You may have noticed that when one thing goes badly, other things seem to go badly at the same time. The car breaks down, then the dog gets sick, and then your workplace explodes with new emergencies that apparently only you can deal with.
Why does everything pile on at once?
There’s no definitive answer that I can offer, but I can make a few suggestions for you. Maybe they’ll help.
Part of the perception that things pile on, I believe, has to do with our own filters.
Experiencing one negative event—the car breaks down, for example—may not be a big deal. However, what you have is not exactly what you want, so you get a little bit of a “life-is-out-of-control” feeling.
An additional negative event—the dog’s sickness— takes on greater significance than it might otherwise. Now you have two things to deal with. You start looking for the next shoe to drop. Your boss makes a demand than you believe is unwarranted, and there it is…full-fledged pile-on.
Good things happen, but bad things happen too. Having an expectation that life will be filled with only joyful events seems like a way to set oneself up for disappointment.
On the other hand, choosing the expectation that only bad things happen likely won’t lead to a happy, satisfying life either.
What might be helpful? We know that both good things and bad things happen. When they do, wouldn’t it be great to have a protective armour in place to deal with it?
That armour could be called “resilience.”
If you’ve watched forests during wind storms, you’ve seen the difference between resilience and brittleness played out right in front of you. Even in violent wind gusts, some trees sway gracefully, grounded solidly by their root system. When the wind stops, they are still once again, standing straight, tall and intact.
Other trees don’t fare so well. Some lose branches or even snap off at the tops, as the fragile main stem can’t handle the buffeting of the top-heavy growth. Others get pulled right out of the ground, exposing their shallow roots. Those roots had worked just fine, but only when there was no unusual strain on them.
How do you know if working on growing your resilience would be beneficial to you? Do you often feel hurt? Are you often angry? Do many things upset you, including things you can’t do anything about? If so, perhaps making a conscious effort to build your resilience is worth a try. How?
Here are 3 suggestions to grow your root system, so to speak,: practice, perspective, and push.
Practice: When faced with small challenges, take them on. Practice dealing assertively with small difficulties, even if you could avoid it. It’s easier to develop your assertiveness skills when there is no big emergency and you are not stressed to your limit. Practice helps.
Perspective: How bad is the situation, really? Are you overstating it? Is the pile-on effect from other small negative things contributing to making this issue seem bigger than it really is? Take each issue, by itself, and examine the worst that can happen. Realistically, is that worst likely to happen?
Push: If you never test yourself, you’ll never know what wonderful things you can do! Think back to difficult things that you have already accomplished; situations where you’ve said, “I never thought I’d get through that, but I did!” And help your kids learn to deal with their own challenges, so that they too can push themselves toward more resilient responses.
There will be times in our lives when things are not going our way. Resilience is helpful for getting us through those times unscathed and maybe even with some growth!
How do you cultivate your resilience?