There’s an African proverb that says, “Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.” In other words, it’s the hard knocks in life that soften our rough edges and help to shape us into someone who is resilient.
Whilst I think it’s true that having to deal with difficulties and disappointments often help to shape our characters, surely some people have too much to cope with? Life’s knocks can get us down especially if we have no real support, have to deal with a lot of ill health or cope with several bereavements within a short space of time.
The school of hard knocks isn’t the only way to build up resilience – there are several ways to get through hard times so that we can bounce back and feel happier. I have a lot of empathy for people whose lives have gone downhill with all the negativity that they’ve had to cope with but if you’re reading this in the hope of developing more emotional strength and feel that you have too much to cope with, try the following and see how you get on. I’m not saying that you won’t feel overwhelmed at times, but these tips will hopefully diminish those feelings so that you’ll feel happier again:
- When things go wrong, try thinking “things will eventually get better, even if I can’t see that right now”. Being resilient is partly about realising that it’s unlikely to always be that way, even if you can’t see a way out right now.
- Find something, however small that you can control – there are loads of things we can’t control and these include big challenges like broken relationships, bereavement or redundancy but by taking small steps in almost any area of life can help us to see a brighter future.
- Sometimes we undermine our own resilience by thinking “Is this down to me?” rather than realising that sometimes things are out of our control such as when the car breaks down (’I should have made sure it was serviced’) or when we’re late and it’s had a knock-on effect on other things (‘I should have prioritised more; I’m no good at anything’). Give yourself a break emotionally and recognise that if you’ve had a lot of other more serious things to deal with, smaller things like servicing the car can easily get pushed to one side. Try to think about what you can do to stop the problem occurring again.
- Focus on what’s gone right even if that’s hard – there will be one or two things that have actually been positive, even if other negative things have piled up. I’m not suggesting that if you’ve had a death in your family or are dealing with a cancer diagnosis, you shouldn’t let yourself grieve for what you’ve lost, whether that’s a person dear to you or a frightening illness, but even on the darkest days there will be one or two things that have been alright. It could be a kindly neighbour who’s taken in a parcel for you or even cooked you a meal, or that there was a glimmer of sunshine after hours of rain. Even on the worst of days, there will be some little things that were good and they can make a difference.
- This isn’t about living a life where you pretend things are always fine but more about getting a perspective.
- Ask other people to help you – when we have problems it’s so easy to feel isolated. Social media ensures that we’re constantly seeing people who apparently have perfect lives, having achieved great things but realistically, however true those stories are, most of us need help at times so don’t be afraid to ask for that if you’re struggling. This doesn’t have to put a burden on the person you’re asking for help – maybe you just need someone to listen or to share their knowledge about something that they know more about than you do.
- Find something to laugh at – it could be an old episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’, but really, anything that floats your boat so that you’re having a laugh, is good; really good.
- Finally, find a distraction – it often helps to take time out, even if it’s only for a few minutes. One of the best things is exercise if you can motivate yourself to get out there and walk in the fresh air or go to a yoga or meditation class. This can often help us to think more clearly.
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