How Will You Face Adversity?

Emotional challenges and psychological adversities are present to all of us at some point – whether that is the death of a loved one, the relapse of a family member, the financial catastrophe that hits our immediate family, or the escalated behavior of a child. We cannot always know in advance what type of difficulty we will face, but what we can know is how we will face it.

At the risk of sounding nonsensical, I must admit the best time to practice facing adversity is before it occurs. You may ask, “How do I practice something that is not yet happening?” We practice it by increasing our aptitude at detecting when we have arrived in a space where we are no longer capable of making rational decisions and managing our emotions. As we develop the ability to determine our emotional limits for decision-making, we are more and more able to stay present through crises and make effective and rational decisions.

Clients always ask me, “Okay, but how does this actually look? How do I actually prevent emotional escalation and psychological crises? How do I practice something that isn’t happening?” Great news! It happens all day, every day, but not to the point where your cognition goes offline. We experience emotions and psychological challenges all day and every day, which is a perfect time to practice.  

When we are not under severe stress, it is a perfect time to practice our tools, take them out, dust them off, line them up and prepare.  The best time to assess skills and practice applying them is when we feel mildly aggravated or slightly worried. When day-to-day blips occur, ask yourself, “What brings me comfort when I am struggling? What do my brain and body need when I feel stressed? What do I wish for and request when I am overwhelmed or feeling mild worry?” “Am I a person that needs quiet to process? Or that needs to process externally? Am I a person that needs sensory support?”

Although it is not a guarantee: chances are that some of the tools that work when we are expecting life challenges will help when something happens that is challenging, extended, stressful. The best time to determine these needs and wants is when life is at a usual level of smoothness – so they are quickly available and readily accessible.

  • Understand that smooth sailing is not forever and bumps will come. By understanding this, we can prepare our mind for psychological resiliency and skillfulness in preparation.
  • Practice facing mild challenges with emotional regulation skills. Get to know yourself in the moments of calm and smoothness.
  • Be curious and inquisitive, be creative and flexible, these are the pieces of our cognition that are eliminated in psychological crises so we need to use them especially when we are feeling calmer.
  • Rehearse a plan for staying in the pocket so that when faced for adversity, the step of creating a plan has been completed already.
  • Practice breathing when you don’t need to so you will remember when you do need to.
  • Practice acknowledging/validating smaller feelings so it is a used skill that is already on the forefront.

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