Life & Beauty Weekly: Life & Love

By Catherine Ryan for Life & Beauty Weekly


A broken boiler floods your basement. You miss a crucial work deadline. Your sister announces she’s getting divorced.

As unexpected crises hit, it may seem as if your world has suddenly imploded. “When things go wrong, remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Donald Redelmeier, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. “In life there are always ups and downs. Put them in perspective.”

It turns out that resilience — the ability to deal with and adapt to stressful or traumatic events — is a combination of attitudes and behaviours that help people overcome adversity. To learn how to bounce back, Redelmeier suggests looking to people who inspire you and emulating their energy and tenacity. “We get inspired by those around us, and resilience is something that is learned,” Redelmeier says. “But it’s in us as well.”

Even if your life is going smoothly now, remember these four important ways to build resilience, and you’ll be able to clobber any curveball life thrown your way.

1. Stay connected.
“When you’re faced with a setback or something embarrassing, the natural tendency is to not want to talk about it,” says Redelmeier. “But the exercise of just explaining what is going on to another person will force you to think more carefully about what is going on beyond just the emotional reaction. And the other person may have something insightful to say.” A compassionate listener can help you realize that your challenge isn’t the end of the world. (If you find comfort in prayer, try that too.)

2. Make a game plan.
Unexpected blows can leave you feeling powerless. Reclaim that power by creating a plan to overcome the situation. For instance, if you’ve been laid off, write out a list of steps to getting back on your feet, such as polishing your resume and calling your professional contacts. Then get going. “The dream of success is nothing without the will to prepare,” says Redelmeier. “Failing to plan is equivalent to planning to fail.”

3. Hang on to hope.
Resilient people tend to be optimistic for a reason: Maintaining a positive attitude makes you more likely to ride out the hard times without sinking into despair. If you’re the glass-half-empty type, optimism can be learned. Next time you start feeling as though things will never get better, think of your most optimistic friend and ask yourself what she would think and do in your situation. “One of the things I notice in patients with depression—which is mixed with any setback—is thinking it will last forever. It makes a bad situation worse,” says Redelmeier. “Hope is extremely important for motivating individuals.”

4. Think about your triumphs.
If you felt better after confiding in a friend, meditating or going for a walk the last time you and your husband had an argument, chances are that strategy will work the next time you two disagree. “Reminiscing about past triumphs might encourage you to soldier on through adversity,” says Redelmeier. In turn, each obstacle you overcome will increase your confidence so that you can handle any setback and come out stronger.

Catherine Ryan
is a freelance writer and editor who writes on health, nutrition, beauty and green living for such magazines as
Self, Ode and
Parents. She is a frequent contributor to
Life & Beauty Weekly.

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