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Why Is Life So Hard and What You Can Do About It

why is life so hard

Life is full of ups and downs, but sometimes those downs can feel crushing. When life feels hard, and it feels like no one truly understands, what can you do? 

There’s no denying the truth that life is hard, and there’s no denying that, as a country, Americans have been experiencing a decline in mental and physical health in the last few years. A 2023 study done by the APA revealed that most people placed their stress at a 5 or above on a scale of 1-10, and 24% rated it at an 8 or above, which is up from the 2019 average measuring the same. 

Although the world can seem grim, this study and those similar to it reveal an interesting solution: At our core, we all want to be heard, understood, and surrounded by a community. 

This article will dive into why life feels so hard and coping skills you can use to help yourself and those around you heal and grow.  

The statistics in this article are from the November, 2023, American Psychological Association Press Release titled “Stress in America 2023: A nation recovering from collective trauma

Why is life so hard?

Everyone’s life is studded with small or large intrusions into their peace and happiness that make life hard. Although no one can ever fully understand what it means to be you, researchers from the APA found interesting connections between our individual hardships that could be driving our society’s increasing stress levels. 

Researchers have found three main areas that could be contributing to America's rising stress and decrease of life quality.

1. We’re experiencing long-term stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms.

Long-term stress has a well-researched body of evidence painting it as a culprit for many physical and mental health ailments such as anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, muscle tension and pain, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment. 

The biggest example of long-term stress in our society is the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s been nearly four years since the beginning of the pandemic and all it brought with it. Our society has yet to recover from it psychologically. 

APA researchers have found “mounting evidence that our society is experiencing the psychological impacts of a collective trauma.” Symptoms of this type of collective trauma can include fear, anxiety, grief, and depression. And rates of diagnosed mental health conditions have increased. In 2023, 37% of people had a diagnosed mental health condition, which is a 5% point increase from pre-pandemic levels. The most cited disorders were anxiety (24%) and depression (23%). 

Young people continue to report the highest rate of mental illness, with 50% of adults 18-34 reporting a mental illness. However, adults aged 35-44 experienced the highest increase in mental health diagnoses—from 31% in 2019 to 45% in 2023. 

The sort of wide-scale trauma like a global pandemic is not something that happens often and is going to have long-term effects. The loss of life combined with the turmoil surrounding the recent years is driving stress levels up. If you find yourself more sensitive to stress, easily overwhelmed, more emotional, prone to crying more often, or emotionally numb, it makes sense. A global-wide traumatic event is something that will leave scars if not treated properly. Take time to let yourself rest today.

2. We aren’t talking about it.

Another reason why life seems so hard is because we are more isolated than ever. Three in five adults (63%) said they don’t talk about their stress because they don’t want to burden others. And two-thirds of adults (67%) believe their problems aren’t bad enough to be stressed about. 

By pushing our stress down and belittling our problems, we only increase our stress and make life harder for us. Humans are social creatures, and we have relied on our communities for strength and support for generations. 

There is a great disparity between our social needs and what we’re getting: 

  • 61% of adults said people around them just expect them to get over their stress
  • More than two in five adults feel like no one understands what they’re going through. 
  • Half wish they had someone to turn to for advice or support. 
  • Nearly half (47%) of adults wished they had someone to help them manage their stress. 

The CDC lists support from partners, family, and friends, and feeling connected to school, community, and other social institutions as protective factors against mental illnesses such as suicide. 

We need our community. We need to feel loved, supported, and cherished. And we need to be able to talk about what is stressing us out. For example, two in five adults (45%) of adults feel embarrassed to talk about money or their financial situation with others despite finances being a top stressor for most Americans. 

If we are going to reverse the downward slope of America's mental health, we need to start by talking about it. It’s not a weakness to talk about how you’re struggling; instead, you’re demonstrating great courage and strength by speaking up. 

Not everyone’s difficulties are the same and some might experience greater hardships than others. But pain is still pain, and if you are struggling, you deserve support, companionship, and love. However, you can’t receive those things if you don’t open yourself up to them. 

Make a list of the people closest to you. Ask them out for coffee or talk to them over the phone,  and then be honest about your mental or physical health struggles. You may be surprised to hear their support for you and some of your challenges mirrored back.

3. We don’t have enough mental health support.

For adults aged 18 to 34, the biggest source of stress was health-related and money (82%). “Health-related” broke down into family-related, physical health, and mental health, and amongst those categories, mental health was the most significant stressor at 72%. Mental health was also the highest health stressor amongst other age groups. 

Despite this widespread concern for mental health, most people struggling with their mental health will never seek treatment. 40% believe therapy doesn’t work, 39% cite lack of time, and 37% don’t have robust enough insurance. 

Studies have repeatedly shown that psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, works. It is effective in treating mental health issues such as chronic stress, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and more. It’s important to get matched with a therapist who specializes in what you’re struggling with and who matches your needs. 

Although lack of time and insurance remains a problem the mental health world is addressing, the recent surge in online therapy and widespread insurance reforms for mental health has made therapy more accessible to everyone. Virtual therapy cuts out commute and time spent in the waiting room and is often cheaper than in-person options because of the lack of overhead for therapists. 

There are still many barriers in place for people to receive professional mental health services. If you are struggling with your mental health and are unable to reach a mental health professional, reach out to Lifebulb. Our mental health therapists may be able to help. 

Other, free options that have been rising in popularity are virtual mental health apps. Although these are not a replacement for licensed therapy and have not been vetted by research, many people find these apps make life a little easier. Examples include: 

  • Headspace: Best for meditation 
  • Finch: Best for self-care tracking and community building
  • Calm: Best for Relaxing and sleep
  • Moodfit: Best for tracking moods and identifying negative thinking patterns
  • Sanvello: Best for stress management and developing coping skills

Note that while many people have found these apps helpful, they are not substitutes for licensed therapy. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, or more, reach out to a licensed professional

Remember that despite the large issues that plague so many of us, and how those issues are often out of control, there are a great number of things that are in our control. Although life is hard and your struggles are not only valid but also fierce and daunting, your potential for peace, stability, and happiness is just as valid. It takes work to undo years of chronic stress and difficulties, but it is possible. 

Causes of stress

There are many reasons why life may seem difficult, and if you take anything from this article let it be this: Yes, life is hard! You’re not weak or making things appear bigger than they are. Life can be unfathomably hard at times. But that does not account for your strength, perseverance, and ability to move through hard things. And, when you’re tired of being strong, there is a community of others who have gone through or are going through similar things you can lean on. Life is hard, but with the right tools and community to support you, you can still build a wonderful, fulfilling life. 

With that being said, here are a list of the top things Americans are stressed about that are making life difficult: 

  • The state of the world 
  • Finances
  • Interpersonal relationships 
  • Their personal future 
  • Past traumas affecting how their body and mind reacts to current-day stress
  • The economy 
  • Natural disasters/state of the natural world 
  • Mental health diagnosis
  • Chronic health issues 

It’s easy to play the game “someone else has it worse” because the answer is probably yes, someone does probably have it worse. But this logic is flawed. 

If you were to break one bone, and your friend broke two bones, does that make your bone any less broken? No. Does it make your pain any less real? No. Does it make your need for medical help any less urgent? No. You would both need medical attention, and by withholding personal medical attention you would only be hurting yourself. 

We all deserve access to quality, licensed mental health care. We all deserve the chance to make life something wonderful. 

What to do when life is too hard

It’s obvious that life can be hard sometimes, you probably didn’t need us to tell you that. But is there anything you can do when life weighs heavily on you? 

Yes, absolutely. Life can be overwhelming, so when you’re feeling the stress of everything, slow down and take these steps.

1. Identify what’s causing you stress.

Try this exercise to help you parse out your thoughts. Write down everything that is causing you stress. This doesn’t have to be an organized or well-articulated list. Simply open a Word document or put pen to paper and start writing. If you don’t like to write, open a voice-to-text app and start talking. Once you have all your thoughts on paper, take a highlighter and highlight every point of stress. Then, try to rank them. It’s okay if some of them are tied. Look for patterns: what is causing you the most stress? Sometimes, this is something we can easily change, but not always. Still, putting a name to your stress is the first step to mitigating the harmful effects of chronic stress.

2. Build a community.

As the statistics above show, community is important. A support system that you can lean on when life gets rough and that you can help build up when others are feeling down is a key aspect of our overall well-being. Many people find communities through religious institutions, schools, extracurricular activities like clubs or sports groups, or their immediate circle of family or neighborhood. Get involved with local events and put yourself out there. It’s scary, but remember that most people you meet are looking for the same thing: community. If you reach a hand out, they will be sure to reach back.

3. Find healthy ways to process or vent your stress.

When many of us are faced with an uncomfortable emotion such as stress, we instantly try to block it out by scrolling social media, watching TV, playing video games, or engaging in any of the other quick fixes to our anxiety. Although these activities prevent us from engaging with our uncomfortable emotions and provide temporary relief, they do nothing to process the emotion, instead leaving it to fester and grow stronger.

There is nothing wrong with relaxing at the end of the night with a TV show or scrolling through social media to keep up to date with all your friends. However, when it is your only coping mechanism, it can become problematic. 

Instead, diversify your coping mechanisms with activities that let you move through the uncomfortable emotion. For example:

  • Exercise like running, boxing, dancing, tennis, basketball, walking while listening to a podcast, or anything else to move your body. 
  • Art like writing, painting, pottery, and more. 
  • Mindfulness activities
  • Nature baths. Find a quiet place along a body of water or a green space like a city park, and then just sit and notice the sounds, smells, and sights of nature. 
  • Talk to a friend. Vent out your stress! Ask your friend if they have space to listen to you rant, and then let loose. Sometimes just getting something off your chest is enough to make you feel better.

4. Find restful activities that rejuvenate your body and mind.

As much as you need activities to relieve stress and uncomfortable emotions from your body, you also need activities that fill your body and mind up with pleasurable emotions. This could be hanging out with your community or engaging in a hobby. Many people find restful activities in creating art or reading books, but this is also a time you can play new video games or watch a show. Remember that there is nothing wrong with these types of slower activities, they have their place in our well-being. Just make sure they are not your only coping mechanism against stress and overwhelm.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Easier said than done, we know. But notice when your thoughts start to turn towards others' challenges and triumphs. What happened right before that? Were you on social media? Did you get a notification? See something that reminded you of your own goals. Take note of what triggers your self-comparison. Then, whenever you encounter that trigger, do something besides comparing yourself. It could be reciting positive affirmations, reminding yourself of your strengths, or sending out congratulations to everyone who has accomplished their goals.

6. Reach out for help.

Remember that talk therapy works, and that a lot of people could benefit from it. You may be one of those people. Therapy is a powerful tool for addressing uncomfortable emotions, building upon your strengths, and helping make life a little easier. If life is hard, consider talking to a mental health professional. 

If you’ve tried therapy before and found it lacking, consider why. Did you not feel comfortable around your therapist? Were you not a fan of the questions they asked or how they responded? Have you tried virtual therapy and in-person therapy? 

Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are numerous different modalities that all have their pros and cons. Don’t give up in your search for a good therapist. Reach out to our team and explain what you’ve tried before and what you are looking for, and we can set you up with a therapist who will work for you. 

Talk to us

Why is it so hard to live? Addressing suicidal ideation

We’ve all experienced challenges in life that can feel insurmountable, but for people who experience suicidal ideation, those insurmountable challenges are all they can see.

If you or someone you love has been experiencing suicidal thoughts and ideations, have been joking or talking about dying, or have made plans, help is available. 

For immediate help, call 911. 

To talk to someone right now, contact the mental health help line at 988.

Other chatlines include:

Help is out there. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or reach out to our team to be matched with a mental health professional who can help. 


Life is hard; there’s no way around that fact, and in many ways, it has felt even harder in recent years. But don’t give up hope. For one, you are not alone. Research shows that we are all yearning for community, so reach out to yours and help each other. Also, mental health help is out there. Talk therapy, mindfulness, and self-care are all viable ways to make life a little easier. 

Above all, remember that you are strong and you are not alone. Life is hard, but there is still so much left worth living for. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Life can be challenging due to various factors such as personal circumstances, unexpected events, and the complexities of navigating relationships and responsibilities. It is important to remember that everyone faces hardships at some point, and it can feel overwhelming. However, it's essential to seek support, practice self-care, and remember that challenges can also bring growth, resilience, and opportunities for positive change.

 While everyone experiences ups and downs, the level of difficulty can vary from person to person. Each individual's circumstances and challenges are unique. It's important not to compare your struggles with others, as it may undermine your own experiences. It's more beneficial to focus on developing coping strategies, seeking support, and practicing self-compassion to navigate difficulties with resilience and strength.

 When life feels overwhelming, it's essential to prioritize self-care. Take small steps towards self-kindness, such as engaging in activities you enjoy, practicing relaxation techniques, seeking social support, and expressing yourself creatively. Additionally, reaching out to a mental health professional can provide guidance, a safe space to process emotions, and equip you with tools to navigate challenges and build resilience.

 Yes, mental health therapy can be highly effective in promoting well-being and improving mental health. Therapists at Lifebulb are highly educated, experienced, and passionate about helping individuals live their brightest lives. Therapy offers a safe and supportive environment to explore emotions, gain insights, and develop coping skills. Research consistently demonstrates the benefits of therapy in reducing symptoms, enhancing self-awareness, and facilitating personal growth. Remember, seeking therapy is a proactive step towards improving your mental health and overall well-being.

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