How to Bounce Back Stronger Than Ever When Life Gets Challenging

Nicola Pettit

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to bounce back faster from challenges, while others fall and can’t get back up? Why some people seemingly glide through life while others are batting off challenge after challenge and can’t catch a break?

My friends, I am here to tell you that it’s not luck of the draw. It comes down to resilience. And mindset.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines resilience as “the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened”.

As humans, we will all face some kind of adversity during the course of our life, ranging from the loss of a loved one, a divorce, redundancy, ill health, toxic relationships, trauma and plenty more. As a coach, I often preach about the power of a strong and positive mindset as I truly believe it can protect you from the effects that these challenges have on your mental wellbeing.

I myself have certainly faced my fair share of challenges in my 31 years on this Earth. My parents divorced when I was 9 and throughout my childhood, me and my sisters witnessed Mum suffer at the hands of violent partners over the years. She became an alcoholic and after many traumatic years she passed away in 2018 aged only 51.

In 2017 I ended a 9 year emotionally abusive marriage to somebody who was dependant on drugs and had gotten us into unthinkable debt.

I have faced fertility testing in my prior relationship and the grief of trying unsuccessfully for years to start a family.

I have suffered with severe anxiety and depression twice and have been signed off work when life just felt too much to bear.

Most recently, on 30th April 2020 I lost my dear Nan, on the same week I was furloughed from work.

All the while, we are collectively enduring a global pandemic, where everything already feels confusing and scary.

There would have been a time not so long ago when I’d just want to throw in the towel. However, despite the fact that I am devastated to lose another loved one, I am coping OK. My emotions are balanced and the life lessons I’ve had leading up to this have allowed me to pause, reflect and pull out coping mechanisms to deal with the emotions I am facing. I have strengthened my resilience muscle and tapped into a new mindset; one which is now strong enough to withstand any hard times.

We need to exercise this resilience muscle in order to spring back when life deals us a rough hand.

You have a choice in life, to repeat the same patterns and get the same result. Or to learn from prior experiences in order to grow as a person, ready to face the world and whatever it throws at you.

As Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. We could choose to repeat learned patterns of behaviour each but I encourage you to reflect on how those actions are impacting your overall emotional wellbeing and mental clarity going forward.

Take this example. If you lost your job and was finding it difficult to secure another one, naturally this will cause stress and anxiety. You have bills to pay, you need to keep a roof over your head and the negative thoughts start to infiltrate your rational mind.

Your learned behaviours may be to self-medicate in order to relieve this stress by drinking more alcohol, or comfort eating in an attempt to bury these uncomfortable feelings. However, the issues will still be there unless they are fully acknowledged and processed.

Excessive drinking and comfort eating are detrimental not only to your physical body but your mental health and it’s been proven that drinking, in particular, can increase feelings of anxiety and stress in the long run. They may temporarily dull the emotions and provide light relief for a while, but you know they will be there under the surface until you deal with them head-on.

Resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find resilience by moving towards a goal and by perceiving bad times as a temporary state of affairs.

It is possible to strengthen your inner self-belief and define yourself as capable and competent. It’s also possible to develop a sense of mastery over your emotions. Trust me, I am proof of this!

I read a quote online – “Resilient people are like bamboo in a hurricane—they bend rather than break. Or, even if they feel like they’re broken for a time, there’s still a part of them deep inside that knows they won’t be broken forever.” That rung true for me. I am definitely more like bamboo now, compared to the delicate broken china vase that I was a few years back.

So how do you become more resilient?

I have listed 7 traits of a resilient person that you can all exercise.

1. They know their boundaries

Resilient people understand that there is a separation between who they are at their core and the cause of their temporary suffering. The stress/trauma might play a part in their story, but it does not overtake their permanent identity

2. They surround themselves with supportive people

Supportive people give us the space to grieve and work through our emotions. They know how to listen and when to offer just enough encouragement without trying to solve all of our problems with their advice. Good supporters know how to hold space for us to process how we are feeling without judgement. Like a good coach!

3. They practice self-awareness

Self-awareness helps us get in touch with our needs—knowing what we need, what we don’t need, and when it’s time to reach out for some extra help.

4. They practice acceptance

Resilient people understand that stress/pain is a part of living that ebbs and flows. It’s about learning to experience the full range of emotions and trusting that we will bounce back.

5. They’re willing to sit in silence

They practice mindfulness—being in the present moment without overthinking. It takes a lot of practice, but it’s a fantastic form of healing and resilience-building.

6. They practice self-care

They have good habits that support them when they need it most; those things that recharge our batteries and fill our cup. We can’t help anyone else if we don’t take care of ourselves first. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

7. They reframe the situation

In coaching, we often help our clients reframe the situation to view it from another angle. How could this be a blessing in disguise? How else can the situation be viewed in a way we haven’t yet considered? In what other context would this issue not be a problem? For example, rain at a BBQ in the UK is considered a real problem, whereas rain in a drought-stricken African country is a blessing.  

I encourage you to start practising some of the 7 tips above and get in touch with me to let me know how they have helped.

Knowing that situations and emotions can and do continually change gives us hope for a brighter tomorrow.


About the author:

Nicola is an Accredited Empowerment and Mindset Coach. She empowers emotionally burnt-out women to find emotional balance in order to live authentically and achieve their biggest personal and professional goals. She has also worked in the City of London for 13 years in corporate professional roles and currently lives in Essex with her fiancé and 2 dogs.

Instagram: @nicolapettitt_coaching



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