June 3rd, 2019
Facing Adversity and Building Resilience
- Life Changes
We often hear how coping with mental health difficulties can make our lives more challenging, and the various adverse effects it can have on our quality of life. Managing our mental health is undoubtedly hard and we all aim to live a meaningful and fulfilled life that is as carefree as possible. What we tend to talk less about are the benefits that experiencing mental health difficulties can bring. It may sound like an oxymoron, but there can be some advantages to, for instance, having the low mood or feeling anxious.
For some people who suffer anxiety, they can be pleasantly surprised when things are easier than expected. For example, someone whose anxiety is related to their performance may worry that an exam will be more difficult than it actually turns out to be. When things go well this can improve mood, self-worth, and build resilience.
People who experience depression often report engaging in rumination which tends to perpetuate low mood. However, rumination can be helpful in specific situations - for instance it facilitates problem-solving which may lead to a solution.
Experiencing stress, though potentially harmful over a prolonged period of time, can help us feel motivated to achieve our goals and generally act in a more goal-oriented manner. This can give us a sense of achievement and pleasure.
Going through changes in our life can be tough at times and feel overwhelming. However, with change comes the opportunity to learn and try new things. Often at times of adversity we develop effective coping strategies and build resilience, both of which are beneficial in the future.
Lived experience of mental health difficulties can enable us to have a true understanding of what others are experiencing, fostering empathy and compassion. It can also help us connect with others by sharing our own experiences and what we found helpful and unhelpful in order to cope.
Having come out the other side of a difficult time in your life can make you feel more resilient. Perhaps you have learnt things about yourself you did not know before, or developed useful skills that you can draw upon the next time you experience a challenging time.
Most of us would prefer to go through life without having to experience difficulties with our mental health and this is natural - why should we want to suffer more than necessary? However, like most things in life, hardships and difficulties are part of a menu of events we will go through in a lifetime, and these are not always black and white. Acknowledging that there is sometimes some good with the bad can perhaps help us get through a particularly rough patch.
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Andrews, P. & Thompson, J.A. (2009). The bright side of being blue: Depression as an adaption for analyzing complex problems. Psychological Review, 116 (3), 620-654.