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Published on August 6, 2019

5 Steps to Bounce Back Fast When Life Knocks You Down

5 Steps to Bounce Back Fast When Life Knocks You Down

When life knocks you down, do you bounce back fast or drown in your emotions?

If you struggle with coping with life’s blows, you’re not alone.

Everyone encounters challenging times in their lives. I think we can all agree that you never know what life will throw at you. Life is one big rollercoaster ride of ups and downs.

There will be times when you feel like you’re on top of the world, while other times, you may feel like you’re at rock bottom. Most of us will sway on both ends of the continuum at some point in our lives.

Playing with the unknown makes the journey through life equally exciting and terrifying.

If you’ve been clinging to dear life with the belief that life is supposed to be linear, you’re in for a rude awakening.

When bad things happen, it’s natural to feel down. You may even fall into the trap of assuming that things will never get better. Unfortunately, this mindset is the very thing that keeps so many people stuck in one place and drowning in victimhood.

This wild ride that we call in life is actually an endless string of highs and lows, successes and failures, setbacks and comebacks. This is why it is imperative that you develop your resilience muscle.

My Personal Journey With Bouncing Back

I know how hard it is to pull yourself out of the rubble when life knocks you down. My rock bottom was ugly. I wasn’t ready for it. It hit me like a ton of bricks and left me feeling hopeless.

A brain injury will do that to you. I like to call it my “silent trauma.” On the outside, I looked totally normal, while inside, it felt like I was slowly dying.

I was in a battle with my brain. It felt like I couldn’t win, no matter how hard I fought. My nervous system was stuck in the “on” position. It wasn’t until I connected to my body intelligence on a deeper level that I started to move from a position of helpless victim to victor of my life.

My greatest knockdown in life tested my physical, mental, and emotional resilience. However, through it all, my ‘bounce-backability’ remained strong.

In many ways, this horrible experience has become my greatest gift. It’s given me the ability to connect with my mind, body and, and soul on a whole new level. More importantly, it led me to my life’s purpose.

Today, I’m the Founder and Creative Director of You 2.0, a dance movement medicine practice that helps women move with their mess so that they can heal trauma and become more resilient to life’s blows.

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In my experience, the goal of resiliency isn’t just bouncing back fast. Rather, it’s about learning how to bounce forward. In order to prevent the same mistakes from happening again, it’s not enough to merely rebuild yourself.

You’ve got to take it one step further and find meaning in difficult times so that you can your transform pain into possibility.

The Importance of Resilience

Have you ever wondered why some people bounce back faster from challenges, while others fall and can’t get back up? It comes down to resilience.

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.[1]

How you approach setbacks, in large part, determines your level of success in life. This is why it’s so important to possess a resilient mindset.

The great thing about resilience is that it’s a trait that can be learned and cultivated with practice. Just like a muscle, you need to flex it every single day.

Keep in mind that possessing resilience won’t magically make your challenges go away. However, it will give you the ability to bounce back faster so that you can return to enjoying life to the fullest.

In the words of Dr. Steve Maraboli,

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving; we get stronger and more resilient.”

5 Steps To Bounce Back When Life Knocks You Down

When it feels like you don’t have the strength to get through difficult times, I’m here to tell you that you do.

Take a moment and think back to every hardship you have endured in the past.

You are still standing. Why do you think this is? What was it about your character that allowed you to get through these difficult times?

I would argue that people don’t give themselves enough credit for how truly resilient they are, and have always been.

It doesn’t matter how many times you fall. All that matters is that you bounce back.

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I’m a true believer that you will never know how strong you actually are until being strong is the only option that you have.

I am the living proof that you can transform rock bottom into a life that is truly purposeful. However, you’ve got to believe that this is possible for you.

Here are five steps to bounce back fast when life knocks you down.

1. Reframe the Difficult Experience

Let’s face it… it’s disappointing when life knocks you down. In this state, it’s easy to drop into self-pity and blame the world for your problems. The internal narrative, “Why me?” may play out in your head like a bad record.

However, just because you get derailed, that doesn’t mean that you’ve failed altogether. I like to give myself five minutes to wallow in my disappointment and then, I get back to being an emotional gangster.

How do I do this?

By reframing my interpretation of a negative experience.

Reframing means changing the way you think or “talk” to yourself about a stressful event.[2] Instead of saying “I give up”, “I’m a failure,” shift your internal narrative and say something like, “This is merely a setback. I will get through this because I’m a strong person.”

It all comes down to the meaning that you give experiences in life, both the good and the bad. Stressful life events are merely opportunities for you to grow and become more.

2. Show Yourself Compassion

I believe that self-compassion helps you face life’s challenges with more grace and ease. No matter what setback you encounter in life, don’t beat yourself up about it.

Whether it was something within your control or not, show yourself some self-compassion.

When you take the time to be kind to yourself, you are reinforcing the idea that you deserve to be treated well. The worst thing that you can do is blame yourself. This is a surefire way to experience feelings of shame which is a strong burden to bare.

Self-compassion acknowledges the reality that you are having an unhealthy moment, not an unhealthy life. You always have a choice what the next moment is going to be.[3]

The next time that chaos strikes, ask yourself what you need in order to feel more grounded when everything in your environment feels uneasy.

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Showing yourself love is all about acknowledging and accepting that you aren’t perfect and neither is life! All any of us can do is our best.

Adopting this mindset will allow you to view challenges more objectively and in turn, feel more in control of your life.

At the end of the day, you cannot control how others react or what the world gives you. However, you can always control your inner world.

3. Take Responsibility for Your Life

If you refuse to take responsibility for life’s setbacks, you avoid problems altogether and, in turn, disempower yourself.

A setback may not have been your fault. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take ownership of it. When circumstances are unfavorable, it takes guts to say, “I’m owning this.”

Spending time and energy being bitter towards a situation is a waste of time. You can’t move forward in life if you’re too busy blaming the world for your problems.

Avoid making excuses at all costs and recognize the role that you played in the situation. This is how you will feel empowered to learn from your mistakes and bounce back fast when you get knocked down.

In the words of Erica Jong,

“Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: No one to blame.”

4. Find The Silver Lining

Life acts in funny ways. What may seem like the worst thing in the world may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Did life really knock you down, or is life just trying to steer you in another direction? The second that things aren’t going our way, we’re often inclined to think of it as a bad thing. But what if it isn’t?

By looking at the bright side of a difficult situation, you will feel more empowered to find a solution to the problem.

Research shows that having a positive outlook in difficult circumstances is not only an important predictor of resilience, but it is the most important predictor of it.[4]

Optimistic people always look at obstacles and challenges as opportunities to improve themselves. If you can see the glass half full, you will be a happier person overall, regardless of life’s knockdowns.

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5. Get Right Back Up Again

When life knocks you down, you always have two choices — get up and move forward or stay on the ground and accept defeat.

From my personal experience, I have found that the longer you stay down, the harder it is to get back up again.

I encourage you to use every fall as an opportunity to evolve into a wiser human being. Failing is merely proof that you’re trying; so fail more and do it well!

The reality is that you won’t grow from merely hanging out in your comfort zone. True growth requires that you take big risks and put yourself on the line, without knowing what the final outcome will be.

The path to an extraordinary life will require that you do the very thing that others aren’t willing to do.

I have yet to meet a successful people who hasn’t struggled to achieve the success they now have. The only difference between them and everyone else is that they don’t give up when things get tough.

When they get knocked off track, they jump right back in without giving it a second thought. If they can’t find a way, they make a way. There is no option B.

The next time that life knocks you down, bounce back fast, knowing that your refusal to quit means that you’re already winning at the game of life. Every struggle you experience is a mere stepping stone on the road to your success.

Final Thoughts

Falling down is just a part of life. However, getting up is where the real living is. Whatever you do, don’t give up.

In the words of Vince Lombardi,

“It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up.”

Pick yourself up off the floor, wipe away your tears, and keep going. You’ve got this.

More About Resilience and Inner Strength

Featured photo credit: Simon John-McHaffie via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] American Psychological Association: The Road To Resilience
[2] Equitable Life of Canada: Building Resilience With Self-Care
[3] Psychology Today: Self-Compassion Helps You Meet Life’s Challenges
[4] The Atlantic: The Benefits of Optimism Are Real

More by this author

Ashley Elizabeth

Women's Resilience Mastery Coach & Dance Movement Medicine Therapist

5 Steps to Bounce Back Fast When Life Knocks You Down 13 Simple Habits to Cultivate Self-Compassion How to Find Yourself When You’re Lost in Life How to Overcome Fear and Realize Your Potential (The Ultimate Guide) What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important?

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

In our diverse world, where everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and has their own opinions just about everything, there is a rather universal idea we all – regardless of age, race, location, gender — embrace…

We all want to be happy.

We want to feel that we matter, are loved, appreciated, problem-free, care-free, and financially secure. And this has become one of the most obsessive quests of our society—to be happy, at all cost, by all means.

Happiness has undisputed benefits—supported by countless studies—to about pretty much everything in our lives—from our mental or physical state, to careers, relationships, finances.

Although the self-help industry is still having a sunshine moment with its advice on how to get to this coveted state, no one (that I’m aware of) has come up with The Magic Potion—that one thing or action or thought—that can make us all content and whole for good.

Of course, we also all are knowledgeable enough to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And that it’s often a combination of things that each one of us should intentionally do daily in order to reach that enchanted place where everything is intensely bright and upbeat.

The reason that there are multiple antidotes to feeling gloomy is that there may be a million different explanations and their nuances of why someone is unhappy. It’s pretty much a different cause, path and experience for everyone.

Top this with the “hedonic treadmill” phenomenon[1] —and you end up with an incessant (and rather tiring) pursuit of something that, quite frankly, no one has been able to define in concreate measurable terms.

The second problem with happiness is that all of us become so hung up on the goal itself—that utopian state that we want to get to “one day.”

Naturally, you can spend your whole life waiting for happiness to finally come knocking on your door, hoping, anticipating, existing in perpetual discontent—and the moment may never come.

And then, looking back, you may ask yourself—was I truly that miserable or did I fall a victim of the happiness craze?

That is—how can you know if you are really unhappy, if happiness means different things for everyone, it’s impossible to measure directly, and it’s rather fleeting?

So, let’s start from the beginning— and examine the cause of why you’re unhappy, the symptoms and the treatment.

Symptoms of Unhappiness

According to the wellness site Mind Body Green, some of the most common manifestations you are not happy are:[2]

  • Feeling like you’re not as good as other people
  • Feeling like a victim of circumstances that are beyond your control
  • Feeling like your daily life is meaningless and task-driven
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, or pessimistic
  • Protecting your heart with steel walls
  • Trying to fit in and belong, but rarely feel like you do
  • Feeling beaten down by the challenges you face in life
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, or chronically worried
  • Feeling like you’re not appreciated enough

If this sounds like you, on a regular day, then you are not a happy fella, my friend.

Reasons for Feeling Unhappy

The most important indication that things are not great (at least in your mind) is the sense of “something missing.” You may not know what it is, but you feel hollow, incomplete. And you are aware that something needs to happen to make you come alive again.

Of course, finding the reason for your woes is vital to prescribing (to yourself) the right steps to make it all better.

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So, here are some of the most common reasons why you may feel heavy-hearted, or “like the joy has been sucked out of my life.”

Lack of Meaning

Everyone who’s someone in the happiness-advice trade will tell you that this is one of the main causes (of not THE biggest) of feeling blah. Especially relevant for our professional lives, lack of significance can be a dream-downer.

An excellent piece in the New York Times talks about Harvard graduates who make $1.2 million a year in salary, but still feeling miserable and trapped in what they describe as “wasting my life” existence.[3]

Simply put—you may feel unhappy because you need the “Why” in your life, as I also wrote in a previous post How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life.

Happiness Disruptors

Even perceived problems can feel quite real to many of us. Undeniably, though, any personal, financial, career, physical complications can make your happiness aspirations plummet.

The constellation of all the issues or walls you can run into can be quite vast. For instance, you don’t like the way you look, you don’t make enough money, don’t have any friends or significant other, your health is fragile.

All these can be serious impediments to an undisturbed-joyfulness type of life.

Lack of Self-Esteem and Self-Respect

Few years ago (2003), a paper by the psychologist Roy Baumeister rocked the science world. Titled “Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?” it presented the idea (supported by research) that self-esteem and happiness are linked.[4]

Specifically, high self-esteem leads to greater happiness.

In addition, according to the famous American author and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, the main reason people are unhappy is because they lack self-respect—that is, they value others’ opinions above their own. Of course, it makes sense—and surely, it rings true with many of us too.

Personality

Linked to the above is another hindrance to becoming relentlessly upbeat, which may prove slightly challenging to overcome, if even possible—your personality.

Of course, not per the self-help industry which thrives on the assumption that you can, with your own willpower, become a different person altogether. Namely—a much better version of the current you.

But what the Wise Men also tell us is that you are either born to be a silver-lining kind of person or you are not.

You can, of course, work on yourself to start seeing the glass half-full (vs half-empty). But you may never reach the gregariousness of someone who is just born with a more care-free temperament.

Unreasonably High Expectations

Having high expectations of yourself can be beneficial, according to research.[5] It leads to higher performance—a phenomenon called the Pygmalion effect.

Having too high expectations of yourself, though, may be counter-productive. You can run into all slew of mental health issues—depression, self-sabotaging, self-punishment, etc. And it can spill over all areas of your life.

It’s certainly a case for future investigation.

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Social Trends

It will take perhaps at least few articles to list all the reasons why we can feel unhappy (a book even!).

So, some of the other causes of being disgruntled with your life can be: long hours at work, “always-on” culture bread by the internet, increased screen time,[6] or boredom with one’s life (i.e. lack of excitement).

Addiction to Unhappiness

Apparently, you can also develop an addiction to unhappiness[7] —that is, some people like negative feelings and are “happy to be unhappy.” Rather disturbing, indeed.

Unexplainable Reasons

Or, sometimes, you just can’t put your finger on one thing, or on anything, for this matter—you don’t know for sure what makes you feel unhappy, nor what will make you happy. It feels like it’s everything—your whole life is a mess.

But that’s not the end of the story. The most important questions you should be asking yourself are:

Why? What’s the cause of my unhappiness?

Because you can’t fix it when you don’t know what’s broken, right?

5 Steps You Can Take to Figure Out The Why

So, if you tick most of the symptoms above, it’s very likely that you are not living in Dream-land right now.

Here is my advice on how to find your lumps in the batter.

1. Mull over What “Happy” Means to You

Happiness can take different shapes—hedonic pleasure, life satisfaction, desire fulfillment.[8] All of these—separately or together—can deliver to us sprinkles of joy.

And because our lives are so diverse, the above will translate into different pursuits for each one of us.

For instance, my hedonic weekend happiness means reading a book or writing, while for someone else—it’s socializing, taking a walk, or going on a shopping spree at the mall.

Or, my life satisfaction can be to have a big family and leave a mark in the world this way. For others, it may be going after fame and fortunes. But either way, don’t fall for the society’s “narrative traps”[9]—that a bigger pay check, house, a certain job, person, etc. will give you a never-ending stream of bliss. It won’t, science confirms over and over.

So, once you know what your happiness vision board looks like, you will have a better idea of what’s “missing” in your life.

2. Re-Visit Your Expectations

As I already mentioned, unreasonable expectations you or others have set for yourself can be deterring you from feeling gleeful.

For one thing, aspirations often can become outdated. What you wanted ten or five years ago (or even six months ago) may not be relevant to your situation today and will need to be filed into a mental cabinet.

Another issue is that our culture is putting an exponential pressure on all of us to perform more and better, to try and stretch the 24-hours a day into 30, to chase kudos and recognition. Any outcome that has earned less than the gold is punishable by exclusion for the cool crowd, by receiving less in perks, bonuses, and appreciation even.

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As a result, anxiety, depression and all their dark friends start creeping into our minds and tint everything else that may be giving us joy and satisfaction.

So, taking periodic audit of your expectations—their validity and importance place on your happiness list, is pivotal to stopping unhappiness spread into your life.

3. Examine Your Way of Thinking

At the heart of the so-called Rational Emotive Behavior Theory (REBT),[10] which was established by the American psychologist Albert Ellis in 1956, is the idea that it’s never the actual event that upsets us.It’s our interpretation and thoughts about it. By inference, changing our thoughts will reduce (and hopefully remove altogether) our anxiety.

Let’s take this a stretch further. Positive (not delusional) thinking has been long proclaimed to be a winner when it comes to mental health. If you find yourself going down the spiral of negative inner dialogue, you must stop yourself immediately. It’s unhappiness trap.

But it’s not easy-breezy, of course, to do such conscious policing all the time. It can become a habit, though, psychologists tell us. We can teach ourselves to quell negativity, and there are many things that can be done: How to Have Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy

And don’t forget to be grateful. It’s the best happiness shot there is.

4. The Good Old Pros and Cons

Although it may appear to be a less fascinating way to figure out whether you are unhappy or not, the pros-and-cons list has been around for a long time—and it’s still an excellent tool to let you examine things closely, evaluate alternatives and come to satisfactory answers.[11]

Interestingly, as history tells us, this invention is credited to Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. Notorious for his productivity, he applied the pros-cons exercise to almost everything in his life.

The beauty of the method lies in its simplicity too. So, go back to the drawing board and start penciling down the things that you like and don’t like (make you unhappy) about your life, and the things that you know with certainty to make you happy today.

Of the “things-that-make me-unhappy-about-my-life” subset, have a think what you can do to move these along the continuum—to the brighter side.

You may be surprised to discover that you have much greater say in the building of your own happiness than chance, circumstances or others.

5. Mental Cleansing

Mental health is in the limelight quite often these days. And rightly so.

The way we care about our bodies and minds directly links to many of our life outcomes.

Mental clutter can become a well-being stumbling block. Overthinking, old grudges, past events, can all make it very challenging to feel elevated and content.

Doing a mental cleanse once a month can be the remedy to set yourself on the path to happiness recovery.

Pay a visit to the past to confront your fears, get rid of the people who bring you down, free yourself from any emotional baggage. It will help you silence the bully in your head.

Take a periodic stock of all the things that make you anxious and declutter. Why hold on to the things that you know to bring you grief anyway?

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Unless you are one of those unhappiness addicts I mentioned above (which calls for a more radical intervention), carrying emotional baggage without doing anything to unload it, is a anti-glee behavior.

Bonus Advice

Finding our Achilles’ heel of happiness can sometimes be a tall order. It takes time, conscious efforts and an honest desire to make it better. It also alludes that we are ready to take the plunge into the self-help territory and take actual steps to improve our situation.

But it’s not a lost cause, the research tells us. It’s possible to make yourself happy on a consistent basis.

Here are few universal suggestions:

One of the things you can do is to inject some meaning back in your life. And the best way to go about this is to flip the narrative. Case in point—the story of John F Kennedy’s visit to NASA in 1962. He ran into a janitor and when asked him what he was doing, he replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

The happiness guru Gretchen Rubin tells us that there are two major path that lead a more fulfilling life:[12]

One way is through our relationships—having strong bonds and feeling that we belong.

The other route is through developing better self-knowledge—i.e. what things make us us, or glad, or sad. And base our way of living on our own values and goals, not others’.

The feeling that we are not making progress is a definite joy crusher. We should compare wisely, find our passions, and diversify our experiences. These are not magic pills but more so opportunities to make our time here worthwhile and fulfilling.

Final Thoughts

Happiness is notoriously hard to pin down.

There is no one definition of contentment, nor one way to ‘fix’ it. It’s one of those things that you can’t quantify and it’s idiosyncratic.

More and more we hear a murmur from the science world that perhaps the best way to happiness is acceptance—of your failings and shortcomings, of the fact that life is imperfect.

Knowing what makes us disgruntled is, of course, needed to find the right remedy for each one of us. Feeling constantly unhappy is not good and necessitates closer examination.

Finally, beware of the narrative trap that if you are unhappy, there is something wrong with you. It may be normal, for a while at least. Otherwise, how would you appreciate the highlight moments of your life if you don’t see them against the backdrop of the gloomy times?

Or, as the great singer Leonard Cohen tells us:

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

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Featured photo credit: Andrew Le via unsplash.com

Reference

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