How do we handle adversity? | VailDaily.com
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How do we handle adversity?

Elizabeth Myers
Special to the Daily
Vail CO Colorado

2010 was a difficult year for a lot of people. Many people lost homes or jobs. Most of us had to scale back. As we look at those around us who have been hit hard, do we wonder why some of these people have been able to live through these time with positive outlooks and forward-moving energy and some have gotten stuck in depression and anger?

All of us face adversity many times in our lives. Why is it that some appear to have an easier time of it? Why is it that some seem able to find new and better jobs, or find the time to pursue another life dream like writing a book, or study to learn a new trade, or even race in some triathlons, while others feels victimized and angry and do little to improve their situation? Psychologists call this ability to get back on your feet “resilience.” Do you and I have resilience? Some professionals even venture to say that we ourselves are not very good at predicting how we will behave in adversity. As I look around at the people I know, I am not sure that I agree with this statement.

Research suggests that resilience may have as much to do with how often a person has faced adversity in the past as it does with their personality. In other words, how many mental blows a person has received is the main factor in current mental toughness. So we learn from hardship – we learn who our friends are, we learn what helps us (exercise, focusing an activities we enjoy, prayer) and what makes things worse (free-floating anger and anxiety, destructive behaviors). So mental toughness is like physical toughness – it only develops with exercise. But like with physical exercise, too much wears us down and it shows.

I have a friend who it would appear has had no hardships in his life. He is a happy guy, an eternal optimist, and he will tell you that nothing “bad” has ever happened in his life. But as I have gotten to know him better over the years, I have learned that he actually did have some very difficult events in his life. What makes him different? For one, he does not dwell on hardships, he grieves through them and moves forward. He never feels victimized; he speaks more in terms of moving on the next phase, whatever that may be, and he moves towards it with optimism. He has a tremendous faith in God and in His bigger plan that we cannot see. He believes that we are here on this earth to be happy and he assumes the responsibility of making himself that way. He is a wonderful role model.

So here are some pointers for strengthening your resilience:

• Get connected with the people and community around you.

• Have a sense of purpose in your life.

• Laugh – it’s a great stress reliever.

• Learn from experience. Remember how you coped with hardships in the past. Remember that everything passes.

• Remain hopeful. You can’t change what’s happened in the past, but you can always look toward the future.

• Take care of yourself.

• Keep a journal.

• Work toward a goal. Do something every day that gives you a sense of accomplishment.

• Take action. Figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action.

• Maintain perspective. Look at your situation in the larger context of your own life and of the world.

• And if you need help, get help. Don’t struggle through it alone. Just as we need help to learn how to ride a bike, or ski, or lift weights correctly, we also sometimes need help to learn how to face adversity with positive energy.

Elizabeth Myers is the executive director of the Samaritan Counseling Center. She can be reached at 970-926-8558 or emyers@samaritan-vail.org. Visit the Center’s website at samaritan-vail.org for more information.


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