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How to weather the storm

Some people just seem to have it all. Consider a few of your friends whose lives you may have purview via their social media profiles. Perhaps you know someone who is successful, intelligent, attractive, and well-respected. Let’s call this person, Jill. From the outside, it probably looks like Jill won the proverbial lottery. As though her life is perfect and effortless. If you know Jill well enough, however, you might be aware of all the time and energy that she spends working towards her goals. Her social media account likely doesn’t include posts about her daily exercise routine, the hour that she dedicates each night to reading and researching in order to improve her performance at work, or even the hour she spends every day touching base with her friends and family members in order to maintain and cultivate her interpersonal relationships. These are the kinds of daily activities that are necessary for someone to eventually “have it all” and they are things that we are all capable of doing, at least to some extent. But do you?

Chances are high that Jill hasn’t always led the charmed life that you imagine she must have. Something probably motivated her to be the type of person who sets goals, reaches them, and then sets some more. It wouldn’t surprise me if she had suffered a misfortune or experienced a taste of adversity that ultimately provided her with an important lesson about unpredictability, injustice, or even loss. I mean, let’s be real. Life can be incredibly challenging at times! We all have up’s and down’s... None of us reach old age completely unscathed. So why do some individuals face major obstacles and come out the other side having become a stronger person in spite of them, while others appear to fall apart at the seams?

Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Although some people are inherently resilient, resilience is also a skill that can be learned and developed. Think of it like playing a musical instrument. A number of musicians are simply born with talent, whereas plenty of others attain professional-level status with practice and dedication. So how does one learn to be resilient? A moment ago, I listed a few of the things that people with resilience often do; things that other people might overlook or temporarily set aside. I’m referring to activities that promote your physical health, strengthen your social support, and increase the skill sets that you already have. These activities are important because (1) they are within your control and (2) they act as buffers when the world seems to be crumbling around you. The trick is that you must remain committed to them to keep your life on track and headed in the right direction, especially when you are under stress.

The second part to being resilient might require a tiny leap of faith, as it’s not something you can schedule into your day like the activities I described above. This second part involves training your brain to think about negative events and life’s challenges a bit differently. Now, I don’t mean to say that everything happens for a reason. Whether that’s true or not, I’m leading you to another line of questioning altogether. For instance: Now that this terrible thing has happened, what can I learn from it? What good might come out of it, either directly or indirectly? In retrospect, how has this experience changed me, contributed to my sense of identity, or added to my knowledge base? I’m not a mind reader, but I can guarantee that you’ve been through some rough times in the past and I’m fairly certain that you’ve succeeded in overcoming 100% of them. After all, you’re still here. So how did you survive those challenges? I encourage you to really answer that last question, because it wasn’t just chance that saw you through them. This will help you better identify your personal strengths and resources, which you can then use to bounce back from the obstacles that are yet to come.

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