Remaining Positive in the Face of Adversity

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Written by: Angela Gill

Photo from: Unsplash

Adversity is inevitable. The uncertainties of life bring along joy, laughter, and excitement; but it also brings struggle, despair, and times of trial. As we age, finding things that bring us joy takes a lot more practice – it's not just having a longer recess or getting the latest edition gadget. Adulting is a lot like putting out fire after fire. More specifically, as students, we always have a new assignment, midterm, or exam, week after week. Academic duties alongside unpredictable life situations remind us of the importance of remaining positive in the face of adversity.  


Positive reframing 

Positive reframing is a mental technique used to look for positive alternatives in a given situation. To engage in positive reframing, take this three-steps approach: Recognize, Flip, Elevate.  

First recognize the situation you are in. Acknowledge that you are facing a challenging situation and you have the tools in your tool belt to combat it. Then, flip it. Flipping the situation is a crucial step in positive reframing where you’re taking a difficult situation and looking at its positive alternatives. Next, elevate the situation. Elevation takes it one step further, where once you’ve recognized the situation and flipped it, you take an action to elevate it.  

For instance, let’s say you’re stressed about having back-to-back midterms. Now let’s combat this situation using positive reframing. First, you recognize that having back-to-back midterms is not ideal. Recognition will help you face your difficulties and then come to terms with them, as opposed to denial or avoidance. Next, you flip it. You may think of this as an opportunity to enhance your time management skills or maybe this means you have a shorter midterm season. Then, to elevate the situation, you create a schedule that works best for you.  

Using positive reframing reshapes your way of thinking. Over time, as you use positive reframing, you change your mind’s natural route of thoughts, and alter it to more positive thinking. You can find yourself using this not only for your academic responsibilities but also your personal life dilemmas that may arise. Better said by Oprah Winfrey, “Turn your wounds into wisdom”.  


Prioritize Self-Care

In times of adversity, it’s not uncommon to overlook self-care. Self-care is the practice oLola Bunnyf taking time for yourself in activities that promote your mental and physical well-being. Based on a study from Southern New Hemisphere University, engaging in self-care has been clinically proven to show lower anxiety levels, increased motivation and happiness, and greater appreciation for life.

Everyone’s idea of self-care is personalized. It's important you self-reflect and recognize the activities that bring you joy. To do this, think about activities that make you feel calmer or heighten your excitement. It could be sometime creative, active, or de-stressing. For me personally, I enjoy painting or watching a sitcom in my room with dim lighting and a scented candle. While I don’t always paint or watch a sitcom with a candle every day, I’ve made it a practice to indulge in one self-care activity a week. Getting into a regular routine of practicing and prioritizing self-care allows you to get a greater appreciation for life and yourself. You can also host a self-care day amongst your friend group, roommates, or family! 


Practice Gratitude  

Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. There’s been many studies that show practicing gratitude changes your brain and your life. When we show gratification for things in our lives, we release “feel-good” neurotransmitters: Dopamine and Serotonin, which are responsible for our emotions. People that regularly practice gratitude are also shown to have higher gray matter in their brain, indicating higher cognitive functioning.  

To practice gratitude, at the end of each day, on a piece of paper, write down three things that made you smile or that you appreciated that day. For me, typically, it’s a cup of tea, my dog, Theo, and my best friend. Do this for 30 consecutive days – and it's completely okay if your three things are sometimes repeated. At the end of the 30 days, brain scans indicate a shift in the brain and increased release of dopamine and serotonin.  



As humans we are social beings. And it's important to remember that during difficult situations. While we may be facing a challenging time, getting the support of your significant other, family, or friends, is crucial. Talking to another person about what’s going on helps you become more self-aware of the situation and your emotions. Moreover, their advice or suggestions may also give you an outside perspective on the scenarios. In addition to your personal relationships, Western also provides professional and confidential mental health services free of cost. You can book an appointment by calling 519-661-3030 on any weekday during work hours. CMHA regularly offers after hours support on campus during the academic year. Check the Health & Wellness website to learn more. For additional support, Good2Talk provides free, 24/7 confidential support services for post-secondary students in Ontario call 1-866-925-5454 or text GOOD2TALKON to 686868.  


So... How Do You Remain Positive in the Face of Adversity? 

While everyone’s perception of adversity and positivity remains subjective, it is important we remain self-aware of our emotions and strengths. Being self-aware of our own emotions helps us reach the first step of positive reframing: recognition. Oftentimes we are so eager to combat the situation at hand, that we forget to step aside and look at what is happening. The recognition step then leads you to the flip and elevate stages of positive reframing. As you recognize, flip, and elevate, it is so important for you to prioritize self-care, practice gratitude, and reach out for support. While it is important to recognize the importance of combatting the situation, it is just as necessary for you to prioritize your well-being during any form of adversity you may encounter.  

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