Sometimes life’s just not fair. You can be doing everything right, and get dealt an unfair blow. You get sick, your partner leaves you, you lose your job because the company is going out of business, or being sold. Any of these experiences are challenging. Sometimes people experience multiple life altering blows at once. The question becomes, how do some people bounce back from disappointment, hurt and tragedy, while others get stuck in bitterness, anger and despair?
The secret lies in one key concept. People need to feel that they are not victims and that they have control of their lives, even when that control seems to have been taken away by circumstances. Understanding that we all have choices, even when our obvious choice has been altered, is a key concept in emotional resiliency. Finding the choices to continue growing, learning and persevering through difficulties is a difficult concept when we are feeling scared, marginalized and vulnerable. Following are some thoughts to rely on when the going gets tough.
1. Accept that life is fluid.
There is generally an ebb and flow to life and our experiences. We soar, we fall, and we just live. The only thing that we can count on is that no matter how much planning we do, as long as we are alive, life will never remain static. This pertains to when we are at our highest high and our lowest lows. If we can remind ourselves that change is an inevitable part of living, we can remember that the dark days will not remain the same and neither will the beautiful blue sky sunny days.
2. Allow yourself the time to process what you are going through.
People like to take shortcuts to manage their pain. Whether it be overspending, overdrinking, overeating, busying themselves with work, social life, or activity, the thought is just not to feel the feelings. Although in the short term this may work, the pain will never go away. Like a wound with a scab that’s not allowed to form over It, emotional hurts will fester if not dealt with and more importantly, there will be no self-growth without self-reflection and insight.
3. Remember the small joys in life.
When we are overcome with fear and sorrow, our natural instinct is to protect and shield ourselves from the world. It’s easy to get lost in the tears, the unfairness of it all, the anger, and rage that accompanies a life changing traumatic event. But this is the time that you need to set small doable goals even if it feels counterintuitive. Force yourself to remember the beauty and power in nature, in a pet, in music. Remember what moves you and find small consistent ways to feed your soul with it.
4. Practice kindness with a stranger.
When we are hurting, we often hurt others. We lash out at the grocery clerk who makes a mistake. We forget to say thank you to the person opening the door in front of us because we are so lost in our heads. Remember and practice kindness. The law of Karma believes that we attract what we put out into the universe. When you are being tested, remember to put out the energy that you so need to receive in return.
5. Remember your joy and gratitude.
When days are dark, it is really difficult to feel grateful. You’re sick, you’re lonely, you’re in pain, you’re scared- how in the world do you remember joy and being grateful? Start with the simplest steps possible. If you are lucky enough to have a good pillow, a warm blanket, a nourishing meal, a beautiful sunset to view- remember to note it, write it down, keep a journal and feel the gratitude. Physiological changes happen in our brains when we flood our brains with negative sad angry thoughts as well as positive, uplifting thoughts. Train your brain and nurture your joy.
if you can’t get unstuck, find a caring, trained professional who can help unsort some of the emotional upheaval you are dealing with. Seeking professional help is a sign of strength and belief in a better tomorrow. Give yourself the gift of healing.
Debra Alper is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Chicago, specializing in relational therapy and divorce recovery. She has worked extensively since 1999 with individual clients striving to experience deeper, more meaningful relationships, couples in the midst of marital crisis around infidelity and unhappy, lonely relationships, and clients struggling to get through the emotional, and life changing hurdles of pre and post divorce. Debra received her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her Masters in Social Work from Loyola University, Chicago. Debra can be reached through her website at www.lifetransitionschicago.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was previously published here on Debra’s website.