Tips for Surviving Hard Times.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Surviving a rough road.
Photo courtesy of

How do resilient people get through the hard times?

Life is hard sometimes. People get sick, lose jobs, relationship break up. Things can get really tough. Some people get discouraged, fall into episodes of anxiety and depression. Other people are able to bounce back.

If you have depression or anxiety and it is holding you back, consider getting professional help. Resiliency, that ability to bounce back from life’s challenges is a skill that you can develop or improve. Here are some suggestions of things you can do to get through those life challenges.

1. Do not spend time thinking about how bad things are.

When you get knocked down one common reaction is to spend lots of time thinking about your set back. How did this happen? What could I do differently?

Ruminating, that endless rehashing what happened to knock you down can keep you stuck in the down position. Use this time to look for the solutions not to endlessly remind yourself how unfair things are.

Sometimes life is unfair. Sometimes things happen that should not happen. The difference between people who find their lives ruined and those who go on to overcome is all about attitude.

2. Accept that life has its ups and downs.

This is a real life. Things do not follow those storybook plots. Everyone has setbacks. People who were “instant” or “overnight” successes often spent years practicing. Many successful people failed several times before they discovered the thing that they were good at.

More than once an athlete has stumbled and fallen only to get back up and complete the race. Sometimes they were able to win despite that fall.

If you stay down you create your own defeat.

3. Do not catastrophize.

We, humans, have the ability to exaggerate things in the extreme. The student fails one test and begins to tell themselves that they will never pass another test. They will fail in school, “never” get a good job and “always” be poor.

Do not fall into “black and white thinking.” People are not either winners or losers. No one wins everything every time. One setback does not make you a loser. Slip into those mindsets and you lose out on the successes you have had.

4. View setbacks as opportunities to improve your game/

Highly resilient people look at setbacks as a lesson learned. If you fail at something you may need to change your approach or change your game.

Winners practice the skills they are deficient in. We all like to do things we are good at but those who look at their errors as chances to improve take their game to a whole nother level.

5. Start by changing yourself.

It is less painful to blame our tough times on others, on the economy, our ex or an unreasonable boss. The highly resilient person knows that spending time on why things are others faults will not change things. Most of us have tried our whole lives to make others change to suit us.

Every teen tries to change their parents. Wives try to change husbands and husbands try to change wives. You may have some small successes in getting others to change but the great lesson in life is that if you change yourself that forces others to alter the way they interact with you.

It is always easier and more productive to look at how you can alter your thinking and behavior and as a result, produce a better outcome.

6. Do not waste time insisting things be your way.

Things do not always go our way. Continuing to insist that things “must” or “should” be some particular way is a waste of your time and energy.

This does not mean that you have to accept bad or hurtful situations. Stop insisting things change and change yourself, your reaction to things and your behavior.

If you do not like the way things are going stop complaining and start taking action.

7. Sometimes not getting what you want is a good thing.

Many times in life we will not get the things we wanted. Or we get what we wanted but not when we wanted them. That just may be a good thing.

Getting one job may keep you from continuing to look and finding a better one. Often a failed romance will result in meeting someone else that is an even better match.

8. Some losses are an inherent part of the cycle of life.

Not every loss is a good thing but it may be a necessary thing. As we age we lose things. We can’t walk as well or lift as much. People, friends, and relatives leave our life. Some through death and some just drift away. These losses can be painful. They can also be an opportunity for growth.

How we handle the loss of our parents becomes a model for how our children will cope with losing us.

9. Do not confuse the journey with the destination.

Most of us do not start out life wealthy, successful and accomplished. Life is a journey. You grow and develop or you become stuck and decline. Do not despair because you are not where you want to be. Keep moving forward and you can be amazed at how things can change.

Recovering people often despair in those early days of reaching the goals they believe they should already have met. Over time they can accomplish more than they ever dreamed.

10. See the good in your current situation.

Not working right now? Does this mean that you can spend more time with your children or spouse? Not in a relationship at this time? This may be your one and only time in life to learn who you are and to have time just for yourself.

11.  Notice the small pleasures.

If you are crying because you do not have a rose garden you miss the pleasure from the one flower you do have. Enjoy your friends, your family, and your leisure. Relish what you can buy rather than bemoan that you can’t afford the best or the most expensive.

12. Love and accept yourself.

You are a worthwhile person simply because you are you. Do not despair because you compare yourself to someone else. There are always other’s with more. Remember that they may also be unhappy and struggling. Do not envy what others have unless you know what they had to give up and go through to get there.

If you really know what sacrifices that other person had to make to get where they are you might not want to make those efforts.

13. Give yourself credit for the things you accomplish.

One sure way to stay stuck in failure is to attend only to your errors. Whatever you focus on you get more of and eventually if you keep looking for the failure your brain will create more disappointments.

To build resilience, to really improve your ability to bounce back from adversity, learn to give yourself a round of applause for each and everything you accomplish.

Cumulatively a string of small victories can add up to a major victory. Anything you accomplish is a win. Make sure you mark those things you do well down and hold onto those memories so they can carry you through the hard times.

14. Aim high but be happy with all your accomplishments.

We humans have a decided tendency to be unrealistic in our expectations. Some of us aim so low that we never miss the mark. The trouble with aiming at nothing is that is precisely what you hit – nothing.

Other of us aim so high that no one, not even a superhuman could reach that mark. Then when we fail to hit that sky-high mark we alibi our failure by saying – well what did you expect.

Resilient people aim high but are pleased with whatever accomplishments they achieve. Practice these ways to cope in times of stress.

What other techniques have you found that help you bounce back when life knocks you down?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at

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