Four Steps to Stay Strong in the Face of Adversity

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I still remember the day I learned that I could simply let go of unhelpful thoughts.

I’m not religious, but it was like the heavens opened up and the angels sang down to me.

Everything finally made sense, and I got a taste of what true freedom and peace of mind was like.

It was only a taste, but once I knew what was possible I was motivated to have more of it.

I started learning everything I could about mindfulness and emotional intelligence.

And within just a few short years my mind had completely transformed, and my life with it.

But then, even after years of mindfulness practice I would still struggle in times of great adversity, crisis, conflict or challenge (Maybe you can relate?).

So I developed for myself, a practical four step process for responding effectively to any crisis, big challenge or difficulty in life.

This process allows us to let go of unhelpful thoughts.

It means we can respond instead of reacting.

It allows us to live according to our values, no matter what life is throwing our way.

This is my number one go-to practice in difficult situations and I have taught it to many clients and friends who now swear by it too.

How to F.A.C.E your challenges

So the four steps are an acronym. Here’s a quick summary of the key steps.

F = Focus on what’s in your control
A = Accept what you cannot control
C = Come back to the present moment
E = Engage in action guided by your values

F= Focus on what you can control

In times of challenge, loss or crisis a certain amount of fear and stress are inevitable; they are natural responses to the more difficult moments of our lives. However we often cause ourselves a lot of excess suffering by continuously worrying and ruminating about all kinds of things that are not in our control.

While that might be a fairly normal thing for the mind to do, it simply is not helpful.

For example you cannot control what other people are doing, you cannot control how governments are responding to world events, you cannot control the future of the world or how the coronavirus pandemic will evolve, etc.

In fact, the more you focus on things you cannot control, the more overwhelmed, disempowered and frantic you are likely to feel.

So the most powerful thing you can do when you’re facing any great challenge is to focus on what you can control and accept that for now, the rest of it simply is as it is. What we can control is our behaviour so think about what you can do to make a positive difference

A = Accept what you cannot control

As we focus on what we can control, we let go of what we cannot. So instead of wishing things were different or fighting the way things are, here we wage peace with life as it is. This is not resignation but the simple acknowledgement that “right now it’s like this”.

It’s important to note here that in difficult times, part of what we often need to accept is also any difficult feelings that may arise. We don’t want to pretend we’re not feeling them, we don’t want to try to struggle with them or escape them.

Acknowledge your feelings and give yourself compassion for what you’re going through. Struggling with difficult emotions only prolongs them and makes them bigger. So let go of the inner struggle and surround them with your compassionate awareness.

C = Come back to the present moment

So remember to bring your focus back to the present moment. If you’re feeling caught up in worry, rumination, stress or overwhelm, continuously bring your focus back to the present moment to find more balance, calm and steadiness of mind.

An easy way to do this is to take a few deep slow breaths and feel the breath in the body as you do this.

E = Engage in actions guided by your values

One of the most empowering things you can ever do in difficult times is take wise action – action guided by your own core values. Your values might be things like kindness, courage, patience, love, compassion, determination, playfulness. Whatever your unique values are, connect with them and let them guide your actions.

Perhaps considering “What is one small positive step I can take right now? How can I look after myself and others? What needs to change to make things easier or better?”

Research shows that focusing on what you can control and taking action shifts you from a state of helplessness to one of hopefulness and empowerment. In a time where you might have otherwise felt paralyzed or depressed, taking action restores your calm, clarity of mind and inner strength.

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