Make lemonade. Really?

“When life hands you lemons…” Well, you know the rest. While this adage can feel a bit trite, there is a certain grounded wisdom to it.

In fact, researchers at the Mayo Clinic have been studying stress and coping strategies. It turns out there are coping skills that are effective, and others that are not. Often the worst stress comes from the poor self-assessments we add on to the situation.

Especially for circumstances when you have very little ability to change what’s happening—the real lemons—here are strategies recommended to help you effectively adapt and accept:

  • Stay positive. Train yourself to notice what’s going well or what feels good. Put your mind’s spotlight on the good. “Dad enjoyed watching the ball game today. He laughed just like old times.” Give yourself positive feedback for your accomplishments, no matter how “small” they seem.
  • Forgive. It’s not that you have to forget an injustice. But carrying around the anger associated with it becomes its own heavy burden. Feel the emotion and then practice letting it go. If you don’t, the resentment you carry will damage you far more than the person did who treated you unfairly.
  • Accept imperfection in yourself. You don’t expect perfection in others. Extend the same graciousness to yourself. Give each task your best attention, and then accept the outcome without harsh self-judgment. Remind yourself, “There are only 24 hours in the day. I did my best, and that is all anyone can do!”
  • Find the lesson and move on. Dwelling on the negative takes energy and achieves nothing. Are you constantly revisiting a decision you made or an action of someone else’s that was not the wisest choice? Take some time to constructively reflect on what you could do differently “next time,” and then move forward.
  • Promote perspective. Imagine yourself some years into the future. Looking back on today, does what you’re anxious about still seem important? If not, don’t let it run your life. Save your energy for issues that WILL matter five years from now.