Growth Mindset

Struggling with a Difficult Situation?

5 Ways of Coping with Challenges

Turn challenges into lessons for growth

Struggling with a difficult situation? You’ve heard that saying, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”, well it is in reference to the challenges we face daily. Every day we face some kind of challenge, whether it be mental, emotional or physical. Challenges develop resilience and allows us to grow in maturity and character. You have to get knocked down in order to learn how to pick yourself back up. To build up the resilience you need when coping with challenges and laugh at them.

Resilience is an amazing skill that helps you recover quickly from difficulties. When you are resilient you bounce back from challenges and keep going. Life’s challenges makes us stronger. challenges and resilience teach us how to take bad situations and turn them around into something positive.

So how do we take challenges and use them to build resilience for personal growth? The following five tips will help you in coping with challenges.

Use Emotional Distancing for Coping with Challenges

When experiencing a challenge, the ability to think about your experiences as if you were a spectator keeps you from getting stuck in your negative emotions. Emotional distancing also makes it less likely that you will replat the unpleasant details of the event. As a result, you don’t feel quite as bad when negative things happen.

To practice this technique, first recall a recent stressful conflict you had with another person. Be sure to choose something very specific. For example, recall when you got in a fight with your spouse for missing your birthday as opposed to thinking about fighting with your spouse in general. Now reimagine the stressful even from an outside observer’s point of view – for example, from the point of view of a stranger on the street or a fly on the wall.

Ask yourself the following questions to practice being the outside point of view.

  • Would the observer be able to understand why you are upset?
  • Would the observer be able to see the other person’s point of view?
  • How would the observer evaluate the situation?
  • Might this observer view the situation differently than you do?

You can also practice this on social media. Next time you are reading about one your friend’s negative experiences on social media, practice switching back and forth from being in their shoes to being in your shoes. Try to notice how being an outside observer helps make the experience seem less intense.

The Art of Letting Go: Stop Overthinking, Stop Negative Spirals…

Use Temporal Distancing for Coping with Challenges

Another technique that can help you better handle stressful situations involves thinking about the outcomes of stressful events in the relatively far future. You might tell yourself “Time heals all wounds” or “this too shall pass”, or “will this matter in 5 years?”.

The ability to think about a future where you will no longer be feeling so stressed about whatever your struggling with helps you get through difficult situations. It can reduce the intensity of negative emotions and the distress caused by the situation. So next time you are in the midst of a stressful situation, try to look back at the situation from some time in the future.

Start by recalling a recent stressful event. Be sure to choose something very specific. For example, try to recall, “when I failed to get the promotion I was after” instead of failure, in general. Now imagine what your life will be like five years after this event. Ask yourself these questions;

  • In five years, what will you be doing?
  • How will you be spending your time?
  • How will you be feeling?
  • How will you feel about this particular event?

Use Positive Reappraisal

The ability to find the silver linings in stressful situations (also referred to as reappraisal ability) helps us generate positive emotions, even when there is nothing in our situation to generate positive emotions for us. This is why finding silver linings can help counteract negative emotions, decrease stress, and quicken recovery from stressful events. Once you train your brain to use reappraisal to focus on the positive, instead of focusing on the negatives, you will begin to feel grateful when bad things happen. Sounds kind of crazy, I know. It’s all about reprogramming your brain to find the positive in negative situations.

How do you find silver linings? You might remind yourself that you’re lucky to have what you have. Or, you might see a challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. For example, your car breaks down on the way to work, and work is an hour away. You found relief in the fact that your partner was in the car with you and helped you get your car to the shop, while in third gear, because it was the only one working. You were relieved that you didn’t have to pay for a tow truck.

By being able to see the silver linings, we can handle challenges more easily and get on with our lives. This is why reappraisal counteracts negative emotions, decreases stress, and boosts resilience while helping you in coping with challenges.

You see how it works? Now it’s your turn to try. Recall a work or school project that didn’t work out the way you hoped. Now, try finding the silver linings of this situation. How could the situation be worse? What are opportunities that could result from this situation? What are the positives? Think of as many reappraisals as you can. Try to be creative and think of anything that would make you feel better about this experience.

Silver Linings Finding Growth Within Dysfunction

Find the Benefits of Coping with Challenges

Benefit finding is similar to reappraisal, but it can be used in negative, neutral, or positive situations. For example, you might say that the benefits of workings a really difficult job that you learn new skills and build character. You might also say that the benefits or working a really easy job are that you feel relaxed and have more time to devote to other things you enjoy. With some practice, you can find the benefits to just about any difficult situation your struggling with.

To practice finding the benefits, first think about a slightly negative experience you had recently. Try not to choose an experience that is extremely negative – it’s important to choose an experience that’s not too bad when you are first learning how to use this technique. You can work up to harder experiences as you become more skilled. For example, maybe your car broke down, or you got in a small fight with a friend.

I know that at first it can be hard to find the benefits of these situations. The more you practice, the easier it will get. Start by spending a few minutes thinking about the benefits of a negative experience. Try to really search for as many benefits as you can think of. Ask yourself these questions to brainstorm.

  • Were there, or will there be, any positive outcomes that result from this situation?
  • Are you grateful for any part of this situation?
  • In what ways are you better off than when you started?
  • What did you learn?
  • How did you grow and develop as a result of this situation?

Face your Fears

In life, a great many things will make you feel uncomfortable. If you’re worried about your finances, you may not want to look at your credit card balance. Or if you had a bad day at work, you may want to drink alcohol to forget about it all. This kind of experiential avoidance can be dangerous, because the emotions never get resolved. Instead, they fester and build up. If you’re not addressing negative emotions, they never go away, and you carry them with you wherever you go. Now, imagine facing a big challenge when you’re already carrying a bunch of negative emotions with you. It’s going to be a lot harder to cope, be resilient, and thrive.

So if you are they type to avoid feeling uncomfortable – for example by avoiding doing things that will be hard, having difficult conversations, or being out of your comfort zone – challenge yourself to feel uncomfortable, just in small ways at first.

Think of something small that makes you uncomfortable, somethings other people might even find silly, and face your fear. Don’t let yourself back down. If you do, your fear will just build, preventing your from moving forward in the ways you desire.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway: Susan Jeffers

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