Five Secrets to Surviving Adversity


In the award-winning memoir, The Distance Between Us, Reyna Grande shines a light on how it is possible to overcome a tumultuous childhood and ultimately achieve success in life. Reyna, who was transported across borders and between homes as a child, shares poignant details of her early life that reveal how she not only survived abandonment, heartache, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles that accompanied her childhood, but also persevered to become an acclaimed writer. Despite her challenges, Reyna allowed herself to dream and accepted guidance from a trusted mentor who taught her to believe in herself and her abilities. Most importantly, Reyna did not allow herself to be labeled as a victim. Instead, she proudly wore the title of survivor—and still does to this day.

It is no secret that life is hard. It seems that just when everything seems to be going swimmingly, adversity strikes, leaving us wondering what we did to deserve our challenges. Although it is easier to slip into the “why me” mode while attempting to claw our way out of the darkness, there are ways to survive adversity and come out of it stronger and more empathetic toward our fellow man. So what are a few secrets to surviving hardship in life?

  1. Break up time into tiny pieces. When we think we cannot make it through another day, try to focus on making it through the next hour. If that seems daunting, turn your attention to surviving the next five minutes. When that seems impossible, focus on persevering through the next minute.
  2. Lower expectations of yourself. While facing challenges in life, treat yourself like you would treat a friend enduring the same experience. Be kind to yourself. It is okay if the laundry sits in the hamper for a few days or if dinner consists of peanut butter sandwiches for a week. You don’t have to be “super” anything for the time being.
  3. Practice positive self-talk. Rather than telling yourself, “Everything will be okay,” try this instead, “Everything is okay.” Because it is okay. No matter what. Repeating this phrase over and over again retrains your mind to believe that in time, life will go on.
  4. Think of yourself as a tiny speck in an enormous universe. Take a walk in nature. Stop and really look at the clouds, the sun, and the huge sky. You, just like everyone else around you, have a unique purpose in life. Embrace the thought that in time, everything will happen just as it is supposed to in your life. Trust in the process and the universe’s plan for you.
  5. Be present. Stay in the here and now. Whenever your mind starts to create dismal scenarios for the future, gently bring it back to the present. It may be helpful to wear a special bracelet you can touch throughout the day as a reminder to stay in the here and now if your thoughts turn more worrisome than comforting. As Carrie ten Boom once said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”

The next time you face adversity, think of Reyna Grande. Despite her challenges, she became the first in her family to graduate from college, to earn a master’s degree, and ultimately to write several celebrated books. Her journey has not been easy, but neither is anyone else’s. You are never alone. No matter what comes your way in the future, keep dreaming, loving, and believing in yourself.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at