Coping Skills and Emotional Resiliency

I’m at a loss for words. I am finding it difficult to write an article this week about how to make more money or pay less taxes after the events that transpired in Las Vegas two nights ago. If I was in a better frame of mind, I might try to use this moment to make the case that you always need current estate planning documents, enough life or disability insurance, an emergency fund, or your “what if” letter completed. Instead, I am just going to share some thoughts on coping skills.

Life can change in a moment:

Change seems to be the only thing that is inevitable. Some changes are planned while others come out of nowhere and smack us in the head. We know that our lives can change at a moment’s notice. Yet nothing can prepare you for a mass shooting, a car accident, or a catastrophic medical event. Nevertheless, how you respond to change is one of the main determinants of how well you live your life. Will unexpected events make you stronger or more fearful? More generous or more self-absorbed? More open or more guarded? I tell my kids, “You are great just the way you are. So, don’t let bad people or disappointments change you.” This advice, like most, is easier to say  than to live.

An editorial in yesterday’s NY Times was entitled: Nothing Will Change after Las Vegas. The article was about gun control. I’ll steer clear of that debate since this is not a political blog. However, things will change after Vegas. Laws may not change, but hundreds, thousands, even millions of people will be changed in some way.

Three stages to life transitions:

Those who have the best coping skills, and are the most emotionally resilient, bounce back from disappointment or traumatic events and find new opportunities.  William Bridges, a leading authority on managing change, makes the case that life is a series of transitions. We experience these transitions in our careers, businesses, families, relationships, finances, and even our health. Each one requires us to go through a psychological process to come to terms with our new situation. The process has three stages: endings, the neutral zone, and new beginnings. Many of these transitions have a financial component, but they all have an emotional one.

So, the question is: How do you build emotional resiliency? That incredible quality that leads to greater life satisfaction. How do you learn to be better at dealing with change in healthier and more productive ways? This is important because everyone reading this article will experience more transitions in his or her life, some good and some unfortunate.

Preparation builds coping skills:

Here is my best advice to help you better navigate the changes ahead. Think of an upcoming life transition or even one that is now at hand. Write down every pertinent question, consideration, and potential ramification. You have to get them out of your head and on to paper. For example: What’s my greatest fear? What’s the potential financial impact? Where will the money come from? What resources or expertise could help me with this situation? Whom do I know who has been through this and what can I learn from that person?

The process of thinking through these questions will give you the confidence to respond when the time comes. Proactive thinking puts you in a different head space even when the situation turns out far differently than what you anticipated.

Do you have a transition that concerns you? Email me about it because I have a list of questions already written out to help you think it through. I am here to help.

God bless all of you, as well as the victims of the Las Vegas shooting and their families.