Catastrophic events like hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and floods can knock us to our knees.
But personal catastrophes can pack an equally powerful punch. Our spouse is diagnosed with cancer, our son has a mental breakdown, we lose our 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.
Have courage and speak up. Courage is taking action despite the fear you feel. If your doctor isn’t taking you seriously, speak up. Be your own advocate. Tell him or her what you want and need. Don’t assume that he or she “should know.”
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.
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 daughter develops a brain tumor it’s not because you did something wrong. Be honest, but don’t point fingers, not even at yourself.
Take the long view. Remember that “this too shall pass.” 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.
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.