Resiliency Articles

29 Quick Tips to Bounce Back in Life

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

1. Realize that change is always going to be in your life. Expect it.

“I always thought things would calm down and get easier. I’m beginning to think that’s not going to happen.” Phoebe Howard, age 99.

2. Be nice to yourself. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Read Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

3. Practice mindfulness by noticing your thoughts and feelings, but have no judgment about them. Try this 12-minute ‘taster’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Chinese Finger Trap 2


4. Resistance is like a Chinese Finger Trap. The more you struggle, the tighter you’re held in the trap.

5. Be flexible and open in your way of thinking. It will allow you to problem-solve more effectively and accept your reality more easily. Read Roger von Oech’s A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative

6. Find your taproot.

7. See if there is a gift hidden within your troubles. The sand that irritates the oyster eventually becomes a pearl.

8. Develop post-traumatic growth. The basics are being optimistic and framing your struggles as meaningful (finding the gifts and opportunities in them.)

9. Gain perspective: See how many different angles you can view the same problem from.

10. More perspective: Remember that you’ve made it through tough times before. And you’re still here to talk about it.

“I like to see a cloud in the blue sky. How else can you appreciate the blue without a cloud in it?” - my 100-year-old grandmother, Mary Gustason

11. Think about kaleidoscopes. The pattern is beautiful, but when it gets shaken up, a wonderful new pattern can emerge.

12. Take a break.
 Really. It’s okay.

13. Find something that makes you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.

14. Remember that your thoughts aren’t always true.

15. Remember that it’s okay to have fun, smile, and laugh sometimes even when you …

How to Make Your Holidays Not Suck

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

It’s that time of year again.Christmas dog

The Holidays.

For many people, the end of the year festivities are a time of joy and warmth, a time for nostalgia, and a time to celebrate with the loved ones in our lives.

But what time is it for others?

Those troubled by ugly memories of holidays past rather than ones filled with light and love.

Those who with the dreaded family get-togethers that you really can’t get out of but desperately want to.

And those who are alone for the holidays and don’t want to be.

How do we make this time not suck?

Here are some ideas:

1. Remember that this, too, shall pass.

Yes, I’ve used this phrase before. And I shall use it again and again and again.

Because no truer words have ever been spoken.

Even though The Holidays now start as soon as the last candy is nabbed from a neighbor on Halloween and last for about two full months, they’re going to pass.

Just like they do every year.

You’ll get through this year, too.

2. Don’t blow your dread out of proportion.

“I can’t stand the holidays!”

“Not another horrible dinner with my dad and his wife and her four bratty kids – I’ll never make it!”

“I’m the only one I know who doesn’t have somewhere to go and people to be with during the holidays.”

Your holidays aren’t fun, it’s true.

But do you make them suck even more by dwelling on your negative thoughts about them?

Try this instead: When you find yourself thinking your old thoughts that create dread in the very core of your being, just notice them and let them float away as though they are on a cloud in a breeze.

What usually happens is we go on and on and on in our minds about a thought, like this:

“Not another horrible dinner with my dad and his wife and her four bratty kids – I’ll never make it! All of that noise and shouting with those kids running at full tilt in the living room. And I never get any time with my dad since he has to do whatever Sheila says. …

3 Things to Ask Yourself When You’re Just Not Bouncing Back

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Do you ever wonder why you’re not bouncing back from things as fast as you usually do?questioning

Maybe you’re facing a big stressor or perhaps it’s something so small that it usually wouldn’t bother you, but in either case, somehow you just aren’t as resilient as you have been in the past.

The tendency is to think, “I must be a real wimp; I usually am fine with this type of stress.”

You might be a wimp (although I seriously doubt it) or there might be something else going on.

We humans have a penchant for glossing over the most obvious things, so here’s a reminder to ask yourself about these three commonly overlooked factors that make it difficult to bounce back:

1. Am I tired?

Being tired saps us of any reserves we might have in the resiliency arena so it makes sense that bouncing back wouldn’t come as easily.

If being tired is due to lack of sleep, our ability to problem-solve and manage even the smallest issues may be severely challenged. We need our REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep – the deepest stage of sleep – in order to be able to process memories and emotions most efficiently.

If lack of sleep is a problem for you, check out this helpful article from the American Psychological Association.

Tired from physical exertion? Make sure to get enough rest to get your wits about you again before making any decisions or trying to accurately gauge your ability to bounce back.

2. Am I sick?

Obviously, being seriously ill is going to make it difficult for you to have any energy at all to manage your emotions.

But did you know that even something as simple as the common cold can affect your bounce-back-ability?

Think about it: not only are you tired (see #1 above) from being sick, every bit of extra energy in your body – and most of the regular-strength energy – is going toward fighting off the invasive critters that are making you sick.

That doesn’t leave a lot left over for emotional resilience.

Take care of your body to help restore your energy and bounciness.

3. …

3 Ways to Tame Monstrous Problems

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Take a look at this striking photo of a monster.magnified gnat_matthias_lenke_flickr

We see gigantic, multi-faceted eyes, leathery skin, and hairy, feeler-y things sticking out in the front.

Who knows what those feeler-y things might be hiding? Probably some hideous mouth with powerful, trap-like jaws.

It makes me shudder just looking at it.

Do you know what this scary monster is?

It’s a gnat.

One of those tiny little insects that we swat at impatiently as they flit around our faces.

But it looks pretty scary when it’s magnified hundreds of times, doesn’t it?

This is the exact same thing that can happen when we’re faced with a problem or setback, too.

It can look really scary. So scary, in fact, that we shudder and run away from it.

What we may not know is that we’ve inadvertently magnified the problem so that it seems much, much larger than it really is.

As a matter of fact, it’s taken up our entire field of vision and not only appears frightening, but is preventing us from seeing around it to any kind of solution.

I’m not suggesting that all problems are in reality the size of gnats, but you understand the point: we often magnify and catastrophize situations that may not be as big as we perceive them to be.

So how do we keep problems in perspective?

Here are some ideas:

1. Remember that you’ve had problems in the past and are still here to talk about it.

Just like the magnified gnat taking up all of our visual space, we can allow problems to appear monstrous, too.

We get very focused on the stressful situation at hand and then have a hard time seeing anything else but the problem.

Next time this happens to you, take a deep breath, move a few steps back and get a bigger, longer-term picture.

You’ve had problems before. And you’ve figured them out and been able to move on.

Granted, the one you’re facing now might actually be more complicated or difficult than others.

Still, experience tells you that you’re going to get through this one, too.

2. Look at the problem from a different angle.

That magnified gnat is creepy.

But …

Are You Willing?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

I’m often asked, “Why are some people more resilient than others?”stone question mark

I don’t know the exact answer to this question (I’m not sure anyone does yet,) but I have a guess about one particular aspect of resilient people.


My partner often asks me to do things around the house that involve lifting heavy objects.

“You’re much stronger than I am,” she says in answer to my curiosity about why she would like me to do the task rather than her.

After much thought about this, I now reply,

“It’s not that I’m stronger, I’m just willing.”

It is the literal truth. I’m quite sure Andrea is physically as strong as I am, but she is not willing to lift heavy objects due to real concerns about her back and imagined perceptions that I am stronger than she.

This idea of willingness is also echoed in one of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes,

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

It seems to me that those who bounce back well in life have an aspect of willingness, too. To be stronger than they thought they were. To stay with problems longer. To realize that they are not extraordinary in any particular way, but they are willing.

One of the origins of the word willing is from the Gothic waljan which means “to choose.”

To be willing is to consciously choose something.

What will you choose when faced with adversity?

Are you willing to pick up a situation that you thought you weren’t strong enough to handle?

Are you willing to stay with a problem longer than you thought you could?

Are you willing to say, “This is hard and I feel broken and depressed about it and I am willing to go through this to get to the other side?”

Here’s a task for you. Decide how you want to fill in the blanks to this sentence,

“It’s not that I’m so ____________, it’s just that I’m __________.”

Use it as your mantra the next time you face a tough time in your life.

Are you willing?


Want more ideas about how to bounce back …

How to Survive Emotional Quicksand

Monday, July 8th, 2013

You’ve probably watched the typical hero-in-quicksand scene in an action movie. The hero (or maybe an expendable extra!) runs through the jungle and suddenly is knee-deep in soft, shifting sand and sinking quickly.quicksand

The harder he struggles, the faster he sinks.

What to do? The solution is much easier than our hero thinks.

10 Ways to Bounce Back from a Break-Up

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Here’s a list of 10 ways to bounce back from a break-up:

broken heart

How to Bounce Back from Emotional Pain

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

I was sitting in a rustic camping lodge on an island in Washington State with a crackling fire in front of me. The smell of almost maypine and earth and wood smoke delighted my senses with each inhale. Around me, people were chatting intently and occasional spurts of laughter erupted in the great hall.

I didn’t want to be there.

Need to Bounce Back? Get Rid of These 5 Things

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

In my lengthy career in mental health, I’ve noticed that there are several key stumbling blocks that keep many people from bouncing back when adversity hits.Giving a flick

If you can get rid of these things, life will open up for you and become less of a struggle.

1. Thinking that you’ll get to a point where life doesn’t change.

Admit it. If you’re like most of us, you secretly think that some day when you have everything figured out and every material thing you need, then you won’t have to deal with change any longer.

Well, as my friend’s grandmother said when she reached the age of 99,

I always thought things would calm down and get easier. I’m beginning to believe that’s not going to happen. ~ Phoebe Howard, age 99

10 Things to Tell Yourself When Life Knocks You Down

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

1. I’ve been through this (or worse) quote

Remember that this is not the first time you’ve faced heartbreak, grief, emotional distress, or any other kind of calamity. You made it through then and you will now even if you think this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. Great resource: Joan Borysenko’s It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change.

2. I accept myself completely as I am.

Maybe you made a mistake. Maybe you failed at something. Or maybe you’re just having a hard time living with your painful emotions right now.

It’s okay.

Accept yourself fully in this moment just as you are. Notice your thoughts and feeling and make space for them. Realize that these thoughts and feelings are a part of you and, as such, need to be accepted rather than pushed away. Great resource: RAIN – Tara Brach

3. This, too, shall pass.

Simple, but true, is it not? Great resource: The Art of Resilience: 100 Paths to Wisdom and Strength in an Uncertain World -  Carol Orsborn.

4. How can I look at this differently?

It’s really easy to get stuck in looking at a problem or crisis from just one angle. See if there are other ways you can look at it. Is there something to learn? Is there another way to approach it? Great resource: 3 Simple Ways to Get a New Perspective on Monstrous Problems.

5. Who is around to help me with this?

This is not the time to go it alone. This is the time you gather your tribe and ask for their support in whatever way you need. Great resource:  Ya Gotta Have Friends: 4 Essential Ideas for Bouncing Back.

6. I will treat myself as I would my best friend were she going through this.

Give yourself a little love! Sometimes we can be harder on ourselves than we would ever be to a friend – or even an enemy!

Be as compassionate to yourself as you would your friend. Great resource: Soften, soothe, allow meditation


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