Handling Adversity: You Are Stronger than You Thought

Catastrophic events like the current Coronavirus pandemic can knock us to our knees. But personal adversities can pack an equally powerful punch. We are diagnosed with a serious illness, our son has a mental breakdown, we lose our job or home. Often these events seem to come out of nowhere and feel completely unmanageable as we struggle to regain our footing and any semblance of “normal.”

But, like great trees, humans can grow stronger when exposed to powerful winds. That is easy to say, we may think, as we recall those who did not grow stronger but instead broke in the wind. How do we increase our inner strength and flexibility so that we not only survive the adversity but thrive? Here are several strategies that can help.

Take responsibility. Look at your role in the situation. Was the event, in fact, predictable? You may have had more control over the situation than you realized. At the same time, don’t take more responsibility than is warranted. If your spouse or child develops a brain tumor it’s not because you did something wrong. Be honest, but don’t point fingers, not even at yourself.

Be optimistic and think creatively. Trust that there’s a solution to every problem and let your mind soar. Approach the problem from new and different directions. Perhaps rather than losing your home, you could find a housemate whose rent would make the difference between paying the mortgage or not.

Have courage and speak up. Courage is taking action despite the fear you feel. If someone isn’t taking you seriously, speak up. Be your own advocate. Tell that person what you want and need. Don’t assume he or she “should know.”

Take the long view. Recount other times when you have overcome challenges. How did you do it? Who or what helped you? Who or what can help you this time?

Maintain a sense of humor. There’s truth in the adage: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Even in the darkest of times, laughter can help ease the pain.

Get support. No one can handle everything alone. When you get that overwhelmed feeling – or even before – reach out. Ask for help. Next time, ask for it sooner. You’ll be amazed by how much better you feel.

Don’t quit. Persistence may be the greatest human quality that helps us overcome adversity. Draw inspiration from the great heroes of the world – Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman, Mahatma Gandhi – people who persisted despite the odds.

Remember, you are your own best ally.

And you’re stronger and more resilient than you thought.

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