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Dear Marlene,

I was doing great on your program, but in the last few months, I have had some setbacks. First, my dog died and then my mother got really sick.

I have been totally thrown off my program and it seems like all I do now is eat for comfort and then grieve and worry some more.

What can I do to get back on track? I don’t know how to “bounce back” more quickly. Can you help me?

– C.S.

Dear C.S.,

I’m sorry you have had a tough time and I hope your mom is doing better now. Your “setbacks” are classified as major life stressors and I hope you have had some support through this. With that being said, your question about “bouncing back” is a good one. What we are talking about is resilience, the ability to recover quickly from difficulty. I used to think resilient people were born that way or had a special type of upbringing. Resilience, it turns out, is a learned skill and the good news is it’s never too late to learn it!

Research shows us that there are three common traits that resilient people share and again, these traits can be practiced and learned. First, resilient people hold a belief that “stuff” sometimes just happens. They don’t waste energy trying to find out why or seek to blame others or circumstances. “Stuff” sometimes just happens.

The second trait is that resilient people look for gratitude. It doesn’t mean they deny their feelings, they just find what they are grateful for in the circumstance. I recently had a client whose father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. When I was offering my condolences, she responded with, “I’m grateful he didn’t suffer a long illness.” Another client took care of her sister who was dying and she stated she was “grateful they had time to have really good talks.”

The third trait resilient people share is they are aware of what is a benefit to them and what is harmful. For example, a client grieving the loss of her husband found that isolating made her feel worse but taking a walk with a friend made her feel better. Resilient people seek beneficial acts and limit the harmful.

So, recovery from adversity is not a matter of luck or personality, but a consistent awareness and practice of skills to heal more quickly. I hope this is helpful, but remember, you do not need to go through this alone. At ThreeHealth we offer counseling to assist people through difficult times. We are here for you.

Take care,

You too can submit your questions to Marlene.