Five years ago, I found myself at the mercy of Murphy’s Law. In the span of nine months, my relationship to a partner of eight years ended, I lost four family members to unexpected deaths and I suddenly found myself hurtled from living the dream life to being jobless, penniless and homeless.
To say life knocked the wind out of me would be an understatement.
Each time I picked myself up, another blow would send me sprawling toward a sense of utter defeat. It was as if a tornado swept through my entire being and left me empty and devoid of hope, strength and any ounce of self-belief.
As those days of hopelessness stretched on, the only thing I could focus on was taking baby steps every day to build a new life and a new future.
It was an arduous journey, where I was often taking one step forward and two steps backward. Many times I felt like I would never see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I struggled to find the strength to inch forward.
1,825 days on, I finally came out the other side.
My new life and the new me are still under construction, but I now have in me a spring of strength to propel me forward, regardless of setbacks or how grim the situation seems. This newfound capacity did not develop overnight. It grew gradually as I practiced and incorporated into my life the valuable insights below.
If you’re going through difficult times now, the following four reminders may help you be more resilient.
1) Remember that life always changes. Things can get better.
When troubles strike, it can feel like things will only get worse, but that is the pessimist in us talking. If we keep the faith and respond to the situation with positive and constructive actions, we can break out of the cycle, and things can get better.
Sometimes all we need to do is simply let time pass and resist the temptation to overreact and aggravate the problem. During times like these, I would distract myself by actively engaging in other areas of my life. To let time heal my broken heart, I took a break from dating, threw myself into a new job and took up the counsel role of an expatriate Women’s Only Group. Doing so helped me advance professionally and bond with inspiring women, and saved me from needless rebound relationships.
2. Recall how you overcame similar struggles in the past.
When plodding through a challenging time, it’s natural to be gripped by fear, self-doubt and pessimistic thoughts that we won’t be able to surmount the obstacles. We forget that it always feels impossible until it’s done, and that we have overcome similar struggles in the past.
A simple but extremely effective thing I did was to list down the occasions in my life where I busted through hurdles and rose above seemingly insurmountable challenges. As I penned out the victories of having built my career from scratch in three foreign countries and having undertaken an MBA at one of the top business schools in the world, I found renewed faith in myself and in the unknown future, which may well bring the good instead of the bad like I feared.
3. Remember that things aren’t as bad as they seem.
Zoom out on the issue and focus on the grand scheme of things. More often than not, the raging fires in our lives hijack our attention and we fail to see the big picture. It’s rarely the case that every aspect of our lives went awry at the same time, and it’s critical to keep the right perspective when the going gets tough.
We need to remember that our problems are merely a subset of everything that’s going on in our lives and not let worries fear, and anxiety overtake our minds. Even if every area of our lives—namely health, relationship, work, money and passion—went haywire, the fact that we’re alive means there’s hope for things to turn around. Each time I doubt my future, I’ll recall my friends who died young due to suicide and remind myself that only in death is all hope lost.
4. Remember that there are still things to appreciate.
When I was feeling crushed during those dark days, I kept questioning the universe for picking me as its victim and forgot about the good things that were in my life. In hindsight, it was thanks to those challenges that I came to see who my true friends were, and I also learned to appreciate many of the blessings I had taken for granted. I might have lost a life partner, loved ones, money and employment, but these setbacks are transient. I would always have my degree, knowledge, skills, professional experience and network and people who care deeply for me to fall back on and to get me back on my feet.
I realised that no matter how terrible life may seem at any single point, there are always good things if we keep our eyes peeled for them.
Which areas of your life are you struggling with right now? How do you cope and stay resilient?
Author: Sylvia Huang
Editor: Toby Israel