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I thought that "to plough through" something means that you're going through a difficult time, feel down, but do your best to keep going. But when I looked it up, I find definitions like:

  • to make slow progress through something difficult or boring, especially a book, a report, etc.
  • to go through a substance or an area of something with difficulty
  • If you plough through something such as a large meal or a long piece of work, you finally finish it although it takes a lot of effort.
  • to finish something that takes a long time and is difficult or boring

I'm looking for an idiom that's similar, but expresses a bit more that one is currently going through a difficult period in life, is tired of it, feeling down about it, but does their best to move through it despite how they feel.

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  • Sometimes I find my selection of words to be deficient. Sometimes it's time for an adverb. Dec 9, 2022 at 17:31

10 Answers 10

35

There's the similar expression slog through:

slog through

To work at or make progress through something at a sluggish, strenuous pace, especially for a long period of time.

  • We had to slog through nearly a mile of swamp before we reached solid ground.
  • I've been slogging through this really dense book about economic theory for my college course.

[Farlex Dictionary of Idioms]

'Slog' carries the sense of feeling the pressure involved, the need to persevere:

slog [verb]:

to work hard and steadily at something, especially something that takes a long time and is boring or difficult

[OALD]

slog - work doggedly or persistently;

  • [cf] She keeps plugging [slogging] away at her dissertation

[Farlex]

And the intransitive multi-word verb slog on is available:

  • Of course we shall sometimes feel lonely but we were never meant, grim-faced and tight-lipped, to slog on alone.

[Longman]

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  • Slog through implies that whatever the person is working on is difficult, but doesn't necessarily imply that the person is going through a difficult period in their life. Dec 7, 2022 at 22:42
11

Tough it out captures the gist of the question nicely. The link below (The Free Dictionary) provides the definition and examples of the idiom.

tough it out

10

Trudge through.

To walk through some environment, substance, weather, etc., with heavy, laborious steps.

and

To progress through (some task or activity) at a slow, arduous pace.

Trudge through - the free dictionary

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  • 1
    Or "struggling through a morass of..." Dec 8, 2022 at 10:42
6

I might suggest "struggling on". E.g. "They were feeling low but struggled on". To me this evokes the difficulty of carrying on. Things like "ploughed through" evoke feelings of power and progress, which "struggling on" does not.

Other ideas could be

  • struggling through
  • wading through
  • fighting through
1
  • "to struggle through" was my first thought
    – Dragonel
    Dec 8, 2022 at 17:16
1

Hanging on?

"How's it going?" "Just about hanging on".

The imagery is something like a tree branch over a raging torrent. Definitely implies struggling.

From the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon, the lines

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way // the time has come, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say.

"Hanging in there" is a variant which feels a bit American to this UK citizen.

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  • 2
    "Hanging in there" is apt (for Americans, apparently). "You've had a tough time lately! Are you doing okay?" "Yeah, I'm hangin' in there."
    – erickson
    Dec 8, 2022 at 19:57
1

You may consider soldier on:

To continue doing something with determination or resolve, despite difficulties or an unlikely chance of succeeding.
Though our funding was cut, we decided to soldier on with our work and try to finish the project on our own.
Even though they were down by an insurmountable number of goals, you have to admire how they just kept soldiering on.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms

0

I think I understand what is required.

I would have used 'wading through'. A well-used UK simile would be 'like wading through treacle'. US readers can substitute molasses for treacle. I have not been able to find a notable source for this phrase, but I suggest 'wading through' may cause many UK readers to think of treacle.

Some confusion seems to come from 'Plough through'. 'Plod through' or 'Slog through' give a sense of dreary labour, but 'plough through' could mean pursuing a headlong, reckless course, as in 'he ploughed through hedges and ditches, regardless'.

-1

Plodding or barreling, though I think ploughing is somewhere in the middle, effort-wise. You could add willy-nilly.

The Wiktionary entry seems to confirm my slant on things. I wonder if plod and plough have contaminated each other:

"To persevere with an activity of consuming something, both literally and figuratively. I ploughed through two helpings, but then I didn't have room for any more. If you can plough through the first three chapters, then the plot starts to get interesting. To forcefully make a passage to move through. I managed to plough through the crowds and get to the information desk". Wiktionary: plough through

Some examples-

Where "plod through" suggests "with difficulty" or "struggle" - trudge would be a good synonym:

π‘Šπ‘’ π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘ π‘œ π‘”π‘Ÿπ‘Žπ‘‘π‘’π‘“π‘’π‘™ π‘“π‘œπ‘Ÿ π‘ π‘‘π‘Žπ‘“π‘“ π‘‘β„Žπ‘Žπ‘‘ π‘€π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘Žπ‘π‘™π‘’ π‘‘π‘œ π‘π‘™π‘œπ‘‘ π‘‘β„Žπ‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘’π‘”β„Ž π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘ π‘›π‘œπ‘€.

π‘†π‘‘π‘œπ‘ π‘‘π‘Ÿπ‘¦π‘–π‘›π‘” π‘‘π‘œ π‘‘π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘‘π‘”π‘’ π‘‘β„Žπ‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘’π‘”β„Ž π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘šπ‘’π‘‘, π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ 𝑔𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑖𝑛 π‘‘π‘œ 𝑖𝑑.

Where "plough through" suggests "uninhibited":

𝐹𝑖𝑓𝑑𝑒𝑒𝑛 π‘π‘’π‘œπ‘π‘™π‘’ π‘–π‘›π‘—π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘‘ π‘Žπ‘“π‘‘π‘’π‘Ÿ π‘π‘Žπ‘Ÿ π‘π‘™π‘œπ‘’π‘”β„Žπ‘  π‘‘β„Žπ‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘’π‘”β„Ž π‘π‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘€π‘‘ π‘Žπ‘‘ 𝑁𝑒𝑀 𝑀𝑒π‘₯π‘–π‘π‘œ π‘π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘Žπ‘‘π‘’.

and for "barreling through" suggesting "haphazardly":

π‘Šπ‘–π‘‘π‘›π‘’π‘ π‘ π‘’π‘  π‘ π‘Žπ‘–π‘‘ π‘ β„Žπ‘’ π‘€π‘Žπ‘  π‘‘π‘Ÿπ‘Žπ‘”π‘”π‘’π‘‘ π‘’π‘›π‘‘π‘’π‘Ÿ π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘‘π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘π‘˜ π‘Žπ‘  𝑖𝑑 π‘π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘Ÿπ‘’π‘™π‘’π‘‘ π‘‘β„Žπ‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘’π‘”β„Ž π‘‘β„Žπ‘’ π‘šπ‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘˜π‘’π‘‘.

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  • 4
    The first two are at opposite ends. This would benefit from more information on how this answer the question. Citations are encouraged.
    – livresque
    Dec 6, 2022 at 21:59
  • I was thinking of plodding and barreling as pure replacements for ploughing, so plodding through or barreling through. However, I think of ploughing through something as doing it quickly and smoothly, as in: He really ploughed through that work. and not following the definitions included in the edit. Both plodding and barreling do not have any smoothness to them, so I thought of them as alternates that allow for a bit of struggle, even if not particularly being obstructed. Plodding seems slow with some obstruction, while barreling seems fast but sloppy.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 7, 2022 at 14:10
  • The Wiktionary entry seems to confirm my slant on things. I wonder if plod and plough have contaminated each other. . "To persevere with an activity of consuming something, both literally and figuratively. I ploughed through two helpings, but then I didn't have room for any more. If you can plough through the first three chapters, then the plot starts to get interesting. To forcefully make a passage to move through. I managed to plough through the crowds and get to the information desk". . en.wiktionary.org/wiki/plough_through
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 7, 2022 at 14:26
  • 1
    You need to edit your answer to add explanation for your suggestions. Also, please try to format.
    – Mitch
    Dec 7, 2022 at 16:03
  • 2
    I think β€œbarreling through” means β€œproceeding fast, recklessly or carelessly through”, similar connotations to β€œbull in a china shop” which down fit here.
    – Josh
    Dec 7, 2022 at 22:33
-1

How about "I feel like if I keep banging my head against the wall my head is going to break before the wall does?"

-2

I would suggest "going through the motions". The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as:

to do something without thinking it is very important or having much interest in it

They provide an example that fits your description:

After his wife died, he went through the motions of living without really feeling anything.

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  • 6
    No. This is wrong. It means what the dictionary says and nothing else.
    – RedSonja
    Dec 7, 2022 at 8:04
  • If someone is going through a difficult period in life, they may not have much interest in doing anything, and their best effort may not be anything more than "going through the motions". Dec 7, 2022 at 16:21
  • 1
    Someone in that situation might be just be going through the motions, but simply saying that they are doing so does not have the implication that they are "currently going through a difficult period in life, tired of it, and feeling down about it" - a person going through the motions may, for example, simply have no interest in the outcome. Furthermore, the question stipulates that the person is doing their best, while "going through the motions" strongly implies that they are doing the bare minimum, if that.
    – sdenham
    Dec 7, 2022 at 19:28

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