4 signs you’re going through a rough patch in life (but better times are coming)

by Alexandra Plesa | March 29, 2024, 12:31 pm

If you stumbled upon this article, you’re probably a little beaten up by the challenges thrown your way.

It happens.

Forging your way through life entails experiencing both highs and lows.

When you’re stuck in the latter, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.

You become consumed by your current, miserable circumstances, to the point where you no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The good news?

These strenuous stretches are temporary, especially if you’re already taking the necessary steps to overcome your slump.

On that note, here are 4 signs you’re going through a rough patch in life (but better times are coming).

This too shall pass.

1) You lack purpose (but set aside time for reflection)

A big sign that you’re going through a rough patch is that you feel adrift and lacking a sense of purpose.

You’re unsure of what you want or where you’re headed.

Maybe you’ve just accomplished a big goal, and you have no idea how to proceed.

Or, you’ve given up on a big goal, and are left wondering what else is out there.

I experienced something similar in my 20s when I realized I didn’t want to be a journalist.

It was a career I’ve been working towards my entire life. I even managed to find a job as a reporter during my final year of college.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and it dawned on me that I wasn’t a good fit for my chosen field.

I loved writing, but the daily grind of chasing stories and interacting with others made me want to crawl out of my skin.

Still, I loved my co-workers and had no idea what else I could do, so I stuck it out for a few more years.

Even when I finally decided to jump ship, it was hard going. I joined a small start-up as a content writer but had no clear professional goals.

I was winging it, excited about the work, yet unsure of where it would take me.

I felt lost for a huge chunk of time.

What got me through was the deep-seated knowledge that, whatever I did next, it would involve writing; and the fact that I regularly sat myself down and tried to visualize my ideal life.

This self-reflection came naturally to me, an introvert, and went a long way toward shaping my next steps.

I realized I felt trapped by my 9-to-5 schedule and wanted to be able to try more types of writing in order to discover what I liked best.  

I decided to give freelancing a go, as it enabled me to set my schedule and pick the projects that appealed to me most.

Now, almost a decade later, I see how that self-reflection was key to building a life I’m content with.

If you don’t have a set purpose, look inward.

Meditation, journaling, letting your mind wander – all these activities help you figure out what you want in life.

As long as you’re making an effort to know yourself better, you’re on the right track.

2) You have zero motivation (but focus on building discipline)

This may sound controversial, but I’m a firm believer in the fact that motivation is overrated.

Was I motivated to sit down and write this article? To be honest, not at all.

I woke up late and cranky.

My breakfast smoothie was less delicious than usual because the banana wasn’t ripe enough.

I went on a walk to lift my spirits, but I slept badly and my back hurt the entire way.

All in all, I would have much rather crawled back into bed when I returned, deadlines forgotten, a fun sitcom for company.

What kept me from doing that?


I forced myself to sit at my desk and turn on my laptop. From there, muscle memory took over.

I opened a blank document, started a Pomodoro timer, and struggled to come up with a few coherent sentences to warm up.

Slowly but surely, the words began to pour out. Before long, I was deeply immersed in work, my desire to lounge forgotten.

The most challenging part of any task is getting started.

If you find yourself lacking the motivation to crawl out of the rough patch, redirect your attention to building systems that can assist you in designing the life you want.

Let’s say you would like to get into shape. Keep your running shoes next to your bed, and put them on every morning.

This small gesture can be incentive enough to make you exercise. After all, you already have your shoes on.

Perhaps you want to date more, in the hopes of finding a great partner, but you’re disillusioned with the entire dating process.

Install a dating app, and force yourself to check it every lunch break, exchanging a few words with your matches. 

Once you find people you like, go on one date per week for at least a couple of months.  

All in all, decide on what habits you must implement to improve your situation.

Do them begrudgingly, but do them nonetheless.

3) You feel isolated (but put yourself out there)

I haven’t had a big social circle since graduating high school.

I already mentioned that I’m an introvert, so I prefer to hang out one-on-one or in small groups.

And I was fine for a long time. Then, the pandemic hit and I found myself more isolated than usual.

Plus, I’m in my 30s. People got busy. I lost long-lasting friendships and didn’t get the chance to replace them with new ones.

I work from home, I live alone, I spend the majority of my time alone. It got to be too much.

I started to feel lonely, a feeling I never really had before. I still struggle with it from time to time, but I’m actively trying to fix that.

I pester my friends to come out more often. I try to say yes to most of the invitations to hang out I receive, even if I don’t feel like it.  

I go out alone. On walks, to the movies, to the park to read. Sometimes, solely being among people is enough to foster a sense of belonging.

If you’re in the same boat, it gets better. 

The more you reach out to others, the bigger your circle will get.

As long as you strive to get out of the house, you’re halfway there.

4) You don’t take great care of yourself (but are in the process of fixing that)

Whenever you’re going through a rough patch in life, self-care tends to fall through the cracks.

You obsess over your anguish, so you lose sight of the things that make you feel good about yourself.

Unfortunately, this further dampens your mood.

You can’t glow up if you don’t have the energy or confidence to take action.  

If you’re already aware of this fact and are doing what you can to make self-care an integral part of your routine again?

You’re on a winning streak, even if you don’t see it.

First off, cover the basics:

  • Get enough quality sleep
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Move your body regularly
  • Develop a grooming routine that makes you feel your best
  • Find time for hobbies that help you unwind

From there, make sure you engage in activities that nourish you, not only activities that keep you alive.

The worst thing you can do to escape this rough patch is nothing.

Everything else is a step forward.

Bottom line

If you recognize yourself in some of the statements above, you’re likely doing better than you give yourself credit for.

Keep cultivating resilience and celebrate every small win.

Progress isn’t linear. Sometimes, becoming a better version of yourself means experiencing growing pains.

But this rough patch will end, and you’ll come out the other side wiser and stronger.

Something to keep in mind when the going gets tough.

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