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7 Ways to Bounce Back From Life’s Challenges

In life, stuff happens. People get sick.  The IRS calls. Then, just when you think it can’t get any worse, the dog throws up on your shoes.

And that’s before you’ve left for work. What do you do when you don’t know what to do anymore? Here are ten ways for you to develop your resiliency – your ability to bounce back from the challenges in life.

1. Acceptance

Ugh. People hate it when I talk about acceptance because they equate acceptance with giving up. Actually, acceptance has more to do with giving in than giving up. When life throws you a curveball, your immediate response is usually to resist what is happening. This is a form of denial, which is okay for awhile, but at some point, you need to see the situation for what it is and go with it rather than resist it. The key is to accept life as it is, rather than what it should be.

Acceptance is a big topic that needs its own article, but for now, here are a few more components:

  • Being okay with emotions, even when they’re “bad.” This means it’s okay to feel however you want about a situation and not saying to yourself, “I need to keep a stiff upper lip” or “I guess I shouldn’t be angry about this.”
  • Realizing that accepting a situation doesn’t necessarily mean that you like it. I think this causes a lot of confusion for people, too. “How am I supposed to like the fact that I’m losing my house to foreclosure?” You don’t, but you do need to accept the reality of the foreclosure so you can develop strategies to address the situation.
  • Being able to hold two opposing thoughts or feelings at the same time. This one is kind of tricky, but it has to do with acknowledging opposites like “I love my kid AND right now I can’t stand him because he’s being defiant.” Or, “I’m relieved that my dad died and is now out of pain AND I want him back.”

2. Social support

Even though you might think you need to “tough this out alone,” it really doesn’t help when you’re trying to overcome a problem. Going it alone leads to feeling isolated and immersed in your problem. You have people who love you and want to help, even if it’s just to provide a listening ear. Be okay with sharing your circumstances with at least one close friend or family member.

3. Perspective

I recently asked a woman who had been downsized out of her job how she made it through that difficult time. I was surprised at her answer. “You know, Bobbi,” she said, “I chose to expand rather than contract. I used this as an opportunity to learn new things rather than focus on it only as a negative in my life.”

There are always different angles from which you choose to see a situation. Try a few new ones!

Here are a few more ideas about perspective:

  • Stop ruminating. Rumination is going over and over something endlessly; it’s a way you try to fix a problem but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Try to stop obsessive thinking about the problem and realize that you have some good things to fill up your life, too.
  • Remember that you have made it through past challenges. This isn’t the first problem you’ve had in your life and, unfortunately, it won’t be the last. It’s really important to realize that you have made it through tough times in the past and you will this time, too.

4. Stay in the moment

This will help you not ruminate about the problem or fret about the future. Grounding techniques can help with this – paying attention to your senses: how does the desk feel under your fingertips? What do you smell in the air right now? What do you hear? Focus on those sensations for a few minutes to stay in the current moment.

5. Problem-solving

Now that you’ve accepted your situation, have some perspective about it, and have your support system around you, it’s time to do something. Use these quick steps to develop a plan (it helps tremendously to do this with other people. You get more ideas and different perspectives.):

  • Define the problem. Sometimes what you think is the problem really isn’t. Use your problem-solving group to develop a very specific definition of the problem.
  • Has anything worked in the past to solve this problem? If yes, do it again! If no, move to the next step.
  • Brainstorm as many different solutions as possible. This means to generate ideas that might even seem silly at first.
  • Narrow the list of solutions. Now is the time to toss out those ideas that absolutely won’t work and keep the ones that will.
  • Develop an action plan. Use the workable ideas to form action steps.
  • Create accountability. Have your support system check in with you to make sure you are following through.

6. See what you can learn

Since life has handed you lemons, this is a good time to not only make the proverbial lemonade, but lemon meringue pie, lemon tarts . . . you get the idea. Like my friend above who chose to expand rather than contract, there are always things to learn about yourself, the world, and others when challenges arise. It’s a tough way to learn them, but sometimes it’s the best way, too.

7. Find the gifts

The sand that irritates the oyster eventually makes a beautiful pearl. You may not see the gifts in your situation right now, but have faith that they are there. I have heard many women with cancer talk about the unexpected gifts they experienced: finding out how many people truly loved them, learning how strong they were, being able to help others also going through cancer.

The gifts are there, just be open to receiving them.


Psychotherapist Bobbi Emel specializes in helping people face life’s significant challenges and regain their resiliency. In addition to seeing clients in her private practice in Los Altos, Ca., Bobbi is a well-regarded speaker and writer. You can find her blog at

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