Seven Ways to Handle Adversity
Although many things are unpredictable, one thing is certain: No life is entirely free of adversity. No matter how hard you try to prevent misfortune, loss, mistakes, and accidents, setbacks are bound to occur. That is the bad news. The good news is that you can often do a lot to soften the blow of adversity or even turn it around to your advantage.
This advice might sound simplistic or even ridiculous. How could you possibly miss the fact that something bad has happened? You’d be surprised. Denial is a powerful force. Often people just don’t want to accept bad news. That recent breakup? Well, he or she is bound to come back. Not necessarily. The same goes for those risky shares you bought that then went through the floor. Oh, they’re sure to bounce back, you might think. Maybe, maybe not. If you recognize that a setback may be irreversible, you have taken a step in the right direction.
- Analyze the situation, including your contribution to it.
Whether you’re dealing with work or your personal life, analyzing a situation correctly is crucial to proper decision making. For example, if you did something to cause a breakup, an apology may make all the difference. On the other hand, if conflicts are irreconcilable, move on.
- Respond in proportion to the nature of the adversity
Don’t shoot a mouse with a gun. A mouse trap is likely to be more effective and will certainly cause less damage.
- Regulate your emotions and stabilize your physiology
Adversity destabilizes us emotionally and physically. We may feel sad, angry, or even hopeless. We may feel like to staying in bed with the covers over our head, eat too little or too much, and sleep and wake at all hours. Perhaps we’re evening punishing ourselves for whatever has gone wrong when in fact the very opposite behavior will likely be much more helpful. So, get plenty of sleep and light, and eat good food.
- Cultivate good habits
When you do things regularly, they become habits – and good habits make it easier for us to take care of ourselves. So, maintain your regular schedule – waking, sleeping and eating at regular hours. This will strengthen your circadian (daily) rhythms, and make it easier for you to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning. Other good habits may include exercise, meditation, and yoga. Avoid bad habits – like using addictive substances to boost your energy or settle yourself down. Bottom line: When things go wrong, you need to take better care of yourself than ever.
- Reach out for help
Sometimes when adversity hits, you may want to avoid others, perhaps out of embarrassment or a wish not to seem like a “loser.” Instead, seek out the help of friends and family, who may be able to offer valuable advice, support, comfort and concrete assistance. Obviously, it makes sense to choose carefully whom you approach for help so that you are more likely to get the response you need rather than criticism or rejection.
[9:42] Norman Rosenthal on The Seven Keys to Handling Adversity
- Tell a story
Research by psychologist James Pennebaker has shown that writing down one’s deepest thoughts and feelings in just four sessions of 20 minutes spread over 7 to 10 days can have lasting benefits both physically and psychologically.
Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine and the author of The Gift of Adversity, Tarcher Perigree, 2013