Are you stuck in a hair rut?

You know, those times when it seems like your hair has launched a personal attack against you -- and despite your best efforts to diplomatic with the best deep conditioners and holiest of holy grail curl definers -- it refuses to back down? Maybe you made a mistake (or three, or ten) and you're just ready to throw in the towel. Or perhaps, this whole "natural thing" seems too complicated, and you're ready to go back to what feels simple and familiar -- that relaxer or that flat iron.

Trust me, I've been there--more times than I want to admit. But before you run to Sally's and grab those deeply discounted relaxer kits (I can't be the only one that notices them on clearance everywhere!) or go digging for your precious flat iron, stop and read this.

Trust me, I've been there--more times than I want to admit. But before you run to Sally's and grab those deeply discounted relaxer kits...

You can get over this hump

I know you can, because I did. In my moments of weakness and peaks of frustration, I had to hunker down and be honest with myself. I've never had a relaxer, but I know what it feels like to hide behind a flat iron every two weeks. I know what it feels like to straighten your hair within an inch of its life, and then turn around and use a curling iron to fake "volume" because your hair has thinned terribly.

I also know what it feels like to look in the mirror and hate your hair.

I transitioned for 21 months, a period which tried every bit of my patience, resolve, and self-confidence. There were days that my banana clip and bobby pins would tuck away a multitude of hair sin, and there were days where I looked in the mirror and just said, "I can't."

But those days, those feelings, those frustrations--they will all fall away in due time as you learn. It doesn't mean they won't be back, but you'll be better equipped to deal with them as you delve further into your natural hair journey. These 4 tips will help you cope with the temptation of going back to what seems comfortable or easier.

Adjust your expectations

When you first embarked on your natural hair journey, did you think that you were just going to wake up with a head full of thick, juicy, shiny ringlets, or a kinky fro that defies gravity? I'm sure you did, because I did too. I had somehow gotten into my mind that in just a moment's time, my tresses would magically transform into that of my hair crushes. For the record, it didn't.

To this day, I have yet to find someone with hair that behaves like mine.

Even while completely natural, I have to stop myself from looking at my hair with a deficit perspective--fixating on what it cannot do and what my limitations are. The truth is, I get the most frustrated with my hair when I try to force it to do the things it is not meant to.

My hair is somewhat thick, but I can't get a curly halo around my head like some of my favorite YouTubers and Instagrammers. The longer my hair gets, it just hangs. And the more I try to manipulate it to make it big, it fights back with tangles, knots, and breakage. So I stopped, and adjusted my expectations. My curls will never be all one uniform pattern, and I will always have disrespectful shrinkage in the front half of my hair. The moment I embraced those two facts, my frustration dissipated and I came back from the brink.

Give in a little

If your hair is forcing you to test the upper limits of your patience, caving in a little may be just what you need. Sometimes when I got tired of dealing with my hair, I took it as a sign that I should probably flat iron it just to whet my straight hair appetite. This worked for me on two levels: one, it was fun to switch it up. Ask any curly girl -- rocking a straight style makes you look like a completely different person. Two, I found that every single time I straightened my hair, I came running back to my curls within a week (or less). That alone showed me that in spite of my misgivings and frustrations, I loved my natural hair. Taking a mini vacation from your kinks, curls, and coils may just be the thing that helps keep you from doing something drastic and irreversible.

Note: If and when you decide to flat iron, check out my heat straightening routine and these great heat protectants. After all, when you want your curls to come back, you want them to do so sans heat damage.

Put it away

If you used to relax and flat ironing won't give you the same satisfaction, or you don't want to run the risk of heat damage, it is perfectly okay to opt for tucking your hair away. Experiment with protective updos, faux locs, crochet braids, and even those fancy schmancy kinky coily wigs and clip-ins.

Putting your hair away will provide you with some much-needed breathing room, while allowing you to experiment with versatility. This is also an excellent option for ladies who are experiencing major breakage or damage in the process of transitioning to or beginning a natural hair journey. Putting a relaxer or heat on already fragile hair isn't the best idea, but rocking a protective style is. Just don't forget to take care of the hair underneath!

Spoil your hair

Every once in a while, I feel like having a spa day. Mineral baths, mud masques, and massages. You know what I'm talking about! After a day at the spa, I feel like I can conquer the world. Or take a really good nap. Whatever the case may be, treating your hair to a spa day may be just the thing you need to bring yourself back from the brink of the relaxer box.

Think about it -- when was the last time you pampered your hair? Not followed your regimen just enough to get by, but actually pampered? It's probably been a while. So treat your hair with that luxurious DIY avocado mask you've been putting off. Splurge on that fancy, overpriced deep conditioner that works like a charm. Give yourself a hot oil scalp massage. Detox your hair with a clay mask. Spend 4 hours detangling in tiny sections with your favorite coconut-jojoba-peppermint oil blend while watching Scandal on Netflix. While life is too busy to do this every weekend, there's nothing wrong with taking some time out every few months to give your hair a treat. Every once in a while, we have to stop cutting corners!

Have you been tempted recently to go back to the relaxer or too-hot flat iron? What helped bring you back from the brink?