A young woman feels like life is so hard.

Here’s Why Life Feels so Hard (and What You Can Do About It)

June 17, 2024

7 min.

Understanding what causes the feeling of hardship and taking steps to cope with it can improve your quality of life.

By: Sarah Fielding

Clinically Reviewed By: Clary Figueroa

Learn more about our Clinical Review Process

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Here’s Why Life Feels so Hard (and What You Can Do About It)

June 17, 2024

7 min.

Understanding what causes the feeling of hardship and taking steps to cope with it can improve your quality of life.

By: Sarah Fielding

Clinically Reviewed By: Clary Figueroa

Learn more about our Clinical Review Process

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Why is life so hard? If you’re anything like me, that question pops into your head from time to time, and, during some periods, it might become nearly constant. It might be triggered by a falling out with a family member, bullying on social media, or one of many other situations that bring out these negative thoughts.

“Interpersonal relationship issues, work-related stress, financial issues, and health issues are some of the most common reasons one may feel life is hard,” says Charlie Health Primary Therapist and DEI Community Outreach Chair Asha Clark, LPC. If the thought “Why is life so hard,” is playing on repeat in your mind, it may also be connected to a mental health condition, like trauma, that you don’t yet have the skills to manage, said Charlie Health Group Facilitator Clary Figueroa, MSW. Below, we delve into the connection between mental health and feeling like life is hard, plus actionable tips for how to cope when you’re having a hard time. 

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How your mental health impacts whether life feels hard

Mental health disorders and general symptoms of poor well-being can significantly contribute to the feeling that life is hard. Charlie Health Primary Therapist Meghan Jensen, LPC, notes that a person experiencing either case might have persistent feelings such as hopelessness, nervousness, fatigue, sadness, fear, and loss of interest in things that once brought them joy.

As for mental health conditions, Clark explains that it’s “common for someone who is diagnosed with a mental health condition to feel like life is hard.” She adds that an anxiety disorder (like generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder) or depressive disorder is among the most prominent conditions that can lead to this feeling. 

“Depressive symptoms can make even small tasks feel insurmountable, and anxiety can trick us into thinking we are much less capable than we truly are,” explains Charlie Health Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Rebecca Holland, PMHNP-BC. Symptoms such as shifts in mood can add to this. A person might also experience other mental, behavioral, and physical conditions that make life feel harder, especially if these conditions are chronic health issues.

A female teenager sits on the ground on her phone. She has been feeling down and thinks she may have subtle signs of depression.

Subtle Signs of Depression

Charlie Health Editorial Team

Additional factors contributing to life feeling hard

There are a myriad of factors that could contribute to mental health symptoms and disorders or make life harder in different ways. According to Jensen, these include:

Prolonged exposure to stressors

“Ongoing stress can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to manage life effectively,” she says. “Intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors can be time-consuming and distressing, making daily tasks difficult.” 

Relationship issues

These could range from conflict with friends or family to coping with significant changes to an existing relationship, like a breakup. 

Major life changes

If change is the only inevitability of life, then everyone is destined to feel difficulty navigating things from time to time. Change might be bad, like losing a job, or exciting, like becoming a parent, but each type can make life more challenging.

Trauma and grief

As Jensen says, “Past traumas, such as abuse, accidents, or loss of a loved one, can leave lasting emotional scars, making it difficult to cope with everyday life. The loss of a loved one or significant life changes can lead to prolonged periods of grief and difficulty in adjusting to the new reality.” 

How to cope when life feels hard

Sometimes, we experience things we must sit with for a time, inevitably making life harder. However, there’s almost always something that can be done to ease the burden. “Life’s challenges can feel insurmountable at times, but with the right strategies and support systems in place, it is possible to navigate these difficulties and improve overall well-being,” says Jensen.  Encouraging self-compassion, patience, and persistence in pursuing help and trying different coping mechanisms can lead to better mental health and a more fulfilling life.” Here are some of the techniques you can employ to ease the feeling that life is hard. 

Practice reflection 

Remember what we just said about sitting with your experience? Reflection can be a critical first step as you navigate what is making life feel so hard — especially when done with self-compassion. “Someone can cope with these feelings by being curious and exploring these feelings instead of suppressing them,” says Clark. “Once we explore those feelings, we are then able to identify what we deem as truly hard about life. From there, we are also able to identify what resources are needed to aid us in lessening what we deem is hard about life.” 

This process also encompasses reflecting on how you’ve taken care of yourself and your progress. “Make sure to give yourself credit for even the smallest victories,” says Holland. “You opened the shades for the first time in two weeks? Absolutely sensational. You haven’t brushed your teeth yet, but you picked up the toothbrush for the first time and thought about it. Amazing.” 

Make lifestyle changes

Yes, regular exercise and a healthy diet can improve your well-being, but they’re two of many (often smaller, potentially less overwhelming) lifestyle changes to explore. For starters, think about what might relax you, such as getting enough sleep, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga, says Jensen. While attending a class might provide additional support, you can also do meditation and yoga exercises from the comfort of your home. For that matter, it doesn’t need to take up lots of time — you’d be surprised how even a few minutes of purposeful moving or breathing can make a difference in your day-to-day life. “Find hobbies and activities that bring joy and relaxation to create positive experiences and counterbalance stress,” says Jensen. 

Then there’s the matter of your time in general. Jensen recommends establishing a daily routine to “reduce feelings of chaos and stress.” Part of this can involve breaking your goals and tasks into smaller steps that feel easier to accomplish. She also stresses the importance of limiting your  “exposure to negative news, toxic relationships, and other stressors that exacerbate feelings of difficulty.”

Seek social support

Often, life can feel challenging because we put the weight of every little thing we have to do (and many of the world’s problems) on our shoulders. “Feeling like life is hard is a common experience, and it is important to recognize that it is okay to seek help and support,” says Jensen. The people who care about you want to help you. In some cases, they might know what to do, and in others, you might have to summon the courage to ask for their help and state precisely what you need. Try to talk with a family member, friend, or another trusted individual about how you feel. 

Know when to get professional mental healthcare 

If you continually feel like life is hard and it’s affecting your mental health, it is a good idea to seek professional support. A mental health provider can support you in seeking medication and therapy as needed.

Medication

You might also seek support from a practitioner or mental health professional in the form of recommendations, medication, therapy — or, often, a combination of the three. A clinician might suggest a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), antidepressants that increase the level of serotonin in the brain, or a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), another form of antidepressant often used to treat depressive disorders.

Therapy

Then there’s therapy, with Clark recommending cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) as potential options for coping with negative or intrusive thoughts. A therapist can support you in determining what might be at the root of your feelings and discovering steps to overcome them. “Something I always like to support patients with is to help you be in control of your emotions rather than your emotions being in control of you,” says Holland. “I think this is something that makes life feel really hard when we are feeling powerless over our mental health and things going on around us.” Figueroa also recommends acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which involves accepting the present moment without judgments and learning to find values to live by even when things are hard.

A young woman goes to therapy for getting professional mental healthcare.

How Charlie Health can help 

If you or a loved one are struggling with negative emotions or having a hard time, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health’s virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people and families dealing with serious mental health conditions, including social anxiety, depressive disorders, and more. Our expert clinicians incorporate evidence-based therapies into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic treatment, managing negative emotions or another mental health challenge is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

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