After going through some really bad experiences over the past 7 years and prospering because of them, I’ve gotten very interested in the topic of coming back from setbacks. This research led me reading more about resilience.
So many people have overcome obstacles to achieve great things. I believe that resilience can be developed. People that have reached great heights in spite of multiple setbacks have learned to incorporate certain basic habits into their lives.
Here are some suggestions on developing your resilience muscle, even while going through a negative event. Focusing on these steps will allow you to take your life back in a positive direction when you find yourself wallowing in the bad.
- Make a physical to do list of all the items on your task list, for both work and home. Checking each item off as its completed will allow you to celebrate each small win. It also provides a nice little rush as an award for each item that is checked off. I literally draw a box next to each to do on my list. They’re fun to cross off when they’ve been done! And getting involved in your to-do’s will allow you to get lost in the flow. This is what experts mean when they refer to mindfulness, and being present.
Note: Break down larger projects and problems into smaller tasks – make them as small as possible. Baby steps are key.
Celebrate each and every win
- Make sure to focus on positive achievements, no matter how small. It’s easy to beat yourself up over all the things that are not getting done. Take a moment to celebrate any time you knock something off the list that has been there a while. The little rewards will keep you motivated to get to the bigger tasks. Dwell on these little bursts of motivation anywhere you find them.
Laughter is key
- Laugh as much as possible, and investigate new sources of humor. Laughter sustained me through many hard times. At one point during my valley, my mom saw me laughing at something, and later remarked ‘I was amazed to see you able to laugh when things were going so wrong.’ I found this inspiring but also puzzling. When something is funny, we all laugh – it’s second nature.
Note: if you find yourself not laughing at things you’d normally find funny, you could be experiencing depression. Depression is a serious illness, and not to be taken lightly. Please see a professional if you find it difficult to see the joy in anything. I mean this – it’s normal to feel depressed from time to time. but persistent depression might require a professional medical opinion. At the very least, please see a therapist if this is true for you.
Find friends that do what you would like to do
- Surround yourself with like-minded, ambitious and fun people. They will motivate you to be the same. If you are interested in becoming more athletic, join a runner’s group, or a rec team, based on what you’re interested in. Notice their regular habits, and try incorporating a few into your regular routine. It’s a bonus if they’re happy – positive moods and thoughts are contagious.
- Do not compare yourself to others. What you are seeing in others might be them at a peak, while you are currently in a valley. If you feel the need to compare, then take your present version and compare it to how you were the day before. Use this to motivate yourself to make small improvements. And when they happen, do the comparison and celebrate the win!
Write the stress away
- Writing is a great way of working through worries and past traumas. Many specialists in the area of mental health recommend a regular writing habit of 10-15 minutes a day. Just make notes on what went on in your day and emotions you felt. One noted author on the topic of unleashing creativity, Julia Cameron, recommends a similar habit of regular morning habits as a brain dump before the day begins.
Another option for dealing problems and stresses is to use the Pennebaker writing exercise. This method involves writing about difficult events in a fiction format, as if it’s a story that you are telling about someone else. Making someone else the main character allows you to see the event more objectively, so that some of the emotion is removed. You are then able to reprocess the even as something that happened, without the emotional charge. So the story in your head changes to something less potent.
Become a writing fiend about your worries and desires. Write it all down until you get the feelings all out. How do you feel, and what are your worries about your feelings, or vice versa? What do you want to accomplish, and what stands in your way? Name an option you have for getting around the obstacle. Now state a concern that you have about this acting in this way. What can you do to get around this concern? And so on. I’ve personally used a similar technique to make some changes that turned my life around 8 years ago. This is a VERY powerful tool. You’re using the power of your thoughts to address limitations that your subconscious is holding to. Address those obstacles at a conscious level, and you will be resolving them at a much deeper level too.
Perfection is not possible
- Don’t be a perfectionist about things that don’t need to be perfect. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae. I do this all the time. Take frequent reality checks to determine if what you are obsessing over is worth it. If not, try your best to let it go.
Focus on helping others
- One of the best ways I’ve found of cheering myself up is helping others. Volunteering, asking others how you can help them, the positive energy is bound to come back to you.
Spend time with kids and small furry animals (or other things that delight you)
- This one is a given. Any time I’m around small children or pets, I laugh a lot. With the animals (if you like animals), petting them is key. If you’re not a fan of kids or animals, find other things that you enjoy doing. Visit museums, watch comedians, read books, watch movies, or look up things that delight you on pinterest.
Organize your surroundings
- Cleaning can be a real stress relief. Organize your home and work environments, and your guaranteed to feel at least a bit better.
Difficult times happen to everyone. Get back to working on your goals as soon as possible after suffering a setback. The quicker you get back up, the less the bad experience dictates your story and ending.