As Ella Fitzgerald once sang, “into each life some rain must fall.” And while we can’t control just how much it rains, we can make a decision – let ourselves get wet, or break out the umbrella.

We have a choice in how we respond to difficult times. We can shut down emotionally and let ourselves become hardened by it, or we can grow from the experience. We will experience feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, guilt or sadness during tough times and this very normal, and we should never try to ignore those feelings. But, problems arise when we become stuck in those emotions.

There is actually a term for the process – post-traumatic growth – and it refers to the benefit and personal growth that comes from experiencing a crisis. I like to call this the Phoenix Phenomenon –  a new life arises from the remains of the old way of being. Research has found that up to 70% of people experience positive psychological growth from difficult times, such as a deeper sense of self and purpose, a greater appreciation for life and loved ones, and an increased capacity for altruism, empathy and desire to act for the greater good. While the transition from old to new was natural for the mythical creature, in the real world we can learn how to change and grow no matter the obstacles we face.

Make Meaning – As we grow, we develop a set of beliefs about the world around us – it’s the foundation we build our lives upon. When we experience difficult times, it’s like an earthquake – unexpected – and it can break up that foundation and leave us feeling unsure of ourselves and our grounding. Such events can draw our attention to the ways in which we take certain aspects of our lives for granted. It challenges our very identity and beliefs we’ve formed leaving us to ask questions we never thought we would have to.

When we are willing to ask and explore those questions – who am I, what really matters to me, what do I want my life to be about – we can begin to rebuild and construct a new foundation, often from the ground up, that is more authentic and based on who we really are. During this time of transformation, it is by letting go of the beliefs, roles, and aspects of identity that no longer serve us and having the willingness to grow into a new way of being that allows us to construct our lives in a way that feels more authentic and true.We’re moving into a place where we can begin to explore and discover what we truly value.

Think about a time when you were worried or struggled and ultimately, it went better than you expected, all those challenges you’ve overcome, all the difficulties you’ve navigated and reflect on that part of you that has gotten you through. We can call on those moments at a later date to help remind us that we are stronger than we think.

It’s especially helpful when our thinking turns negative and there is a lot of self-doubt, fear or overwhelm. Connecting back with and remembering those past successes with our inner strength is stronger than any doubts or negative thoughts we might be having about our current difficulty. When we do something that makes us feel good in a healthy and constructive way, it can improve our mindset. And there is the additional benefit that often in times of crisis we feel powerless because there may not be anything we can do. Taking care of ourselves is one thing we have control over and we can feel confident we’re doing our best to take care of our self.

Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch. Become the phoenix and let your self rise from life ashes to burn brightly for all.

Peace and Love, Jim

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