths we form from these lies encourage us to have faith in ourselves while acknowledging our mental/emotional pain. They make us hopeful and clear a path out of the tunnel.

Below are some of the lies we often tell ourselves on our darkest days, along with a possible truth. Consider the truth of these lies, then think about which truths live in some of the lies you tell yourself.

Lie #1 I will never make it out of this. This is the end.

Truth #1 I have not made it out of this situation yet, but just as I found my way into it, I can find a way out. This could be the beginning of something new.

Lie #2 Nothing ever goes my way. I do all I can to succeed. But I take one step forward then three steps back.

Truth #2 Even though I can’t see how all of the events in my life will unfold, I am thankful for the steps I have taken. Each time I decide to keep going, I am moving forward.

Lie #3 Everyone I love has either left me or lied to me. I have no friends or real support in my life.

Truth #3 People have come and gone in my life, but I have never left me. I am my number one supporter who believes in me no matter what. The more I nurture the genuine love I show for myself, the more I will attract people who love and support me.

Making our way out of the tunnels of our dark days is possible if we commit ourselves to reframe the narrative we tell ourselves. On your darkest days, what lies do you tell yourself? How can you create truth from these lies?

Seeing the Beauty of the Darkness

On our darkest days, we might recall the phrase “there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Though this phrase tells us that there’s something to look forward to at the end of our difficulties, it places a false sense of security and hope in the end.

Because on our darkest days, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There’s light all along the way. And we can find that light if we look inside ourselves for guidance. We are the light in the tunnel that travels all along the way. Remembering this amid our struggles can help us reframe how we view our lives’ difficulties.

In one of my favorite spiritual wisdom books, Anam Cara by John O’Donahue, there’s a quote by poet Paul Valery that offers a unique metaphor for understanding difficulty:

“A difficulty is a light; an insurmountable difficulty is a sun.”

In our lives, the beginning often feels like the end--the way the sun shines after a storm, for instance. To make room for the greater things coming to us, we must part ways with things that no longer serve us. This parting can feel like we’re losing something; hence, we might experience dark days.

Our darkest days prepare us for our brighter days, but not without shaping us into people worthy of experiencing those brighter days. The dark days teach us, while the bright days celebrate what we’ve learned.

It’s common to think that we should stay away from things that don’t make our lives easier, but the truth is that difficulty is an inevitable life experience. Welcoming our lives’ difficulties with open arms allows us to be vessels for change to pass through us.

Although, welcoming difficulty with open arms is not to say we aren’t hesitant, wary, or afraid. Acknowledging these emotions is exactly what will help us navigate our darkest days. But we can shape our experience with the darkness by filtering the lens through which we see difficulties.

"Our dark days have a meaningful place in our personal success stories."

Bringing mindfulness to our darkest days allows us to establish a judgment-free zone within ourselves. This no judgment zone will help us embrace the beauty of our dark days. There is so much beauty within us on our darkest days. Although, it can be challenging to see this beauty when our minds are spiraling.

Stillness allows us to reconnect with the beauty within us on days like these. When we are still, we take the pressure off of ourselves to know it all at the moment. We become content with merely being.

Our dark days have a meaningful place in our personal success stories. They can lead us to places we never thought we’d be and help us appreciate these places when we get there. This was the beauty I realized after surviving some of my darkest days.

My blog ‘itssydneyjones’ has been the most beautiful product of my darkest days. After struggling with bouts of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt, I could craft a space where I can openly share my healing with readers like you.

There is undoubtedly beauty within our darkest days. And transforming how we see difficulty is a step to discovering this beauty. But we must lead with patience and understanding to allow ourselves time to see this beauty--for however long it takes.

Recovering from Dark Days

Coming out on the other side of a dark day and how we experience this recovery is crucial to navigating the dark days that will surely come again. In this recovery period, we may start to feel hopeful and able to recognize our strength. This time is essential for showing our gratitude for the darkness. What has it taught us?

"Our low moments do not discredit our high ones."

When I recovered from my darkest days, I was amazed at my strength to carry on. Regardless of how dark the day may be, our commitment to navigating our darkest days is proof of our resilience. It is proof that we are getting closer to ourselves, living a vulnerable life despite the pain that comes.

Our low moments in life do not discredit our high ones. Every dark day has a meaningful part in how our lives unfold. If we accept this, we will enjoy the messy, complicated, complex parts of life.

Over time, the depths of our character are revealed--allowing us to fall in love with a new version of ourselves every day. This is what recovering from a dark day does; it makes us thankful for who we’ve grown to be despite the difficulties in life. And on our brighter days, when we’ve recovered from a dark day, we can look at our lives and remember what is possible.

I like to remember what is possible for my life by writing myself notes on my brighter days, especially after recovering from a dark day. In my note, I express the joy I feel in the moment. And I pause for a second to consider what I’m thankful for. I read the note and think to myself, “I can come out of this because I’ve done it before.”

My note reminds me that getting back to a peaceful, less heavy place in my mind is achievable. I sit in stillness with the note and allow time to pass until I’ve reached this place. Below is a recent note written on the day before I launched my blog ‘itssydneyjones.’ I was filled with hope and joy for my new venture and wanted to remind myself of this moment whenever I slipped out of my greatness.

On our darkest days, believing in yourself past the circumstances--past the reality--is difficult. But there are ways to navigate these dark days and reach recovery. Finding the truth in the lies we tell, reframing how we see difficulty, and expressing gratitude for our struggles are effective ways to navigate our darkest days.

I hope this guide teaches you to value your darkest days as some of the most meaningful parts of your story. I hope you learn to examine the cracks of your life with a gentle love of self. Because it’s all possible for you--you can rise out of the tunnels with a new love and understanding of yourself.

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