How To Deal With (And Get OVER) The Roughest Times In Your Life

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overcome adversity
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Life's gonna give you lemons... be prepared to make that lemonade.

Life is not a bowl of cherries … it's more like the box of chocolates Forrest Gump's mother told him about… you never know what you're going to get.

Those chocolates you'd rather not be eating? They're what drive people to therapy. When I consider the issues people often bring to therapy… coping with a loss, a personal failure, an empty nest, a divorce… it seems like some bounce back much more quickly than others. What's the magic ingredient?

A new theory of adaptability suggests that diversifying your personal portfolio is a sustainable method of boosting your resilience to the ups and downs of life.

Do you know how your investment portfolio is supposed to be diversified? You have stocks, bonds, mutual funds, property and the like, some riskier than others. While you probably won't get rich quick, you will avoid taking a hard fall that totally wipes you out. A diversified portfolio makes your financial well-being more resilient to the ups and downs of the market.

There is evidence that expanding the number of roles, relationships, and experiences in your life provide a kind of personal diversification that increases emotional resilience, that ability to bounce back, along with happiness and self-esteem.


Related: How To STOP Feeling Lazy, Guilty & Selfish For Taking Care Of Yourself

A long-term study of resilience among children living in adversity on Kauai found that among those who developed behavior problems in adolescence, things turned around in adulthood when they took advantage of new opportunities, like continuing their education, joining the armed forces or connecting with a stable partner. It seems that widening their experiences gave them an edge.

Consider your current roles, relationships, and experiences.

For instance, your job or profession, as well as things like partner, parent, child, sister, bff, triathlete, movie buff or amateur pianist, are among many possible life choices you make. Each creates opportunities for different roles, relationships, and unique life experiences.

One struggle you face is whether to put most of your energy into one role, like a professional or parenting role or to diversify, taking on the challenge of creating a balance among many. The diversified portfolio model suggests that expanding, not narrowing, is the key to flourishing.

If you've experienced a setback, having different options for where you put your energy keeps you positive.

You just missed out on your dream job and you're busy licking your wounds. Your fellow film geeks pry you off your couch and take away your Ben & Jerry's, dragging you to the movies.

Getting out, you forget the job for a few hours. Even better, you may actually see your difficulties differently after an intense movie experience. I challenge anyone to see Dunkirk and feel as bad about their problems as they did before. After a debrief with your friends (maybe about the movie and the dream job) you feel a little more prepared to move forward.

An hour or two with the running buddies or fellow yogis does wonder for the soul. It's like a physical and psychological cleansing.

When things aren't going too well in one part of your life, there's something to fall back on.

Ongoing problems in the relationship? With the kids? With the job?

No worries. There's your painting, your brother or your Wednesday evening soup kitchen volunteer gig to give you a win, a welcome respite or that feeling of being useful and needed. If you keep your circle of people and interests too narrow, you risk being overwhelmed by an ongoing stressful situation.

One problem doesn't seem as devastating when you have a lot of valued interests and people in your life.

One disappointment will not have so much impact on self-esteem when you have positive events and experiences in your life that balance things out.

Diverse interests provide healthy distractions and support when your problems strike.

I don't mean finding busywork or forcing yourself to do something to avoid thinking (though both can be useful). A diverse group of people brings ideas and influences that can be helpful in mitigating problems. Perhaps someone in your network has a contact for the next dream job or introduces you to geocaching, your new favorite hobby.

People and things you have been devoted to, that you truly enjoy, bring the positive energy you need. Though the problem you're coping with is not necessarily solved, support and encouragement help keep you going.

The idea of building resilience is not new.

Studies have shown that our ability to bounce back is also enhanced by increasing optimism, changing narratives and helping others. Evidence suggests that depersonalizing, remembering successes, making time for recovery and challenging ourselves are good tools for offsetting hardship.


Related: 5 Ways To Get Out Of The Bad Mood That's Ruining Your Day
 

Creating a diversified personal portfolio is a little different. It's laying a solid foundation to avoid losing it all when life brings you those lemons. When I consider those clients who bounce back quicker from adversity, they all seem to have this type of rich, complex life.

Even when you have something big and stressful going on in your life, you can still diversify and cultivate new interests.

There's a tendency to put everything on hold while we deal with mother's illness, the new boss or selling the house. Yet we all know that you cannot deal with anything 24-7. You need time off.

You can start right now. The next time someone invites you to a book club, bunco group or a beach volleyball game, consider your resilience and give it a try. It's one step in building your diversified personal portfolio because when you bite into that next chocolate, you never know what's going to be inside.

Judith Tutin, PhD, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. Connect with her at drjudithtutin.com where you can request a free coaching call to bring more passion, power, and purpose to your life.

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