Overcoming Adversity! Back »

Written by Mark Britzman, former SDSU Extension Character Education Specialist.

Life is often challenging and situational adversity is inevitable. We cannot control many hardships, including natural disasters such as snow storms, tornadoes, flooding or droughts. Although these situations seem to be uncontrollable, it is important for families to recognize that they do have some control! What can a family do to be better able to handle these disasters? First, families need to work together to become a resilient family. Resilient families are families that are able to “bounce back” from a crisis and use their strengths to meet life’s challenges in a positive manner. Resilient families acknowledge that change is a part of life and avoid seeing a crisis as impossible to overcome. It is important for families to understand we cannot control everything in life, but we can learn to control how we react to challenges within our life.

Ironically, real and perceived stress is not something you want to fight or flee. Research indicates that even at high levels, stress can often create greater mental toughness, deeper relationships, heightened awareness, new perspectives, a sense of mastery, and greater appreciation of life and the blessing you do have. These benefits, however, necessitate a positive mindset and look at the situation from a different perspective. 

The following can help you and family overcome adversity:

  • It’s perfectly normal to have negative emotions and they are impossible to pretend they don’t exist.  It is possible, however, to view unpleasant feelings as a warning sign that is trying to alert you to make healthier choices. You can literally allow these feelings to flow in and out through deep breathing, physical activity, prayer, meditation or any other way to experience and then let go of fear, insecurity, anger, etc.
  • Try to catch your negative self-statements and rumination about worse case possibility and then divert and modify your behaviors.
  • Remind yourself of the things you are grateful for on a daily basis.
  • Ensure that you nourish body, mind, and soul with healthy nutrition throughout entire day in three hour increments if possible and allow your body to recover after long periods of physical activity.
  • Try to focus on the positive aspects of your daily experience.
  • Helping your neighbor is not only a wonderful gift to them but also has numerous mental health benefits.
  • Be reminded of other hardships you have overcome although probably not easily.

Ineffective ways of coping include but are not limited to the following: Thinking about worse possible scenario, allowing anger to linger, looking for short-term mood enhancers (e.g., drinking alcohol, etc.), and taking frustration out on others via negativity and power and control. 

It is sad when bad things happen to good people. However, just as in past generations, we must keep hope alive and realize that almost all adversity can be overcome with a more productive attitude, perspective, and focus on what you can control. Lastly, ensuring healthy relationships with family, friends and community are life’s biggest predictor of a happiness and sustained joy.

Anchor, S. (2013). The happiness advantage.  New York, NY:  Crown Publishing Group.
Britzman, M. (2010). Pursuing the good life.  Bloomington, IN:  Unlimited Publishing.
Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2010).  Switch:  How to change things when change is hard.  New York, NY:  Broadway Books.
Sweck, C.S. (2009). Mindset:  The new psychology of success.  New York, NY:  Random House, Inc.

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