Unfortunate occurrences are a part of life. But do you know what to do to keep your life from spiraling out of control when you face events that threaten your safety, emotions, or health? People struggle with overcoming adversity. They don’t know what coping mechanisms to use to heal from their misfortunes. Often, they run to a therapist for help. But therapy may not be accessible for all people. It may be too expensive. Or just not your cup of tea. That’s okay. Therapy isn’t the only way to overcome adversity.
In 2015, I faced the biggest adversity of my life. Within three years, I lost my entire family, and I hit rock bottom. First, my mom died from pancreatic cancer. The next year, my sister died from breast cancer. And to top it off, I lost my dad the following year to a heart attack. I was drinking alcohol regularly, eating poorly, and attempted suicide to cope with the excruciating pain. I had no sense of what guidance or support I needed. The last thing I wanted to do was seek therapy and tell some stranger what horrible things had happened to me. But my sister gave me an incredible gift that completely changed my coping process. It provided me with the framework for overcoming adversity without a therapist. And it led me to piece back my broken life in a way that’s left me healthier, more resilient, and optimistic for the life ahead of me.
If you’re faced with adversity such as the death of a loved one, a divorce or financial struggles, here are 4 ways you can start overcoming the overwhelm of it all without a therapist:
1. Read a book. My sister lived in an apartment that was 10 minutes away from my home. During her time in hospice, my dad shared that he wasn’t sure what was going to happen with her health. So I became responsible for transferring all her belongings to my house. One day after my sister died, I went into the garage got my box cutter out and started to pry open the taped boxes of her belongings. In one of the boxes, I found an enormous stack of personal development books. To my surprise, my sister was working on her personal development. She had breast cancer for about eight years, and it never occurred to me that she was working to live a better life under those circumstances. I didn’t have a healthy relationship with my sister – we were more cordial with each other than anything. But I knew those books were a gift from her to dig deep into my heart and forgive her and to better myself. She owned many of Tony Robbins’ books and videos. So I showed up at a Tony Robbins event called Unleash Your Power from Within in honor of my sister. And later on, I got certified as a strategic intervention coach through the Robbins-Madanes training program. Not only did my sister’s books help me get back on my feet, but they also escalated me further to develop my personal and professional growth. Books can’t take away your pain, but they can give you hope and a direction forward. Find books that help you create a path of healing that inspire you to use your adversity as fuel to champion through your life.
2. Write. Another gift my sister left me was years of her journal writings since she was 16 years old. After reading her journals, I was inspired to vomit all my emotions onto paper. Writing helped me cope with the overwhelming feelings of all the losses I had endured. It became my healing mechanism. Psychologists James Pennebaker, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin, and Joshua Smyth, Ph.D., of Syracuse University have found that “writing about emotions and stress can boost immune functioning in patients.” Pennebaker also found that “suppressing negative, trauma-related thoughts compromises immune functioning, and that those who write visit the doctor less often.” In the beginning, I had frequent visits to the doctor. Now, I only visit the doctor for regular checkups. Writing helps you become conscious of your emotional patterns. It clears your mind, so you have more room to heal. And when you infuse your writing with gratitude for your experiences, you will begin to see the positive effects in your life. By writing, I started to see the clarity of my life and understand that no matter how adverse of a situation I was facing, I’d find my way through it.. Give yourself at least 15-20 minutes a day to write out your emotional patterns and see how it positively impacts your mental and physical health.
3. Exercise. After losing my entire family in 3 years, I had such a crazy time dealing with depression along with battling the loss and grief. Exercise was not on my short to-do list. One day my father’s friend, Grace, came over to the house and began to examine my overall health. I was overweight and had horrible acne and skin irritation. She suggested I take baby steps and walk on the beach with her. My parents were advocates of working out for years. They were also members at the local gym. So I started to make frequent visits to my father’s gym with Grace. Robert Neimeyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Memphis whose research and practice focuses on bereavement, says exercise “provides both direct benefits to mood and health and indirect benefits as it forces you out of isolation and into the world.” Moderate exercise every day for at least 20 to 30 minutes is flexible and achievable. Take those baby steps and get out for a walk every day. You’ll immediately see the positive impact it has not just on your body, but on easing your mind’s worries and clearing out any stagnant energy, so you have more room to breathe.
4. Self-Care Ritual. Drinking myself into a trance with alcohol and eating poorly were my ways of attempting to erase my pain and avoid grief. But as I learned the hard way, food and alcohol can be profoundly destructive when they aren’t used to optimize your health. When I started to work out regularly, I began learning from a nutritionist about how to eat and cook healthy meals. Focus on your food intake and see how it’s helping or hindering your efforts to cope. It is essential to understand what foods will help you adjust or maintain not just your weight, but your overall mood. And when you’re in the mood to feel good about life, that’s when you have the energy and focus on overcoming the adversity you’re facing. Massage is another form of self-care that is a powerful healing method to help you release all the tension stored in your body. There are some studies demonstrating the benefits of massage to diminish stress, discomfort and muscle tension. Massage is also beneficial because you have someone solely focused on showing you care, compassion, and physical contact. These all help you feel nurtured and loved during a delicate time of difficulty.
Life is unpredictable, but it does not have to be unbearable. When faced with the storms of life such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or financial hardship, take these four components as your action plan to overcome adversity one step at a time.
To learn more about ways you can thrive through life’s storms and become a champion of life, come to visit me at (www.sandyrocourt.com)