Sometimes it seems like the sun will never shine again, or that the rain will never end. Sometimes everything seems to go wrong, even the little things. Or, no matter how hard you try, it just isn’t enough. Everyone, no matter how famous or wealthy or beautiful you are, faces times like these. The question is, do you have the agility to handle these lemons in life?
Some people are simply ‘luckier’ than others. They may not face the same adversities you face, and they may never experience the same suffering you do. However, there isn’t anything we can do about that--but we can alter our own perspective of things that happen to us to improve our adaptability.
A research study looked at children, and why some children are more resilient and better able to overcome staggering and even horrific instances of neglect or abuse and why some do not. Resilience means people have the ability to return to their typical daily functions after facing adversity, and they may also avoid dangerous or harmful behaviours in response to stress.
Children who thrive even when they face significant problems or disadvantages usually have several factors in common. They typically have some innate ability to resist adversity and they have strong relationships with adults in their families and within the community as a whole. Scientists have found that chronic stress at a young age can alter the brain’s capacity to recover after a threatening event, meaning there could be changes in certain brain regions which alter someone’s capacity to handle challenges.1
You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it's important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.
When It’s Time To Thank Your Friends
Social support may also be important for adults who face trying times. Just as children benefit from having a strong support group of adults, we as adults need someone to lean on sometimes, too. Even when things seem grim, a laugh or a drink with some friends can make all the difference. We cannot always plan on what happens in life, but we should always have a plan B--and including friends in this plan is a great idea!
One study found that social support, meaning healthy, supportive, functioning relationships with others, can support mental health. This support may have a positive effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system and oxytocin (the feel-good brain chemical) pathways. While more research is needed, early results suggest social support may provide resilience to stress by acting on the above brain mechanisms.2
It can be difficult to find new friends, especially if you work from home or if you have moved extensively. While maintaining contact via social media is useful for friends and family you cannot regularly visit, it’s also important to create a healthy group of friends wherever you live.
Being adaptable is an important characteristic for today’s leaders, and an agile brain is ready to jump into a new situation--such as making friends! Even leaders need friends to vent with, laugh with, and sometimes cry with.
To find a new social circle, consider:
- Using an app such as Meetup. Meetup gives you the opportunity to meet people who share similar interests. If you are looking for hiking partners, fellow gardeners, or people who work on cars, try an app like Meetup.
- Volunteering. Volunteering is good for your brain, and you might meet people you’d never come across in your normal routine. If you are passionate about something, look online for volunteer groups in your area.
- Join the local gym. People in gyms are usually very friendly, so you can meet new people and keep your body and mind healthy. Watch out for gyms with predatory fees, though. Most gyms let you have a free ‘try-out’ session, so take advantage and talk with some locals!
- Walk your dog. Getting exercise with your furry friend is a great way to meet new people. Look online for any dog parks nearby and head out with plenty of water (and of course some doggy treats!).
If All Your Troubles Were So Far Away Just Yesterday
Some people seem to lead a very charmed existence, but we often don’t know what’s really happening behind the scenes. Even if someone seems to ‘have it all’, they may still be suffering from a brain disorder, loneliness, a chronic health condition, or something else. Remember, the grass may look greener on the other side, but you don’t know for certain unless you’ve actually walked another person’s path.
If you would like to increase your agility, improve your brain health and support an overall healthier YOU, consider the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology. You’ll find an award-winning and practical leadership development program with world-class learning resources, everything you need to create a brain-friendly culture.
So, if you’re starting to feel the sour pinch of lemons in your mouth, remember you can become more adaptable and you can change the trajectory of your life. In the immortal words of Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher, “It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us, as the confidence of their help.”
1. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience: Working Paper No. 13, (2015).
2. Ozbay F, Johnson DC, Dimoulas E, et al. Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry 2007; 4: 35–40.