When the going gets tough, does it motivate you to get tougher? Or are you more likely to call for a time out, reach for a margarita and curl up on the couch to pout and lick your wounds?
Life is full of struggles, road bumps, rotten luck and other negative situations that test your inner strength. Our struggles do not define us, but how we handle them can. Resiliency is an important characteristic that is even more crucial today. Whether you need to get over a natural disaster, bad break-up, job loss, dark diagnosis, death of a loved one or any of life’s crappy curveballs, learning to be more resilient will serve you well as you travel the journey of life.
1. Handle your brain. Take hold of your mind’s runaway ruminations, and realize that just as you are in control of your actions, you are also in control of your thoughts. This might be hard to believe in the throes of grief or struggle, so set some ground rules to help your willpower flourish. If you get weepy at night, institute a rule of no thinking about your ex past 9 o’clock. If mornings are a struggle, set a rule to take a walk outside and head off the doldrums before they set it. If you get sucked into the web researching your newly diagnosed disease and always end up in a panic, make a rule to only research for ten minutes at a time. Setting rules before the waves of negative emotions hit makes it easier for your brain to handle them.
2. Put things into perspective. You don’t usually see a cancer survivor throwing a hissy fit over a missed flight connection or a broken heel. In fact, the more dramatic a person’s response to a bad situation, the more obvious it is that the person has never experienced anything truly horrific. Teenagers are famous for overreacting and for making mountains out of molehills – make sure you are more mature than a 14-year-old when you consider the negative situations in your life. Shit happens, and life does not exist without struggle. Embrace your negative experiences as part of being human.
3. See opportunities in every obstacle. Every struggle or problem you face has hidden opportunities. The cliché is true: every cloud has a silver lining. Often it takes time to realize what the positive effects of negative situations are, but if you learn to look for opportunities instead of indulging the problem, you’ll be a step ahead.
4. Work on your self-esteem. Even the most confident person has setbacks. Our lowest moments are when we most need a dose of confidence – and when we are least likely to feel like it. Surround yourself with people who think that you are the cat’s meow and who let you know. Write down compliments that you receive in a journal, and read through them on difficult days. Keep track of your achievements and accomplishments and make a list of your victories as they happen, large and small.
5. Confide in friends – but don’t wallow. A strong community of support is a crucial factor in feeling more resilient. But there is a fine line between venting your negative emotions to a friend and wallowing in your misery. Rehashing your struggles over and over can actually give them a bigger presence in your mind and more influence in your life. Know when enough discussion is enough, or ask your shoulder to cry on to cut you off when you bring up your problem for the eighth day in a row.
6. Save yourself. Stop waiting for someone to swoop in and fix your problems for you. While you are waiting for your family, your mate, your friends or your government to give you a hand, you will not only lose momentum but you will also lose the sense of inner agency that constitutes resiliency. You can do this, and you don’t need anyone in the world to get back on top of your game beside yourself. Remember obstacles that you have triumphed over in the past, and then take action to regain a sense of control over your life.