I got an email from a reader saying, “I enjoyed your article, ‘Surviving a hard time.’ I try to remember, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” Did I actually say that? I certainly have never considered myself tough. Smart, creative, quick—okay, these are words I would use to describe myself. I developed that skill set just to get by in this crazy world. Here are a few of my survival tactics.

Stick up for yourself. If being treated badly is a part of your experience either at home or work, you can sometimes get so used to it that you don’t realize it is continually happening to you. You actually start to see being downtrodden as normal and to accept it as “That’s just the way it is,” and that is very wrong. The problem is, number 1, it isn’t normal, and number 2, you may start acting like it is, because that’s what you are being taught. Answer: You need to leave and start over.

If starting over is daunting, just think about spending the rest of your life in these kinds of relationships. I was about ten years old when I realized that not all families fight at the dinner table and that many other families are actually nice to each other. My answer: I decided to leave and go to college with the help of a National Merit Scholarship when I was sixteen.

Don’t let yourself be used, because it’s really hard to shake off. Usually what happens is that you let it go on until you just can’t stand it anymore, and then you leave. But where do you go? You need to build something else for yourself before you depart. If it’s a job, start interviewing. If it’s a relationship, start therapy. And if it’s a combination of the two, start developing a better support system, because that’s too much for any one person to bear.

Fighting back is great, but back away if it’s a better tactic. You’re not being a coward, you are seeking better treatment, and that’s perfectly fine. If you don’t have a good team to help you, fighting back will drain you further. These days, there are plenty of new doors to open.

If you’re at your wits’ end, remember that you can only push yourself so far. Taking a break doesn’t mean you’re giving up—it means you’re looking after yourself. Give yourself a little time before you venture into the next big thing.

There may be more opportunity in the world right now than ever before, and more opportunities are being created every day. But that doesn’t mean you have to jump on the first thing that comes your way. Sometimes it’s wise to take your time, processing a new direction is seldom instantaneous. There are many ways to make a living and a life, so just play with different ideas and let your creativity guide you. When things aren’t working out, it’s a signal that you have to find something new—and not a sign that your life is over.

Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is an award-winning psychotherapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of 8 books, and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with over 34 million readers. He is available for video consults world-wide, reach him at Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com.