Bouncing forward to counter tough times

Q I used to consider myself as someone who could cope with anything, but lately I just feel exhausted by all of the negative events that have happened around me. How do I solve some of my current issues with strength and bounce back to the strong person I used to be?

A Resilience is usually seen as the ability to “bounce back” after challenging life experiences and is a strong factor in living a fulfilling and happy life. However, life is about constant change and we never truly go back to who we were before these life events. The idea is to “bounce forward” or move forward, and learn what we can along the way.

Building resilience requires flexibility in thinking and acting. Accepting changes in life can be really challenging, but recognising that change also creates opportunities will enhance your resilience. I see many people who believe they have reached the “worst” low of their life and don’t know where to turn. Although they cannot change the past, they invariably learn new skills to help them cope and strengthen them for future challenges. Hence, the opportunity for improved mental health can arise, despite challenging circumstances.

Sometimes it is not possible to completely solve a problem but you can take small steps and set achievable goals so that you are able to clearly see the progress you have made at each stage. Try not to measure success where the end goal is the only goal, as that can be overwhelming and deflating. Where problem solving is no longer an option, find ways to nurture yourself emotionally and physically. Set time aside for activities that you find pleasant and relaxing and ensure you maintain a healthy sleeping pattern.

If your self-esteem takes a battering due to negative life experiences, look for ways to build your sense of purpose and achievement. Focus your energy and effort into positive activities that also make you feel valued. You could join a community or physical fitness group, volunteer for a charity or school, undertake short courses or even join or form a book club (if reading is your thing). Also, take some time to look at what you would personally like to achieve in your life in relation to your physical and mental health, personal development, finances, leisure, spirituality ... the list is endless. Is there one thing you could do that would take you a step closer to your goals in life? Think about steps you could take within 24 hours, within one week, within one month and within three months. Focus on one thing at a time and you will soon start to notice a more positive outlook.

One of the most vital aspects of healthy resilience is having strong human connections. Do you have someone you can confide in? If not, don’t keep your worries to yourself. Reach out to family, friends and neighbours. But if any of these people are the source of your worries, engage with people from outside your immediate network. You may find some wonderful, caring people in any potential group you consider joining, as mentioned above. If you are not sure where to start, remember you can always seek counselling support to help steer you in the direction you would like to go.

Stay hopeful because our circumstances are always changing. As long as you have hope, you have motivation to make choices that have the potential for a more valued life. This does not mean that you won’t experience negative life events, but it does mean that you can see the situation for what it is, assess what you can and can’t control, and make the best of that situation.


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Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

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