To find the benefits, start by writing out a list of things you learned from a past failure. For example, if you missed an important deadline, maybe you learned that you need to prioritize better, delegate more, or tone down your perfectionism. Try to really search for as many benefits as you can think of.
Ask yourself these questions to help you:
- Were there, or will there be, any positive outcomes that result from this situation?
- Are you grateful for any part of this situation?
- In what ways are you better off than when you started?
- What did you learn?
- How did you grow and develop as a result of this situation?
5. Emotionally distance yourself from challenges.
When experiencing a challenge, the ability to think about your experiences as if you were “a fly on the wall,” or as if you were someone else who is witnessing your experiences from afar, keeps you from getting stuck in your negative emotions. Emotional distancing also makes it less likely that you will replay the unpleasant details of the event, and as a result, you don’t feel quite as bad when bad things happen.
To practice this technique, first, recall a recent stressful conflict you had with another person. Be sure to choose something very specific. For example, recall when “You got into a fight with John about forgetting your birthday.” Try not to think about fights with John in general.
Now re-imagine the stressful event from an outside observer’s point of view — for example, from the point of view of a stranger on the street or a fly on the wall.
Ask yourself these questions to practice being a fly on the wall:
- Would the observer be able to understand why you are upset?
- Would the observer be able to see the other person’s point of view?
- How would the observer evaluate the situation?
- Might this observer view the situation differently than you do?
If you prefer, you can also practice this on social media. Next time you are reading about one of your friend’s negative experiences on social media, practice switching back and forth from being in their shoes to being in your shoes.
Try to notice how being an outside observer helps make the experience seem less intense.
6. Remember, this too shall pass.
Another technique that can help you better handle stress involves thinking about the outcomes of stressful events in the relatively far future. For example, you might tell yourself that “time heals all wounds,” or “this too shall pass.”
The ability to think about a future where you will no longer be feeling so bad about whatever you’re struggling with helps you get through difficult experiences. It can reduce the intensity of negative emotions and the distress caused by the situation. So next time you are in the midst of a stressful situation, try to look back at the situation sometime in the future.
Start by recalling a recent stressful event. Be sure to choose something very specific. For example, try to recall, “When I failed to get the promotion I was after” instead of failure, in general. Now imagine what your life will be like five years after this event.
Ask yourself these questions:
- In five years, what will you be doing?
- How will you be spending your time?
- How will you be feeling?
- How will you feel about this particular event?
7. Find the silver linings.
The ability to find the silver linings in stressful or difficult situations (also referred to as reappraisal ability) helps us generate positive emotions, even when there is nothing in our situation to generate positive emotions for us.
This is why finding silver linings can help counteract negative emotions, decrease stress, and quicken recovery from stressful events.
How do you find silver linings?
Let’s say that you dropped your sandwich on the ground, and you have nothing else to eat for lunch. You might remind yourself that you’re lucky to even have a sandwich when so many people go hungry. Or, you might see this as an opportunity to go get lunch with co-workers instead of eating your sandwich at your desk.
You see how it works? Now it’s your turn to try. Recall a work or school project that didn’t work out the way you hoped. Now, try finding the silver linings of this situation. How could the situation be worse? What are opportunities that could result from this situation? What are the positives?
Think of as many reappraisals as you can. Try to be creative and think of anything that would make you feel better about this experience.