Stress blog

Bouncing back from adversity: Discovering your new normal

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. April 27, 2011

I really appreciate when readers share their incredible stories of heroism, perseverance, tenacity and especially resilience. It's amazing the ways people find to deal with tragedies and disappointments.

Researchers tell us that despite soul-shredding and punishing setbacks, most people eventually achieve a "new normal" where they again feel joy and happiness, and even look forward to the future. You may need someone else to point it out to you, though. Let me explain.

A few days ago while walking to the parking ramp after a difficult day I struck up a conversation with a beloved, iconic leader of my organization. For 15 years, this woman was a major player in the national health care scene. When her time in office ended, she shifted to a less demanding and less public role.

After she stepped out of the limelight, she said that a number of coworkers stopped her to say that she'd never looked better. They said her smile and the spring in her step had returned. She seemed to be enjoying life once again. Amazingly, this all came as a surprise to my colleague. She didn't know how weighed down she'd been until the burden of leadership was lifted from her.

So, at least one message is clear. You need at least one person to hold up a mirror to tell you how you're doing in an honest and compassionate way. I recall a mayor of New York City who would walk through the neighborhoods of that bustling metropolis and ask people, "So how am I doing? How do I look?" The answers to those questions provided a solid grounding for him.

Who serves that role for you? What would they say to you right now?

With

Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

Apr. 27, 2011