10 INSPIRING life lessons from a stroke survivor

Re-inventing oneself, by letting go of old, non-productive habits, negative thought processes, judgments, and sometimes, even people who have been holding us back, can be a liberating feeling.

Sameer Bhide suffered an extremely rare catastrophic hemorrhagic stroke in his cerebellum three and half years ago.

Sameer had achieved the quintessential American dream — worked for many companies for 24 years, including a respectful job with a reputed global consulting firm, a loving family with a wife and two sons, a beautiful house, sports car and a comfortable lifestyle.

However, after the stroke, two brain surgeries, and a month in a medically induced coma, Sameer’s entire life came crashing down, from a life-changing debilitating illness to the loss of work, and finally a divorce.

Sameer was able to bounce back by implementing some universal tools that can help anyone facing adversity to move forward in hope and emerge victorious.

Some of the lessons he learned may be relevant today especially during this pandemic:

1. Acceptance and Faith

Accepting a situation is the first step to working towards overcoming adversity.

It all starts with acceptance.

And when one can practices complete acceptance with a deep sense of faith whatever it is for one, they begin to take first steps towards a brighter future. Know that what has happened cannot be undone.

The only way to move ahead from that situation, is to accept it and find a solution on how one can build from there.

It’s certainly not easy to accept your new normal. Acceptance takes time – but increases over time, although one can ever fully accept it.

As hard it is, it is the only choice one has. Self-pity and complaining are not options.

‘It is what it is’ became my mantra. It means taking your new normal on its own terms, with acceptance but also with hope.

2. Resilience

With faith and acceptance, one can start to work towards improving the situation, with determination to overcome the multiple roadblocks.

Resilience is an art that not only builds a strength of character but helps to see adversity as a challenge to be overcome instead of a defeating, helpless catastrophe.

Resilience is something you don’t fully know you have until you need it. But the amount of resilience one has is not limited.

It’s like doing exercises — the more you do them consistently, the better.

You are born with some resilience, but more importantly it can be learnt and developed. Be it a job loss, departure of a loved one, financial crisis or a health issue, there is always some way to fix how one feels from this, and work towards creating a better life.

3. Reach out for help

When trying to practice resilience and fighting one’s way through the adversity, it may be difficult to connect to others or to even seek help.

Most people find it comfortable to cut off and seek shelter in solitude, due to reasons like shame or guilt of an inability to come to terms with grief.

While such a phase is natural, one needs to get out of it at the earliest to avoid being stuck in the past, and enhancing the impact of the adversity.

You have no choice but to play the hand you are dealt. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, as they say. You cannot ‘play the victim’ beyond a certain time.

It’s okay to pity yourself initially, but that has to stop quickly so you can slowly begin to accept your new reality and eventually your new normal. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

Reaching out to the right people (including professionals), at the right time, can be extremely significant.

This can help gain clarity, validate the path/ thought-process, offer insightful feedback and ensure one is on the right track. You do have to learn to balance both to give you the best chance to heal your mind and body.

4. Humility

An essential part of creating a new life comes from a sense of self-worth, which often is the most impacted during times of adversity.

Tapping into a ‘can do’ attitude becomes an automatic antidote when fighting to swim against the tide. However, doing it with humility helps one keep grounded and prepared for setbacks.

It also allows one to focus on the task at hand and not be too presumptuous about the outcome, thus helping keep unhealthy expectations at check.

5. Adopt a non-judgmental outlook

Judgments may not always be helpful when one is exploring new territory or learning to adopt a new way of life.

Being open and accepting is the way to grow, especially when faced with a challenge.

Often, an open mind is more capable of feeling, seeing, learning and growing, than the judgmental mindset.

6. Practice Gratitude

It may sound ironic or difficult to comprehend ‘practicing gratitude’ in the midst of a crisis, but these are exactly the times when one needs to step back and be mindful of the positive facts.

We need to be grateful for whatever is still intact, and is nourishing/ supporting our journey forward!

Nothing heals and strengthens like gratitude. Expressing gratitude is a choice. Like Resilience, you are born with some of it and can be learnt and developed.

7. Giving back in whatever way possible

Practicing gratitude helps one to realize their privileges and become mindful of other less fortunate.

Giving back to society/ community, in whatever way one can, not only helps create a sense of purpose, but also creates a sense of bonding, makes one feel grateful, and provides stronger motivation to come out of a crisis.

8. Finding possibilities (the art of the possible) especially where most people see none

If it is not going to kill me, let’s try it. When in doubt, try it.

Try everything – It may or may not work. Our job is to try.

Also, surround yourself with positive people. Being in the midst of people who can support one’s cause, is always a blessing.

Be around people who always choose to see the best in every situation, can help create a perpetual positive vibe and build gratitude, thus helping one to grow.

9. Reinvent a new life

Re-inventing oneself, by letting go of old, non-productive habits, negative thought processes, judgments, and sometimes, even people who have been holding us back, can be a liberating feeling.

This can also involve discovering new interests or hobbies, focusing on simple and healthy lifestyle habits, nurturing a flower garden or anything that helps create a sense of rediscovering one’s talents or inclinations, that can help create a more fulfilling life.

Building up with a fresh start, through the lessons one has learnt during crisis, helps create a balanced life that leverages the wisdom of past misfortunes.

No matter what crisis one is facing, there are unexpected benefits one can explore.

10. New ways to connect, communicate, and collaborate

An important part of coping with adversity and rising above it is the set of people around and the way one engages with them.

Especially after the collective adversity brought about by COVID, which united people across the globe, our forms of communication and collaboration have transformed.

With much more empathy, sincere effort to connect and exploring meaningful conversations, extending a helping hand and creating a mutually supportive work and communal environment is the need of the hour.

The pandemic has, in a strange manner, made us realize the value of human connections, helped us accept differences of opinion and appreciate diversity.

It is always better to face an adversity with a friend on the side!

Even though we can’t physically meet people, technologies like audio and video conferencing have given us new and innovative ways to enhance the human connections.

While all of the above may seem very straightforward, but actually putting them to practice on a daily basis, can help one to not only overcome an adversity but to also completely transform as a person.

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