Coping with Adversity



Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

It takes a nursery rhyme to tell us that not all tragedies can be repaired. Relationships go afoul, jobs are lost, illness encumbers, lives being lost are all part of the human condition.

No one can escapes the vagaries of life, and dealing with adversity is a skill we must acquire in order to thrive. At some point, we all must face a seemingly insurmountable loss with some more than others. What then does one do when things cannot go back to as they were before?

The concept is resilience which is the capacity to cope with life’s challenges. It is the capacity to manage in the face of adversity the ability to survive and thrive. Several key ingredients play into one’s resiliency which include:

An appreciation that hardships, loss and indeed trauma are all factors in life.

The value of this appreciation is that when faced with a hardship and although reasonably affected, we understand that such makes up the fabric of the human condition. We are humbled by life as opposed to being simply overwhelmed and believing we are either above it or not subject to it. Thus we cope with difficulties beyond our control realizing that the bad is just as much a part of life as the good. There is no wallowing in pity although to grieve from loss would be normal.

We do not have control of everything, we maintain a sense of control over ourselves and our response to adversity.

Thus with things seemingly out of control, we take responsibility for ourselves, our role in life and our reactions to it. We are still active participants where at times, we must show flexibility to adapt and ability to change course in view of matters outside of ourselves that otherwise alter our plans or trajectories. We chose how we adapt and therein we can gain some sense of control in a world over which we have limited influence.

An understanding that we are social creatures, dependent, and interdependent on one another for survival.

If left truly to our own devices, few amongst us would ever have all the necessary skills for survival. We need each other be it for the most concrete of things such as food, water, shelter and clothing; to more abstract needs such as comfort, care and belonging. The degree to which we can avail ourselves of the support of others, the greater the likelihood we can adapt and survive. Thus resilience is as much a social construct as emotional and cognitive.

If you are having difficulty coping with a life event consider using these strategies to increase your resiliency:

  • Ask for help. No one person can shoulder the weight of every burden. Sharing the weight makes the burden lighter;
  • Put your event into a larger perspective even if it is seemingly a meaningless incident. Sadly, bad things do happen to good people. That too is a fact of life;
  • Take whatever small steps you can to manage in the situation.Something as seemingly trivial as self-care when overwhelmed can be a hardship. Do something, anything for yourself. Start where you can to bring some sense of control to yourself in a world that may otherwise seem chaotic.

These are only a few aspects of resilience, but they are the key ingredients for coping or overcoming adversity. Practice these, but if you need more help, consult a therapist.

Photo Credit: Original Posted on Flickr

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