Every so often, life takes a swing at you, connects, and knocks you flat: Your company hires you a new boss, a guy so young you could be his mom. Instead of finding yourself on a plane to Spain for a long-planned holiday, you’re spending your vacation money paying the bills for an unexpected illness. When these things happenand happen they doit’s hard to imagine ever coming out the other side.
But you can bounce back. (Yes, even if you’re still reeling from, say, discovering that your husband who claimed to be “hiking the Appalachian Trail” was off canoodling with a gorgeous Argentinian woman.) You don’t need to pen a best-selling tell-all and commune with Oprah to get it out of your system, à la Jenny Sanford, nor do you have to be able to envision a future filled with sunshine and lollipops like the impossibly perky few who seem to be born with the resilience gene. But you can get to a place where you’re enjoying a few good laughs and happier momentsin short order, for that matter.
It’s true that some people are born with easygoing temperaments that make it easier to bounce back from life-shaking events, but even those who are thrown by upheavals can learn how to ratchet up their resilience skills, says Karen Reivich, PhD, a psychologist and co-director of the Penn Resiliency Project at the University of Pennsylvania. “There are many aspects of resilience that can be taught,” she says. The next time you’re watching your luck circle the drain, try these seven steps to get through it and move on to a new chapter of your life.
1. Get pissed off.
Being resilient doesn’t mean you have to smile serenely like a Stepford Wife. “It’s critical to acknowledge to yourself whatever emotions you’re going through, and share them with other people who can support you and help you keep perspective,” says Mary Alvord, PhD, a psychologist in Maryland and a public-education coordinator for the American Psychological Association, who also confirms that holding in emotions is bad for your health. So go ahead and rage and curse until you start to feel better.
2. Quit catastrophizing.
After a few days or weeks (depending on the scope of your crisis), that initial wave of emotions will start to feel a little less apocalyptic. That’s the time to take a new look at the situation. “We spend a lot of mental energy making problems much bigger than they really are,” Reivich says. The loss of a job can morph into thoughts of I’m going to live on the streets. “When you hear that voice in your head, label it as the worst-case scenario,” she says. Then write it down along with the best-possible scenarioI’ll help an old lady across the street, and she’ll leave me her estate in her will. Finally, put down the most-likely scenarioI’ll tighten my belt while I find a new job. “As you write things down, you can feel your anxiety start to lessen,” Reivich says.