Recovery, Resiliency and Healing from Pain.

By David Joel Miller.

How do you get through hard times?

Ball recovery

Recovery and Resiliency. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Some people just have the uncanny ability to come through the hardest of times and bounce back.  Other people come from apparently wonderful backgrounds and still, they struggle.  How do those resilient people do that?  Most of us can think of people who have come through really trying times and it’s easy to understand how they can struggle with their life.  It takes a lot of effort to think of someone who has come from those difficult situations and still has been able to accomplish wonderful things.

Risk factors are about causes of problems.

Stress is a major risk factor.  But not everyone who experiences stress ends up succumbing to problems.  Early life problems can put you at risk for adult difficulties.  Risk factors for mental health problems are just like risk factors for physical illness.  Just because and you have your risk factor for cancer does not mean that you will get it.  Having had a lot of risk factors in your past is not the whole story.

Strength or protective factors are what causes things to go right.

Protective factors can be either internal or external.  Sometimes it’s about the strength that a person finds inside themselves.  Other times it is about the resources that are available to them in the environment.

One major protective factor is the presence of one caring adults in a child’s life.  But an equally important protective factor is your locus of control.  Are you mainly taking in the opinions of others?  Or do you have the personal strength to do what you believe you should do and want to do?  Highly resilient people believe that what they do matters.  They believe that their results are based on their own efforts.  They think of themselves as capable and not victims.

Resilient people have the belief that what they do affects the outcome.

There’s a thing called learned helplessness in which people have been told or felt that they couldn’t do things so many times they give up trying.  Resilient people develop the belief that what they do matters that if they try hard enough they can do things.

Resiliency like willpower is a finite resource.

Resiliency is not infinite.  It’s hard to measure just how many times someone can be knocked down and still be able to get back that.  People seem to be able to get back up from one severe problem, but if that same person is knocked down repeatedly it becomes more difficult each time to get back up.

Resiliency is not something you’re just born with.

Resiliency is a skill that develops over time.  Having small life problems and learning how to successfully get past them helps to build resilience.  Having good life skills makes you more resilient.

Some people become more resilient as they grow older.

People who had little resiliency when they were children often learn and become more resilient as they grow older.  Learn all you can about resiliency and make it a point to learn from each setback or failure you encounter.

Not every difficulty needs to be traumatic.

Not every physically strenuous activity results in injury.  Many emotional events can be growth opportunities rather than causes of traumatic conditions.  People with more resources, emotional skills, support systems or financial resources may be a better position to deal with life’s up’s and downs.

Not every bad event is caused by you. Attribution.

Resilient people do not attribute every difficulty in life to a personal failing.  Be careful of your attributions.  Not everything that happens is about you.  Sometimes you can be the best person on earth and still bad things can happen to you.

Rumination can reduce resiliency.

Rumination, that common human characteristic of turning life’s difficulties over and over in your mind, increases the risk that you will become anxious or depressed.  Having an emotional problem such as anxiety or depression lower your ability to cope with other difficulties.

Take another look at where you are in life.  Look for ways that you may be able to increase your resilience.

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

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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 counselorfresno.com.

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Tips for Surviving Hard Times.

How do resilient people get through the hard times?

Rough Road

Rough Road
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Dru Bloomfield – At Home in Scottsdale)

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

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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 counselorfresno.com.

Bullying, Families and Resiliency

By David Joel Miller.

Is there a relationship between Bullying, families, and resiliency?

At least one research study says yes. My task of reading all these research studies about resiliency and what makes some people bounce back from trauma quickly while other people are down for the count continues. This one study seems worth sharing. It is not extremely new (from 2010) but it was new to me so I thought I would pass it on.

The study by Bowes, Maughan, Caspi, Moffitt, and Arseneault, says yes there is a connection. They say three factors improve the resilience of children who are bullied. Now after reading as many studies as I have so far I take everything with a lot of salt. (Please don’t tell my nutritionist.) I am leery of studies that say that doing or not doing something will protect your child from harm. Parents sometimes do everything right and still, something bad happens, but this study does suggest some things that help reduce the impact of bullying on kids.

They found that being the victim of bullying in primary grades set the child up for both emotional and behavioral problems as well as increasing the risk of suicidal thought and actions and other self-harming behaviors. Victims of bullying, not surprisingly, have an increased risk and the younger they are when bullied the more the risk. At least that is the way I read this.

Some factors they found, well there is nothing you can do about it. Being poor adds to your risk. But then poverty adds to the risk of almost everything. In the early grades, girls seem to be more resilient than boys. That surprised me. High I. Q. protects kids from some risks and increases resiliency. Most efforts to increase your child’s I. Q. aren’t going to work, though appropriate effective education and counseling might help a little. Children with emotional or behavioral problems to start with were more affected by bullying. I take that as an indication that early interventions in childhood emotional and behavioral problems are better than the wait and see approach.

They suggest there is a difference in the factors that promote resiliency in the emotional area and those that increase resiliency in behavioral areas. Now here is the thing that was noteworthy for me. The family characteristic that was most helpful in promoting behavioral resiliency in boys was – the warmth of the mother. That is boys who knew their mother liked them were less affected by being the victim of bullying that boys whose mothers never treated them warmly. So much ladies, for worrying about spoiling your sons. Let them know they are loved and their behavior improves. At least it did in sons who were bullied.

The second thing that promoted resiliency in these kids was the warmth of their siblings. Even boys whose mothers were cold and uncaring did better when they had siblings that were warm and caring. Another good reason to promote siblings getting along.

The third factor, after maternal warmth and sibling warmth that protected kids who had been bullied and increased their resiliency, was a positive family atmosphere. So parents, while money, as in poverty, plays a small part in reducing resiliency, the things you can’t buy, like material warmth, sibling warmth, and a positive family environment made the most difference.

Some issues with the study were that they left out the problem of girl’s behavioral resiliency. I think a lot of girls do act out behaviorally because they were teased and bullied. Usually, the girls do their acting out in ways that we don’t connect to being bullied, at least till they get to high school. The study started out talking about parental characteristics and then switched to maternal warmth. Didn’t we stop blaming the mothers a long time ago? And didn’t any of these kids have fathers? I don’t see much about the role of fathers in promoting resiliency. I continue to think that we underestimate the child’s need for a father or male role model, who takes an active part in a child’s life.

For those of you who are purists,’ the reference for this study is: Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 51:7 (2010), pp 809–817.

So what do you think? Does maternal warmth matter? Should a father ever be warm to his children? And does anyone else out there have any suggestions for reducing the bullying and increasing the resiliency of kids who have been bullied?

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

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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 counselorfresno.com.

Teens, drugs and resiliency

By David Joel Miller.

Some new developments in the area of teens, drugs, and resiliency

Energy drinks:

These drinks have been involved in a large increase in hospital emergency room visits. Many young people and some adults think that energy drinks since they are sold in food and convenience stores are safe. Maybe they are in and of themselves but the way many people are using them is not safe. In a five-year period, hospital emergency room visits involving energy drinks have increased more than 1,000 % from just over 1100 to 13,000. The majority of these incidents, more than half, involved using energy drinks with drugs and alcohol. Males were more likely to mix energy drinks with illegal drugs and alcohol while females mixed them with prescription drugs.

A single can of the stronger energy drinks contains up to ten times as much caffeine and other stimulants than a caffeinated soda. People who consume energy drinks with alcohol are more likely to be involved in accidents as they do not feel impaired and over-estimate their abilities to drive or engage in other dangerous activities. The full report is available from SAMHSA, in the DAWN report (Drug Abuse Warning Network.)

New synthetic drugs.

In the race to create new drugs and the efforts to control or ban them, we are not sure who is winning. These products often sold as “bath salts” or incense but commonly abuse by younger consumers by smoking continue to be a problem. Despite analog and similar laws which say that even if you paint the duck red it is still a duck, manufacturers are finding ways to make and market new synthetic drugs that are different enough to escape the net of banned substances.

Join Together, (join together at the partnership at drugfree.org.)  a great source of information on the latest drug trends, reports that 43 states have laws regulating synthetic drugs. Some laws list specific chemicals as illegal. The manufacturers of synthetic drugs keep changing to new chemicals, not on the list. Other localities have listed categories of chemicals as illegal. Under these laws, prosecution is more difficult as the chemical may have legitimate uses that are not related to drug abuse.

Occasionally one of these new synthetic drugs results in a rash of hospitalizations or even deaths. Often these incidents are confined to a small area or a particular supplier of the product. The risks here are real but the problem keeps changing.

Volunteering reduces teen drug use and increases resilience.

In a previous blog, I wrote about the role of sleep in reducing teen problem behaviors and increasing resilience. There is more.

Another simple low-cost prevention measure for reducing teen drug use and improving resilience has been found. Surprising how simple some of these ideas are. The report, again by Join Together staff, reported that kids who regularly volunteer to help others are less likely to use drugs and get into trouble. This sounds a little twelve stepish.

The study they reported about was conducted with rural teens. Rates of drug use among rural teens are rising rapidly. No folks you can’t protect your kids from drugs by moving to the country, and the country folk isn’t just drinking whiskey anymore.

The economy and governmental budget cuts have reduced or eliminated many after-school programs and activities for kids. There are almost always opportunities to volunteer to help others. Not only did volunteering to help others reduce rates of teen drug use, the results continued into their young adult years, possibly beyond.

Food is also a treatment for teen drug use and promotes resilience.

While I am on the subject, I recall a study that reported that teens that sat down around one of those old fashion dining room table things, no T. V. mind you, that is kids who regularly eat dinner with their parents, they have fewer drug problems, better grades, more resilience and so on.

The conclusion

The risks and dangers for kids continue to grow. We can’t always protect them, probably parents have always been less able to protect kids than the adults would have liked. What we are seeing are research studies that show what a lot of folks always knew. Plenty of sleep, regular family meals, being taught right from wrong and volunteering to help others, all these things result in a teen who is less likely to take excessive risks and more likely to develop resilience and bounce back from adversity.

Till next time, I will keep working on that elusive book and writing this blog. Your comments are welcome. What do all of you think about adolescent drug use, risk, and resilience?

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

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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 counselorfresno.com.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD, and bouncing back from adversity

By David Joel Miller.

We have been hearing a lot more about PTSD these days.

Returning military are experiencing this problem in larger numbers than in the past. The military is not the only place we see PTSD. Children who have been abused, battered women and men, and people who have lived through traumas like hurricanes and tornadoes are also experiencing PTSD. The counseling profession, as well as society in general, is looking for solutions to this problem.

Recently at a convention for therapists and counselors, PTSD and the need to improve treatment was a major topic. I listened to the big name people; the ones who have written books and given lectures, as they talked about how we should treat the disorder. Two of the biggest names on therapy did not agree on the best treatment. If they disagree, what is the person with PTSD to think? This made me start searching for answers.

Why do some people get PTSD and others do not experience it. In combat, let’s say ten men are in the same incident some get PTSD and some do not, why? Stix in a Scientific American Article reported that of people who were traumatized by a single traumatic event, 90 % recovered from the trauma without therapy. So some people have concluded that PTSD is not a normal response to trauma. Maybe some form of resiliency is more common than PTSD. Maybe we have been doing it backward by studying the few who get PTSD instead of the many who bounce back from adversity.

We know from another study that kids who grow up in dysfunctional homes are more likely to suffer from PTSD, depression, and anxiety. From 50% to 67% of exposed kids develop some mental health issue but the other one-third to one-half does not. Kids from this sort of background have repeated trauma and they have less social support. I wanted to know why some got PTSD and others did not.

There is a lot of research going on right now into the area of resilience. Some people seem to not develop PTSD when exposed to trauma. Others bounce back quickly. A few have lifelong problems. We need to know why these variations and how do we improve the ability to bounce back from adversity. A quick check of one journal database disclosed over 1400 articles about resiliency. I haven’t read them all yet but I will try to tell you the things I learn as I read them.

One thing seems clear from the articles I have read so far, and I am always comparing the research I read to what my clients tell me. Resilience, that ability to bounce back from adversity, is not something we are born with. Resilience can be learned and it can vary from situation to situation.

The subject is of such importance that I think there needs to be a book or books on how people can increase their resilience. So my plan at this stage is to share with you the things I learn and to add your comments and suggestions to what I find. In the process there just might be a book that needs writing. I will keep you posted on my efforts to write that book.

There are lots of writings on recovery, particularly from substance abuse or dependence, what it means to recover and be recovered. We are concluding that many people have both substance abuse disorders and mental health issues. It would be important to know how recovery is like resilience and how it is different, assuming these two terms do not describe the same thing.

One more thing I need to tell you about at this time. Some people experience a traumatic event and it changes their lives forever in a positive way. We call this Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). This intrigued me. Why and how is it that some people use a traumatic experience to transform their lives and grow into a stronger better person? We talk a lot about the way PTSD damages people but not much about the way in which it might inspire them. So I have been reading everything I can find on PTG. But I am also listening with new ears to the stories people tell about their life-changing experiences.

There is more to come on this subject so I hope you stay tuned for my postings and a possible book on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) and the whole issue of how resilience is created and how you or someone you know can learn to bounce back from adversity.

For more information on Stress and PTSD see:

8 warning signs you have PTSD

Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) vs. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Acute Stress Disorder vs. PTSD 

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

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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 counselorfresno.com.