It’s a truism to say that we can’t control what happens to us, only how we respond. However, when adversity strikes and feelings of pain, sadness or anger overwhelm us, it often feels like we are just as powerless to control our emotions as anything else. There’s no doubt that learning to master the most powerful emotions is the work of a lifetime and never fully complete, but there are some relatively easy to implement tips that can help you along the way.
Tools for coping with adversity
- Don’t fixate on reasons. When bad things happen, it seems like the most natural thing in the world is to fixate on why. In truth, though, it’s often impossible to know the reasons why something happened, and even when you can it doesn’t help you to move on. Instead, focus on where you are now and what there is in your life you can control. In time, it might be a good idea to revisit the event and see if there might be a lesson for personal change or growth, but that should come after you have achieved emotional distance.
- Take a deep breath. This one might seem like a cliche, but it’s actually a remarkably effective method for managing feelings of stress, grief, or anxiety. To practice this skill most effectively, place your hand on your belly button and feel your stomach expand as you inhale deeply through your nose. It takes discipline to remember to breathe before your respond, but the rewards are real.
- Turn to people you trust. When life seems out of control and key relationships are broken, some of us experience an urge to withdraw into ourselves and find security in isolation. It’s absolutely crucial to do the opposite and reach out to people you can trust. Finding stability and trust in others allows you to start the process of moving forward and rebuilding your life.
- Reflect honestly on what you are feeling. When overwhelmed by emotion, it’s essential not to try and bottle it up or flee from what you are feeling. Instead, try to reflect on the emotions that you are experiencing. What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way? Questions like these are not easy to ask or to answer, but you can’t get to grips with your emotions unless you know what you are dealing with.