Dear Neil: In the past several months, I have lost my job, have been unsuccessful in getting another one – and my house is getting foreclosed upon. All of this has put tremendous strain on both our family and our relationship. I find myself having a hard time staying focused and being productive, largely because I feel like I’m a failure. What would you advise someone in my shoes?
- Unable to Stay Strong in Texas
Dear Texas: I would advise you to find your inner resilience, the art of facing adversity and bouncing back. Things happen to us that cause pain, anguish, anxiety, panic, depression and fear. Events beyond our control can feel enormously deflating. But maintaining a resilient attitude will dramatically help you to cope and get through trying times. Here’s what resilient people do:
• Decide what your goals are and do everything you can to make them come true. That means you must persist in the face of obstacles, setbacks and failures – and resist the temptation to give up. It will be useful for you to have the flexibility to change direction and tactics in service to your goals.
• Focus on what you’re trying to create and what you have to look forward to.
• Take life’s ups and downs in stride. Keep your eyes on the big picture and don’t let every setback defeat your spirit.
• Pay attention to the attitudes and emotions that can sabotage you or turn you sour – and don’t give in to them.
• Learn from your mistakes, disappointments or losses, and make sure your actions are in accordance with your goals and values.
• Rise to the challenge and do the best you can.
• Make sure you never forget that the most important thing in life is about the quality of your relationships with those you care about—and to do everything you can to keep those relationships engaged, reciprocal, vital, close and connected.
• Empathy and compassion: seeing things from another person’s perspective, not just your own. Being mindful of how your words, actions and behaviors impact others and their feelings. This skill is essential to keeping your important relationships solid.
• Make sure you don’t allow yourself to get self-destructive with addictive substances or unhealthy behaviors.
• Make decisions that look out for your well-being, happiness and peace of mind.
• Live upright, with honor and integrity. Consistently being decent and doing the right thing.
• Keep yourself physically active, vital and fit.
• Be open to new people, new ways of looking at things and new experiences. Always be receptive to expanding who you are.
• Have an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving about what you have, what you’ve accomplished, what you are and what you’re becoming.
• Reach out to others, rather than feeling sorry for yourself that others aren’t reaching out to you.
• Look toward the future with hope and optimism.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in the Denver and Boulder, CO, specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303.758.8777, or e-mail him from his website www.heartrelationships.com.