Good Ways to Cope with Adversity

Good ways to cope with adversity (difficult or unpleasant situations) makes more sense if we compare them with what’s useless. For example, if we try to deny a problem and push to one side it will come back and bite hard. Similarly, attempts to trivialise the issue or to become fatalistic about it aren’t helpful.


Life is full of upsets many of which can affect people deeply. Job loss, bereavement, marital breakdowns, debt, ill-health just are a handful of examples. Out there are people who appear more able than others to bounce back. It’s not that they feel the effects of adversity any less deeply it’s just that they have a certain quality, one we term resilience.

There’s nothing particularly special about resilience except of course its protective effects against stress. So when I say nothing special, I’m referring to the fact that very ordinary skills can be applied by anyone in order to develop resilience. I’m looking into the parts that, when combined, appear to make resilience what is it:

The Components

Optimism: Perhaps the most significant resilience skill, and one that can be developed. Think of optimism as a tendency to see favorable outcomes. As an optimist your glass will be half full. As a pessimist it will be half empty.

Empathy: is about putting yourself in other people’s shoes. You see and feel the world as they experience it. Empathy is essential for building relationships and relationships are important when support is needed.

Emotional Regulation: is about keeping our emotions in check. If you’ve ever had cause to regret the things you’ve said or done it is likely these have come about because you’ve let your emotions take control. Empathy helps us see things from another’s perspective but we can also learn to regulate our emotions through practices like mindfulness or other forms of meditation.

Causal Analysis: refers to getting to the root cause of a problem and this helps us both understand and focus attention on possible helpful changes. Causal analysis requires some depth of thought and use of the word why? For example, why did I just lose my cool? (because I’m frustrated). Why am I frustrated? (because I’m stressed) Why am I stressed? And so forth.

Self Control: is about coping with uncertainty and not make snap judgments or behaving impulsively.

Self-Efficacy: refers to your belief in yourself. It’s about having the confidence to take a course of action that will ultimately solve problems.

Action: may refer to a number of possibilities. It may be turning to others for support or advice or it may be about following some other path. Action is about doing something rather than nothing, but it is based upon weighing up costs and benefits before settling on something.

The Upshot

Adversity, by definition, isn’t pleasant. However, we can help turn things to our advantage by viewing them as learning experiences. Doing this helps us to step back and see what’s been happening with clearer vision. Look on adversity with curiosity rather than anger or embarrassment. Not only does this answer lots of questions it positions us in ways that helps shape our futures. 

See also:

How to think big and succeed
Emotional intelligence, the complete guide
How to be calm and confident


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