“However long the night, the dawn will break.” ~African Proverb
Were there times in your life where it felt anything that could go wrong went wrong? That was me five years ago.
In a span of nine months, my marriage to a partner of eight years broke down, I lost four family members to unexpected deaths, and I suddenly found myself hurtled from living the dream life to being jobless, penniless, and homeless.
To say life knocked the wind out of me would be an understatement.
Each time I picked myself up, another blow would send me sprawling toward a sense of utter defeat. It was as if a tornado swept through my entire being and left me empty and devoid of hope, strength, and any ounce of self-belief.
Shell-shocked, I spent that whole year crying. I would wake up crying in the mornings, run to cry in public toilets during the day, and end my days crying myself to sleep. It was a dark period of my life where everything was one blurry haze of tears.
As those days of hopelessness stretched on, the only thing I could focus on was taking baby steps every day to build a new life and a new future.
It was an arduous journey where I was often taking one step forward and two steps backward. Many times I felt like I would never see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I struggled to find the strength to inch forward.
Five years on, I finally came out the other side. My new life and the new me are still under construction, but I now have in me a spring of strength to propel me forward, regardless of setbacks or how grim the situation seems.
This newfound capacity did not develop overnight. It grew gradually as I practiced and incorporated into my life the valuable insights below.
If you’re going through difficult times now, the following four reminders may help you be more resilient.
1. Remember that life always changes. Things can get better.
When troubles strike, it can feel like things will only get worse, but that is the pessimist in us talking. If we keep the faith and respond to the situation with positive and constructive actions, we can break out of the cycle and things can get better.
Sometimes all we need to do is to simply let time pass and to resist the temptation to overreact and aggravate the problem. During times like these, I would distract myself by actively engaging in other areas of my life.
2. Recall how you overcame similar struggles in the past.
When plodding through a challenging time, it’s natural to be gripped by fear, self-doubt, and pessimistic thoughts that we won’t be able to surmount the obstacles. We forget that it always feels impossible until it’s done, and that we have overcome similar struggles in the past.
A simple but extremely effective thing I did was to list down the occasions in my life where I busted through hurdles and rose above the seemingly insurmountable difficulties. As I penned out the victories, I found renewed faith in myself and in the unknown future, which may well bring the good instead of the bad like I feared.
3. Remember that things aren’t as bad as they seem.
Zoom out on the issue and focus on the grand scheme of things. More often than not, the raging fires in our lives hijack our attention and we fail to see the big picture. It’s rarely the case that every aspect of our lives went awry at the same time, and it’s critical to keep the right perspective when the going gets tough.
We need to remember that our problems are merely a subset of everything that’s going on in our lives and not let the worries, fear, and anxiety overtake our minds. Even if every area of our lives—namely health, relationship, work, money, and passion—went haywire, the fact that we’re alive means there’s hope for things to turn around.
4. Remember that there are still things to appreciate.
Do not let the darkness blind you from seeing the stars. It’s human nature to get caught up with the things that are not working out in our lives and forget the good bits. I’m a big believer of a grateful heart being a magnet for abundance and miracles.
No matter how terrible life may seem at any single point, there are always good things if we keep our eyes peeled for them.
Thanks to the challenges, I came to see who my true friends were and I also learned to appreciate many of the blessings I had taken for granted. I might have lost a life partner, loved ones, money, and employment, but these setbacks are transient.
I would always have my degree, knowledge, skills, professional experience and network, and people who care deeply for me to fall back on and to get me back on my feet.
As I grew stronger in handling life’s curveballs, I was grateful that I had developed this invaluable life skill at a young age so I can have the rest of my life to benefit from it. While maintaining a thankful heart, I realized that even in dark times there are stars we can gaze upon if we view our plight through the right lens.
Which areas of your life are you struggling with right now? How do you cope and stay resilient?