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7 Ways to Thrive When Dealing With Unexpected Changes

canstockphoto17430095Let’s face it – life is not easy!!!  We all face an onslaught of daily challenges that can tax us to the limit.  Whether you’re a student struggling to balance an academic load while trying to figure out how to maintain some semblance of a social life and simultaneously coming up with the financial resources to pay for that advanced education or if you’re an empty nester struggling to find your sense of identity now that you are no longer known as “Tommy’s mom,” life is fraught with challenge (and these are just a two of the vast number of possible scenarios that  you may be facing!!)

As daunting as all this difficulty may be, there is very good news: it is through facing these very challenges that we grow; these challenges are the very opportunities that grant us the knowledge, experience, maturity and wisdom that makes life meaningful.   They deepen us as individuals and broaden our perspective – IF we can effectively rise to the occasion.

The basic formula for development in any arena (social, emotional, physical, professional, intellectual and even spiritual) is really quite simple:

Optimal Stress (otherwise known as challenge) + Adequate Rest = Growth

So……….challenge is not something to be avoided, but rather it is something that we should seek……and can pursue with a good measure of enthusiasm once we have learned to manage it effectively!!

One of the latest buzz words in psychology is resilience and it has been found to be the key to managing the difficulties that life throws at us.  Resilient people are able utilize their resources to cope and recover from such challenges as job loss, natural disasters, death of a loved one, financial setback, and divorce.  Resilience doesn’t eliminate the struggle in life, but rather it gives people the inner strength to not only recover from setbacks, but rather prosper in their wake.  According to Wikipedia, Psychological resilience is defined as “an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity.”

Resilience has been identified as one of the most important qualities that leads to a happy, fulfilling and productive life – despite the “hand of cards” that one may have been dealt.  It is the quality that leads a young man out of the ghetto, helps him to earn a college education and establish a successful career while many of his friends wind up on drugs, in prison or, even worse, dead.

It is the quality that drives a young couple to create gun safety programs across the United States after their own child was tragically killed in a recent school shooting.

It is what gives my young neighbor, 12 year old Quinn, whose mother is a single parent, struggling to make ends meet, the tenacity to run his own lawn care business so that he can raise the $500.00 that he will need to play high school football – NOT this coming fall, but next!!!

There is even more good news!!!   Resilience is a quality that can be developed!!!  The qualities that characterize resilient people can be nurtured and are as follows:

1. Self Awareness 

Being aware of one’s emotions and their origin is essential to knowing how to effectively manage them so that they serve, rather than overwhelm you.

2. Understanding that setbacks are a part of  life

Stress hardy folks are optimists and they  view stumbling blocks as a necessary, but temporary and transitory part of life, while those who have less buoyancy tend to be pessimistic and see failure as permanent and inescapable.

3. Internal focus of control

Those who have strong immunity to stress view themselves as having a sense of control in their lives rather than being controlled by external forces.

4. Strong Problem Solving Skills

Under pressure, those who are resilient have the capacity to remain calm and rational while devising a plan to tackle the challenge at hand.

5. Strong Social Connection 

As human beings, we are wired for connection with others and there is no time when we most need that sense of inter-connectedness than when we are experiencing distressing circumstances.  We all need to bounce our ideas off of others and to vent our emotions.  Doing so gives us the sense of support and connection that reinforces the notion that we are not dealing with life’s difficulties alone.

6. Identifying Self as a Thriver (not just a survivor and definitely not as a victim!)

Thrivers become stronger and more capable because of, not inspite of,  a disaster or traumatic event.  They recognize that that which defines us is not the event, but rather our response to it.

7. Being Able to Ask for Help

Those who thrive in the face of extreme challenge, are not only able to recognize their strengths and utilize them effectively, but they also recognize their limitations and are willing to reach out for assistance when necessary.

“When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And only when we are faced with failure do we realize that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives.”

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

 

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