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How to Transform Catastrophes into Challenges to Create Wellness

Life is forever changing. Sometimes these changes are in your favor; other times they’re not. Either way, they’re stressful. Do these situations lead to anger? Well, what matters is whether you see these changes as catastrophes or challenges. People respond actively to a challenge, and retreat from catastrophes.

Two people unexpectedly lose their jobs. One thinks of this as the end of the world as he knows it. He goes home, gets drunk, loses his temper with his family, and spends the next two weeks sleeping and watching TV.

The other man tells himself, “Great, now I can look for an opportunity in something that has more security and pays better,” and then he develops a plan (with his family’s support) for what to do next.

When you’re hit with some major stress in your life, which person are you?

The next time you have to deal with a major stress, and you start thinking it’s the end of the world and wanting to retreat, try taking these steps:

  1. Clearly define the problem.

    Did you lose your job? Did your youngest just leave home, leaving you with an empty nest? Is your spouse gravely ill?

  2. Ask yourself: What is the challenge?

    If you’ve lost your job, you have to go find another one. If your house is soon to be empty of children, you’ll have to find other things you’re passionate about. If a loved one has just been diagnosed with a fatal disease, you’ll have to prepare to grieve over that loss and to handle life more on your own in the future.

  3. Determine whether you have enough support to meet the challenge.

    Support is all-important in dealing with major challenges in life. Figure out how much support you have on your side. Ask yourself: “Who can I count on to help?”, “ How can they help — give moral support, lend a hand, tell me I’m okay?”, “Is their support up close and personal or long-distance?”, and “Do I need to find new sources of support — for example, legal assistance or counseling?”

  4. Develop an action plan.

    Ask yourself: “What specific steps do I need to take to meet this challenge?”, “Where do I start?”, “Where do I want to end up — what’s my goal?”, “How will I know when I’ve met the challenge?” Set some timelines for each of the individual steps. Reward yourself along the way as you complete each step. Celebrate when you’ve completely met the challenge — and your life becomes less stressful.

These steps work whether you’ve experienced a true catastrophe or you’re facing something more common. What matters isn’t whether the event was a true catastrophe — what matters is that is feels like a catastrophe to you, and you can transform the catastrophe into a challenge. The more traumatic the event, the more help you’ll need in facing the challenge. But you can get through it, no matter what it is.

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