The word Adversity derives from Latin, meaning to experience an unfavourable reverse of fortune or when life literally turns against us. Adversity comes in many shapes and sizes: these can be the loss of important people in our lives; the loss of health; the loss of employment or redundancy; acquiring a disability or health condition; family illness; or relationship breakdown. The things to which we attach greatest value will cause us greatest distress if these are subsequently threatened or lost. Adversity can also disturb our expectations about reality and how things ought to be. There is a famous John Lennon quote that Life is what happens when busy making other plans.
Over the course of a life time, everyone will experience some varying degree of adversity in some aspect of their life and at some point. During life we all go through various cycles of challenge and adversity, but these periods can also lead to emotional and psychological growth. Adversity is often the point that motivates people to enter personal therapy, due to the sense that carrying on as normal is not sufficient. Equally adversity can encourage us to step back and re-evaluate our priorities and important life goals.
Naturally we want to resist and minimise the things in our lives which cause us discomfort, pain and suffering. But this can lead to unrealistic expectations about how life ought to be and always being positive, easy and predictable. Research itself strongly correlates personal resilience to adversity and successfully overcoming hardship and difficulties. Within the UK Parliament, a disproportionate number of MP’s are estimated to have experienced the loss of a parent in childhood. So provided adversity does not overwhelm us, it can provide important openings for psychological, emotional and personal growth. What we need rather are healthy and realistic ways of negotiating life’s hardships.
Here are some thoughts on coping with adversity:-
*Be kind to yourself when challenged by adversity as it will present an additional emotional load. Try to care for yourself by ensuring you look after your body through eating healthily, good sleep and exercise where possible.
*Try to work through the process by accepting the feelings you feel and also that this may take time.
*Reach out to trusted friends and family to talk about how you are feeling. Sharing our feelings with another person can help us feel less alone and provide valuable emotional support and encouragement.
*It can be helpful to link up with others in similar circumstances who can understand better what you are going through. There are many available support groups and networks who can help such as Cruse for bereavement (https://www.cruse.org.uk/).
*Try to avoid making negative judgements of yourself about how you are coping. Everyone copes with adversity in different ways. Though things may be rough for a while, keep in mind that they can get better but this can take time.
*Resist the urge to make comparisons with other people’s lives or assumptions that this shouldn’t be happening. None of us are exempt from experiencing difficult personal circumstances. In addition, as there is huge social pressure to present ourselves as successful and in a positive light, it can be hard to make judgements on other people’s lives.
*If your mood remains low, anxious or things do not ease after a reasonable period of time has passed, then consider seeking professional help.
Remember it is okay to sometimes not be okay.