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  • Writer's pictureTanisha Shedden

How to be “Good at Struggle?”'

Guest written by Kalee Hepworth

It’s no secret that we all deal with hard times.

In fact, it is such a common human experience, that negative emotions and hardship are screaming in our face everywhere.

Think about it. The media portrays it. Our friends shared it. You experienced it.

Everyone experiences struggle, and not everyone is dealt the same cards to defend themselves during those hard times.

A friend once told me that I am “good at struggle.”

Confused, I asked her to explain what she meant.

She responded with “I don’t know, you’re just really good at getting through them and being happy at the same time.”

What a relief that was to hear! Some people are naturally gifted at being “good at struggle,” and it comes very easily to them.

However, I haven’t always been that way. And it’s something I have worked hard on for years.

When I was a junior in high school, I experienced hardship, but at that time, I was not very “good at struggle.”

In fact, those struggles led me to experience the deepest depression that I have ever had.

“But if you’re ‘good at struggle’ now, what changed?” you may ask.


But what does resilience mean? And why do we talk about it? Let’s look at the basics.


What It Is

Let’s start out with an operational definition. “The word resilience comes from resile, which means to spring back or rebound.”[i]

In other words, it means overcoming the struggles that come into your life—individually or collectively with family and friends, without being bent out of shape.

Resilience is like a rubber band. It can be stretched just before the breaking point, but it returns to its natural state. No matter how much it is stretched, it can return to it's balanced structure.

We may not always choose our circumstances in life, but we can always decide how we react to what we have been given.

We can let these hardships make us bitter or make us better. Weaker or stronger. Harder or softer. You get the picture.

But no matter how hard it is to take the high road (easier for some than others), there are steps to becoming more resilient and overcoming the hardships in life.

It’s no wonder then that resilience has been a hot topic when talking about mental illness.


Recent research studies have found a positive correlation between resilience and psychological well-being.[ii] Resilience increases self-esteem, opposes negative experiences, and leads to positive adaption.

It also increases restraint and competency relating to vulnerability and mental health.[iii]

In 1958, Reuben Hill developed a model to understand the link between stress and coping. It is called the ABC-X model, in which each letter stands for a different aspect of resilience and coping.[iv]

“A” represents the struggle. This can be short term, long term, insignificant, devastating, etc. There are many different forms of struggles.

“B” represents resources available. These can be physical, emotional, small, or big. Resilience itself is a resource that families and support groups can use in order to cope.

“C” represents the meaning attached to the stressor. In other words, the perception of what is happening plays a part as well.

For example,

“X” represents crisis. This is what ultimately happens, both on an individual and a family basis. It’s the end result.

The ABC-X model is used to predict what might happen based on what the individual and family utilizes in terms of what is available to them.

Although, this model can’t answer the “difficult questions about resilience,”[v] the more resources used and the perception of your struggle can help determine the end result, and how resilient that individual and support system can be.

What Does This Mean for You?

First: Name the Struggle (A)

Pinpoint what you are dealing with. Is it one big thing? Is it a lot of little things adding up? Were you just pushed over the edge?

1. Regarding mental illness, look for what triggers it. Obviously, this is general, as each mental illness is different. Some begin with trigger points while others are unpredictable. This can be done by anyone.

2. If it is stress due to something other than mental illness, take a look at what led to the struggle.

3. It’s important to recognize that the struggle is real and that it’s ok to be going through a tough time. It is in these times that we can grow and progress. Don’t be afraid to admit what you are going through.

Second: Resources (B)

Find resources that can help you! Look at what resources you already have and ones you can obtain

1. Research what you or your loved one is dealing with. Is it a mental illness? Learn about it and become familiar with behaviors related to it.

2. Look for community resources. Some of those resources are listed right on this website.

3. Get medical help where needed. Therapy and medication can a world of difference! Figure out what is right for you.

4. List the strengths you have to offer to the situation. Then list one or two different emotional attributes you want to work on. Do this for a month at a time. As you develop different positive attributes, you will have more resources to offer.

Third: Perception (C)

Whether you are dealing with a mental illness or some other kind of struggle, how you view it is important.

1. Over-thinking is common during struggles. Coach yourself through thoughts that are irrational and unhelpful. Redirect yourself toward thoughts that bring positive meaning into the Struggle.[vi] This is called “reframing.”

2. Ask yourself how you see this struggle right now. Then figure out what you want to view it. Is it a stepping stone? How can it help you grow? Once you figure out how you want to view it, repeat it in your mind three times anytime your mind reverts to how you originally saw the struggle. This is reciting affirmations.

3. For those who feel like this may seem ingenuine, reframing your mindset in this way is not meant to diminish your reality. What you are going through is hard. And I’m not pretending it’s not. Instead, it is a way to see things from a different perspective—as genuine as the perspective you have viewed your struggle from until now.

Lastly: Avoiding and planning for crisis

1. Increase your angle of recovery. Using tactics from ABC will provide a better outcome for the X. Allow the healing process to become easier and faster.

2. Decrease periods of disorganization. If you know what leads to the crisis, you can plan for them in advance. This will help you to be more organized when crisis hits.


“You’re such a downer. Why are you sad all the time?” one of my classmates asked.

It was at that moment during Junior year that I took a hard look at each aspect of the ABC-X model. It was then that I made the choice to do my part in changing my situation.

That doesn’t mean that it was easy or instantaneous. Time is a powerful thing, and healing through time allows us to grow and become stronger.

It took a lot of hard work, a lot of relapse in thinking, and a lot of trying again to become “good at struggle.”

Every struggle is different. Every struggle requires different tools and attention. Some take longer than others. And that’s okay.

Have hope in tomorrow. You are not alone. You have control of more than you think—maybe not what you want to have control over, but control.

So, control what you can, let go of what you can’t, and allow yourself time to heal and grow.

You’ve got this. You can be “good at Struggle!”

CITED RESOURCES [i] Perlman, D., Taylor, E., Molloy, L., Brighton, R., Patterson, C., & Moxham, L. (2018). A path analysis of self-determination and resiliency for consumers living with mental illness. Community Mental Health Journal, 54(8), 1239–1244. [ii]Perlman, D., Taylor, E., Molloy, L., Brighton, R., Patterson, C., & Moxham, L. (2018). A path analysis of self-determination and resiliency for consumers living with mental illness. Community Mental Health Journal, 54(8), 1239–1244. [iii] Haddadi, Parvaneh & Besharat, Mohammad Ali. (2010). Resilience, vulnerability and mental health. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. 5. 639-642. Doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.07.157. [iv] Hill, R. (1958), Generic features of families under stress. Social Casework, 49, 139-150. [v] Goddard, H. W., & Allen, J. D. (1991). Using the ABC-X model to understand resilience. [vi] Goddard, H. W., & Allen, J. D. (1991). Using the ABC-X model to understand resilience.

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