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10 ways to overcome adversity and thrive during hard times

January 31, 2022 - 13 min read

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What is adversity?

When adversity strikes

How can I overcome adversity?

Looking back and reflecting

Why is adversity important?

Your boss just told you they don’t think you’re ready to take on more leadership duties. They don't think you're the right person for the job and believe you won't succeed. What do you do when you're in a difficult situation like this? Is it time to throw in the towel and admit defeat, or should you use your inner strength to rise up and prove them wrong?

Adversity is one of life's staples: it's impossible to avoid, no matter what path you've chosen to traverse. At times it feels like a never-ending uphill battle. But those hard times prove to be learning opportunities and help you grow as a person.

Take the above example, for instance. Being told that you aren't good enough and having people doubt your abilities is your time to work harder and succeed. It's when you tell yourself that you're not going to crumble as you encounter adversity, but overcome it.

Altering your mindset is a great first step in the face of adversity. As with making mistakes, if you opt to actively learn from each hurdle, you'll grow as a person and inspire others to learn how to overcome adversity.

What is adversity?

The definition of adversity is a misfortune, a troubling situation, or hardship. A few specific examples of adversity include: 

  • Self-doubt
  • Physical injuries or illnesses
  • Rejection
  • Poverty
  • Losing a loved one
  • Struggling to succeed in your selected career

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Despite the plethora of advice we receive from self-help books, friends and family, the internet, motivational speakers, or our role models, overcoming adversity is a process. It isn't always solvable in the blink of an eye. 

Everyone is different, and coping mechanisms that work for one person won't necessarily work for another. 

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When adversity strikes

When adversity strikes, and trust us, it will at some point in your life, you should have several things in mind.

The first is to let go of your expectations. Your previous plans are gone, and they aren't coming back. Holding onto them doesn't help you move toward your goals: they only drag you down. Plus, you can't expect that everything will work out as planned. Your current situation is proof of that. Life is full of surprises, and sometimes they have a negative impact. 

But those bad things are sometimes out of your control. Even if you had everything planned out, things change. You can’t control everything, and setbacks happen. That's OK. Accepting change is hard, but it's necessary in the face of adversity. It will help you on your path to personal development and increase your resilience.

This is the type of positive mindset you should adopt when experiencing some adversity. A mindset full of self-pity and stubbornly rejecting moving forward doesn't help. 

How can I overcome adversity?

Adversity isn’t something that you can brush off. But you can try several strategies to reduce stress and face your current situation head-on.

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1. Stop making excuses

Elaborate excuses and denial are two common responses to failure. We have to first acknowledge our disappointment and our own role in creating it when adversity strikes. Only then can we beat it. Even if it’s not your fault, pinning all the blame on someone else won’t help you get anywhere. 

2. Write

Sometimes it's freeing to write your thoughts down on paper. Writing or journaling allows for self-expression and self-reflection in a safe, private space. You can talk about whatever is weighing on you. And, after a while, you'll be able to look back on those tough times and see just how much you've learned.

3. Change your state of mind

Your thoughts define you. When we expect failure or disappointment, we usually experience it. This is a psychological phenomenon known as the self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, what you anticipate eventually happens.

Training your mind to view situations and problems differently can, and will, have a different result. While we don't endorse the idea of, "Fake it until you make it," there's truth to the value of positive self-talk and visualization.

4. Stay disciplined

It's not uncommon to feel like your life is out of your control. Practicing the same daily habits like exercising, meditation and mindful breathing, scheduling short breaks at work, and making sure you eat properly is a simple yet fantastic way of preparing your body for overcoming any challenges around the corner.

5. Use your sense of humor

Laughter is the best medicine, especially for your mental health. When you laugh, the hormones triggering stress reactions in your body calm, boosting the effectiveness of your immune system.

Laughing quite literally causes a change in brain activity, too. Your body creates gamma waves that aid in your natural healing processes, which leads to long-term mental fitness and positivity.

Find ways to inject some humor at work or at home. Laughter will uplift your mood and others around you.

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6. Have faith

Don't sink in fear or self-pity. Believing that you can and will make it to the other side of the mountain standing in your way can determine if you reach the summit — or not.

7. Let each success energize you

No matter how big or how small, celebrate your accomplishments. You deserve it, which will only help establish your sense of empowerment and self-confidence. Successful people take the time to celebrate their victories, no matter how small.

8. Don't take no for an answer

Determination is one of the most important and effective tools to help you deal with adversity. One person turning you down doesn't mean everyone will.

9. Surround yourself with people who have a positive mindset

You can tell a lot about someone from who they spend their time with. You can be the most ambitious, resilient person in the world, but bright feelings can only last so long if you're surrounded by negativity.

Human beings are social animals; we act according to others' opinions and reactions. Focusing your energy on people with negative thoughts will inhibit your personal development.

10. Spend some time in nature

The natural world is a natural cure for a troubled or restless soul. Rest and self-care end up as our last priority. But carving out an hour or even a half-hour to take a walk, tend to your garden, or go hiking can significantly reduce stress levels. You can enjoy any type of rest, so long as your mind and body recharge.

Looking back and reflecting

You shouldn't brush aside the adversity you've overcome because simply overcoming it once doesn't mean you're off the hook for the rest of your life. You'll continue to encounter adversity in big and small ways in your life. And taking the time to reflect on those experiences is valuable.

Looking back on a difficult situation is an opportunity to strengthen your self-awareness. It shows you what works for you and what doesn't. Maybe you tried a different strategy first, but plan B worked way better. Now you know for next time that plan B is a good option — and you'll feel more confident in your abilities and resiliency.

But you have to be mindful that sometimes too much reflecting hurts your well-being. Research has found that too much rumination can put people more at risk of mental health issues like depression.

Constantly thinking about negative emotions and events limits a growth mindset. Instead, it only reminds you of hard times and keeps you stuck in the past. Even though negative emotions are part of life, they don't define you.

And nobody says you have to do this alone. If you find you're having a hard time with these thoughts, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional and seek the help you need. Or lean on your support system.

Try talking to loved ones, family, or friends. It might help you bounce ideas off of other people or talk about how proud you are of overcoming adversity.

Everyone experiences struggle in life. We aren’t questioning that. But they play a big role in shaping who you are and the person you're becoming. How you react to adversity will help determine that. 

Why is adversity important?

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Frustration and failure will always lurk in the shadows. But these difficult times serve as valuable life lessons regardless of their heaviness. Such lessons include perseverance, adapting to change, and remaining positive despite the hurdles. 

Ultimately, without adversity, there are no opportunities for growth or building resilience. Adversity teaches us about ourselves, about being uncomfortable, and how to endure. Without it, we may never discover our inner strength. In the wise words of Buddha: "Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes." 

Learning how to overcome adversity isn’t easy, but you have the power to transform into the best version of yourself. 

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Published January 31, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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