By Sandra Domingos
In times like holiday season and new year, hopelessness is a common feeling and on top of that, our daily lives can bring challenges and negativity sometimes. Every person faces these situations differently, though. Some find comfort in religion and spirituality; others turn to meditation or therapy. And others, unfortunately, adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking to manage their grief, anguish, and sadness.
However, looking at hard times in a different light can also help in adopting more positive coping mechanisms. One good way to reinterpret hardships is to find meaning in them. And how can you do this? In the face of a negative event, sit back and ask yourself how you can make the event meaningful.
For example, let’s say you were fired from your job, a distressing situation that can leave you feeling afraid, angry, and ashamed. Especially if you have kids, in debt or live in an uncertain economy where your opportunities to find a new job are slim (like in Brazil *2017).
For example, ask yourself questions such as:
- Did I really like that job? In many cases, we’re stuck in a job that no longer makes us fulfilled, but we are too scared to quit.
- Is this situation freeing my time for better opportunities? A job you no longer enjoyed could have been a roadblock in your professional development.
- What did I learn from that experience? The skills you learned at that job can be a jumping board to find better opportunities.
- What went wrong? In this case, be honest with yourself — why were you fired? Address the causes non-judgmentally.
- Are there any areas for growth? Regardless of what caused the negative situation, think of how you can use the experience to grow.
By asking yourself these questions, you don’t only give meaning to a negative situation. You’re also taking back control of it. And you take control of it by reframing negative situations as opportunities to grow and thrive in unexplored areas.
For example, a lost job is an opportunity for new enterprises – a new business, a trip, time off to spend with family and friends, continued education, and more. It is healthy to grieve and to have a bad day. But it’s also important to take responsibility for every stage of our lives and take a proactive approach to every situation. Only then, can we find meaning in our lives and minimize uncertainty.
Luckily, this isn’t the only way to find meaning in difficult times. When hardships come, it’s easy to over-think the situation. However, focusing (at least part of your time) to give to others helps putting life in perspective.
When you give away your time and energy to help others, you create a connection with others. Life is no longer something that happens to you. Instead, it becomes a network, which you can influence in a positive way.
Finally, difficulties are part of life. Trying to avoid them is not only useless, but it also prevents you from focusing your energy in purposeful, selfless work. Therefore, if difficulties cannot be avoided, you should face them with patience and compassion to yourself and others.
Every situation leaves a mark on you. That means something. It means you’re growing, building your own path of self-acceptance and compassion. You have the power to take control of your life by reflecting non-judgmentally, accepting each situation as an opportunity, and working with and for others.