Life is great when we have those days where everything goes our way, but what happens in those moments when unexpected adversity hits and we are prompted to respond? There’s an old saying “it’s not a fight until somebody gets punched” (Mike Tyson I think?), and this can also be a metaphorical way to look at life. When things are going well everything is great, but how do you respond to unexpected stress, adversity, frustration, and failure impacts your mental health? It is in these moments where we have been “hit in a fight,” and how we respond will dictate our level of mental health and future chances for happiness and success.
Dealing with the tough stuff
Life is not easy, and in fact, life is often quite difficult. Each day brings new challenges, stressors to overcome, and obligations we must meet for our jobs and personal lives. Sometimes it’s a traffic jam, a spilled coffee, or simply trying to find a decent place to eat. On other days we deal with bigger challenges, like working through a tough family situation or dealing with a serious health situation. And on our toughest days we deal with job loss, divorce, and even death, all life experiences that can really impact our mental health and well being. No, life is certainly not easy, prompting us to galvanize our resiliency and prepare to successfully respond for anything that comes our way.
When I work with clients we often talk about my “Big 4” challenges to life: Stress, adversity, frustration, and failure.
No matter how careful we are or how hard we try, we will inevitably battle stress, adversity, frustration, and failure. Below are examples of how each of these obstacles can impact our daily routines:
- Stress. We experience both good (eustress) and bad (distress) every day. Good stress, like getting a job promotion, is still stressful when you think of the new responsibilities ahead. Bad stress, like overcoming an illness, can tax our bodies and take us away from family and work, creating new challenges to overcome.
- Adversity. Life isn’t always easy, and life can be especially tough when we are forced to overcome adversity by means of unexpected changes in our lives like dealing with COVID, or trying to take classes while going back and forth between traditional learning, remote, and hybrid options.
- Frustration. Sometimes in life even when we have our best effort we still come up short. And it can be especially frustrating when we lose opportunities to people less qualified than we are, or because they had an inside connection that we didn’t.
- Failure. How do respond when you receive an unexpected poor grade, a demotion, or simply do not get the attention you deserve for your efforts?
Rather than trying to steer clear of adversity, you may be better served to develop solid stress coping skills so that when you “step in it” in life you will quickly rebound and be on your way again. While we don’t always know when we will experience our next tough moment, day, or extended period in life, by mentally preparing for those moments ahead of time we often find that we do have what it takes to overcome. You may not enjoy stress and adversity, but stress and adversity are part of the human experience, so it makes sense to learn as much as we can about human resiliency.