Posted by: silverliningsblog | December 3, 2014

The gift in challenges

“No matter what is going on in your life today, remember, it is only preparation. People come and go; situations rise and fall; it’s all preparation for better things. You must stretch, reach, grow into your goodness. Without the preparation we receive through adversity, disappointment, confusion, or pain, we could not appreciate the goodness when it arrives.”

— Iyanla Vanzant

As we enter the month of December, our thoughts naturally turn to gift-giving and the holiday season. For some people, the holidays can be a source of stress, pain Struggles and Identityand frustration. But did you know your biggest challenges also offer you your greatest gifts?

We all go through challenges in life (some perhaps more than others). Many people I know are going through difficult times right now. I believe there is a universal shift happening and that this is causing a fair bit of chaos in people’s lives, as we clear out what has been holding us back and prepare to move forward again. As a result, many of us are struggling to cope with what seem like very big obstacles.  While the end result will be positive (all change is growth), that’s not how it feels when we’re in the middle of it, is it?

I have discovered that the fastest way through any challenge is to look for how it benefits us and helps us to grow. As we focus on benefits, we feel an almost instant relief because we stop resisting what is happening and allow positive energy to flow into us. That doesn’t mean we start out welcoming every challenge with open arms…there is a process that takes us from resistance and frustration to acceptance and appreciation.

I would like to share a recent challenge with you from my life, to show you strategies you can use to turn your challenges into blessings.

A not-so-graceful landing

It was late September 2014, and I was biking with my friend Derek. It was a gorgeous fall day, so warm that I was wearing shorts and a tank top and working up a sweat. We were zooming up and down hills in Griffith, Ontario, Canada, enjoying the gorgeous Indian summer and splendid fall colours. Life was good.

After nearly an hour of biking, we were almost back to my friend’s place. Derek decided to go on ahead to check the mail, and I coasted down my last big hill, already in top gear and past the point where it was possible to pedal. It occurred to me that I was going really fast and should probably be wearing a bike helmet (I usually did at home, but this was not my place or my bike, so I did not have my helmet with me). I said a quick prayer for protection.

IMG_1845The next thing I remember, I was being loaded into an ambulance.

According to Derek, a few minutes after he left me, a woman came zooming by in her car, honking her horn and saying a girl had fallen off her bike. Derek raced back to find me sitting on the side of the road, rocking back and forth, blood rushing down my face. I kept saying, “Where am I? Where are my kids?” He said I repeated that over and over until the ambulance came, about 30 minutes later.

I have no recollection of the half hour from when the accident happened to when I was loaded into the ambulance (by two very cute EMTs, I might add…hey, IMG_1842there is always a silver lining!). My best guess as to what happened was that I braked to avoid something (likely a squirrel or chipmunk), and because the bike was new and the brakes were tight, I flipped over the handlebars.

It must have happened fast, because I did not even put my hands out to break my fall – I literally landed on my face on the pavement.

The nurses at the Renfrew Hospital were terrific. Still, I can’t sIMG_1881ay that having gravel scrubbed out of my wounds was a fun experience. Even with the pain killers, it was incredibly painful. I had road rash on my chest, arms, and legs. I had cuts on my face, left elbow, right leg, and the top of both hands. I needed stitches in three places on my face and on the back of my head, where apparently the bike landed.

A few hours later, I was wrapped up like a zombie and joking that I was a month too early for Halloween. I was shipped to the Civic Hospital in Ottawa, where they ran a CT scan to be sure I did not have a skull fracture or any brain swelling. Thankfully I did not, so my girlfriends Cindy and Shelley picked me up and brought me back to Shelley’s place for the night.

The next day, they helped me with the painful task of taking the bandages off, washing the blood off my body and hair, and putting new bandages back on. The whole process took about two hours. It was one I’d repeat over and over for the next two weeks as my body healed.IMG_1859

After three days, I decided to try working again. I jumped on a teleconference call to find out what was going on with my client. Only I couldn’t follow the conversation. It was then that I realized that my injuries were more than just scrapes and cuts.

Over the next few days, I noticed more and more symptoms…I couldn’t multitask like normal, and really had to focus on one thing at a time. (My friend Jason joked that now I knew what it felt like to be a man! J) Looking side to side made me nauseous. And I was so tired I had to keep stopping for naps throughout the day.

I went to see my doctor, who told me I had a concussion. She said I would need to stop exercising and working, and get help caring for my kids until I recovered. She said it could take months to recover, and that pushing myself too hard could cause my concussion symptoms to worsen, or take far longer to subside.

I began to cry. As a single mom, I had my kids 50% of the time, and needed to care for them. As a self-employed writer, I knew that not working meant no income. And in addition to my full-time government contract, I was also busily working to formally launch my new life coaching/speaking business. Now the launch would have to be put on the back-burner, another delay to my dream of empowering women to see their strengths clearly, love themselves fully, and live their lives freely.

Thankfully my ex-husband, boyfriend, and several friends stepped in to help out with my healing and with the kids, and in the end I only lost just over a week’s worth of income. But my business launch definitely got delayed, since I was unable to put in the hours needed to work two jobs at once. I found myself wondering…“Why is this happening? Is this a sign that I should not be doing this? I thought when you follow your dreams, it’s supposed to get easier!”

I soon realized that this line of questioning was very disempowering and wasn’t making me feel good. So I switched my questions to “What can I learn from this?” and “What are the blessings in this?” and “How can I turn this into something good?”

The new questions immediately shifted my perspective, and by journaling about the benefits of the situation, I began feeling better. I realized that I was lucky I was not hurt worse and had no broken bones. I was grateful that I recovered quickly, and that I had so many wonderful friends who helped with my healing process. I felt fortunate I only lost a week of income. I could see that the Universe really was supporting and helping me, despite everything.

Back on the bike!

Back on the bike!

I learned that our body sometimes locks painful emotions from our past within it, and that physical trauma can literally shake those emotions loose. So I took the opportunity to do some emotional healing work as my body healed, which I believe is part of why I healed so fast.  I also took the opportunity to step back from my business and clarify my goals, so that once I felt better, I was ready to move ahead with more energy and certainty.

So while it may seem odd, I now consider my accident to have been a good thing…it truly did bring many blessings into my life, including some wonderful new friendships. And just over a month later, I was fully healed and “back on the horse”.

Shifting gears

 “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare

What I have discovered through this and other challenges in my life is that the events of our lives are neutral. It is our reaction to them that determines whether they are “good” or “bad”. Even calling something a “challenge” is defining it as an obstacle, when the truth is that all change offers the opportunity for growth.

Any event — even one we wouldn’t consciously choose — can be turned into something good by the way we look at it. So if an event occurs that we don’t like and can’t change, we can still choose our response to it, which gives us back a sense of control over what is happening “to” us and allows us to move through the pain instead of getting mired in it.

There is a process to this though. Don’t try to jump to “positive thinking” without first acknowledging how you feel, for that is repressing your true feelings and they won’t subside until you hear them out. It is perfectly normal to feel angry, sad, or upset when a challenge appears in your life, especially a big one! The goal is to shift your feelings and thoughts so that you feel better, not to deny them.

So with that in mind, try this process to help you become “CALMER” and shift your perspective on your current challenges:

C – Center and breathe. Grab a journal, and go somewhere you can be alone. Sit quietly, center yourself in your body, and breathe deeply. (If you are feeling very upset/anxious, you may want to go for a walk/run or do some yoga first to release tension.)

A – Acknowledge your feelings. Think about your current challenge. Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up. Notice where the feelings appear in your body. Write down how you feel. You may want to journal “I am feeling frustrated and angry right now. My neck feels tense.” Keep going until you get it all out, no matter how “ugly” it looks on paper.

L – Look for the positives. Write down what the blessings and opportunities are in this situation. What can you learn? How can you turn this into something good? What good has already come of it? What can you be grateful for? Why are you so freaking awesome, anyway?

M – Make a decision to feel better. Affirm that you want to feel better. Trust that you can. Use the affirmations below to raise your energy vibration, shifting your perspective so you start to feel better.

E – Envision what you want. Challenges provide contrast, showing us what we don’t want so we can figure out what we do want. Use your challenges to help you identify what you want to create in your life. Visualize or journal about what you want and how you want to feel. Imagine that what you want is happening right now. Focus on these positive feelings for at least five minutes.

R – Repeat. Repeat this process any time new “negative” feelings come up for you. Keep looking for the gifts, and you will feel a shift in your perspective and feelings. You will also begin to attract better experiences and more support to you.

Affirmations for times of difficulty

(Note: These affirmations progress up the vibrational scale, so you should feel more and more positive as you read them from top to bottom.)

  • Even though I am hurting right now, I unconditionally love and support myself.
  • This situation may not be what I want, but I can still choose my perspective.
  • I will find a way through this.
  • I can help myself feel better.
  • I can use this to help me identify what I want.
  • I know there is a blessing/opportunity here, even if I can’t see it yet.
  • Things will get better and work out in the end.
  • I am safe. In this moment, right now, I am safe.
  • There are many things I can still be grateful for.
  • Many people love me. I am surrounded by support.
  • The Universe will rise up and support me, giving me what I need in other ways.
  • Everything is working out for my highest and greatest good.

The bigger the crash, the bigger the gifts

Does the “CALMER” process work for really challenging situations, like a death or divorce? Yes. When I was 22, I watched my husband die of liver cancer. At 35, my second husband and I separated. Then my mother fell ill with Alzheimer’s. I have used this process to help me through some pretty tough times. But 18 years ago, I didn’t have a “process,” so I had to muddle my way slowly through it. I wish I knew then what I know now, which is why I am sharing this with you today.


Giving thanks for my friends.

When you are going through a challenging time, it also helps to reach out to supportive people. Try processing some of your feelings and raising your vibration first, then talk to someone you trust. Life is meant to be shared, and that includes sharing our vulnerability with others. We’re not meant to go through these things alone! If you ask, you will find there is always someone who will rise up to help you (just don’t insist on it being a certain person…let the Universe support you in whatever form that takes).

It is also important to be kind to yourself, and treat yourself like you would a best friend. Do something nice for yourself. Give yourself a break. Get extra rest and eat well. Go out with friends and do something fun to distract yourself. Take a nap. (Did you know that one of the best ways to recover from a negative spiral of thoughts/feelings or a “bad day” is to sleep? It resets your vibration so you can start fresh when you wake up.)

We can’t always control what happens in life. But we can control our attitude about what is happening, and consciously choose to shift our thoughts so that we feel better.

I hope this article has helped you to see your challenges in a new light. If you liked it, please share with others, and share your ideas below!

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life…The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.” 

― Charles R. Swindoll

Karen Strang Allen

Karen Strang Allen is an empowerment expert who helps women re-create themselves after a major life transition. She is also author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! Karen helps her clients heal their wounds, discover their strengths and passions, and get clear on what they want. Karen’s mission is to help 1,000,000 women and girls turn their life’s challenges into the best thing that ever happened to them, so they can create joyful lives and share their unique gifts with others. A professional writer with a Master of Journalism, Karen also ghostwrites for clients who have an uplifting message to share with the world, but need a hand putting inspiring words to paper. Learn more about Karen and check out her free inspiring resources at

Need help overcoming your challenges? Ask for a free consult today!

Please share your comments below. Thanks!


  1. […] can also rise above your circumstances, see the blessings that have come from them, and create the life you really want. A life that gets you excited to get […]

  2. […] on the negative, by reviewing your challenges and the goals you weren’t able to achieve, you can look for the gifts and lessons learned, turning negatives into positives and new […]

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