You and I live in a world full of uncertainties, but bad things can happen to you regardless of who you are or where you are from. It is not a question of whether it will happen but when. So, you must be prepared to come across circumstances that will want to weigh you down. In this article, we’ll give adversity meaning, you’ll learn what facing adversity is like, and you’ll also discover healthy steps to overcome adversity. Let’s get into it.

A brief illustration of Adversity

The term ‘Adversity’ can seem too ambiguous, but with a simple explanation, it would be easier to grasp. Let’s look at this illustration together:

Erika and Ray live in a big city but are part of a community called “the village.” They have been known to be close pals since early childhood. In their teenage years, their friendship became more robust and more profound. They had a bright future; everyone knew it and expected it to come until one day.

It was noon, and Jake was riding his bike in the city on his way to a lunch date with Erika. He heard a sudden loud bang as he rode, and the rest was a blur. Erika called continuously, but he would have to wait to pick up his phone. She waited for an hour before leaving the date angrily. She was going straight to his house to shout “You stood me up!”. But when she arrived, she got the shocking news of his accident and headed for the hospital. On arrival, she found out that he had passed on. “He couldn’t make it,” the doctor had said in a mournful tone. This was the beginning of a rough time for Erika.

While that scenario illustrates what adversity is like, how uncertain it can be, and how it will take us through a range of emotions as we process it, adversity can come in many other forms and contexts—some simpler, some more intense. So, it is essential that we define adversity with a more general meaning. So, what exactly does adversity mean?

Adversity meaning

The Oxford Learner Dictionary defines adversity as a difficult or unpleasant situation. Adversity is a state of affliction, ill-fortune or bad luck.

Humans are built differently. Some will meet particular challenges and come out on the other side almost unharmed; others will not, and it is okay. However, it has been found that these stressful challenges will take a toll on your body and health in general. There are different ways adversity can affect you. Though there are many, for this post, we’ll discuss just four of them.  Let’s explore the different types of trouble.

Four types of adversity


As the name describes, this type of adversity involves money. When you face a problem that makes you unable to meet your basic financial needs, it could take a toll on you. This adversity could result from your negligence or have nothing to do with your decisions. Take, for example, a perpetual gambler who takes all his money and gambles it away. When financial need arises, he will not be able to stand. Another scenario is where a loved one develops a strange illness that involves you spending a lot that you didn’t budget for. When other financial commitments and necessities appear, it can begin to weigh you down if you cannot cater to them.


In somatogenic adversity, the body is physically affected by pain or distress. It also implies that some parts of your body will not be able to function as well as they should. Say you had an accident where you broke an arm; your inability to use that arm is a form of somatogenic or physical adversity. There are some other conditions like blindness and deafness. Some happen from birth, others as you chart your course in life. Regardless, you can live through it all, survive, and emerge an overcomer.


In mental adversity, your mental health is profoundly affected, and it takes extra effort to do what you would generally do easily. Just like Erika’s story mentioned earlier, the death of Jake puts her in a state of grief. In grief, she could begin to sleep less, feel a blanket of sadness over her, worry deeply about other worse things that could happen, and so on.

Mental health challenges are a lot more common and spoken about today. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare mentions that 44% of Australians have gone through a mental health struggle at least some point in their lifetime, and 21% or 42 million people have gone through a mental health disorder in the past 12 months. But you do not have to go through the struggle alone. If you currently have work or know someone who does, it is best to contact a professional therapist they have been trained to help you get through it like a champ.


In emotional adversity, your emotions interfere so deeply with your daily life that they hinder a productive everyday life. For example, you have been in an abusive family relationship where anger was never managed; as an adult, you might display uncontrolled rage that disturbs your relationships with people. Also, an abusive relationship could take a toll on your self-worth and self-esteem, preventing you from achieving as much as you would. Though it is a process and takes time, it is possible to deal with it and emerge from it more vital than you were.

Facing Adversity

Humans respond to challenges and stressors with a fight, flight, or freeze response. Many will instinctively choose flight, but that is not a healthy response. Facing adversity requires you to fight if you intend to win. It requires you to go head-on with the challenge and beat it tactfully. Facing adversity will allow you to grow as a person. Facing adversity will require a change in perspective and a more objective look at the situation. You need the objectiveness of someone from the outside paired with yours to truly see what piece of the puzzle you are missing and how to handle it better. Many people have faced adversity and come out stronger. Let’s take a look at two of them.

People that have overcome adversity

Adversity is a human phenomenon that anyone can be afflicted with. Here are people who rose despite their afflictions:

  • Helen Keller: She was born in the early 1880s as an average child until over a year later, when she was diagnosed with an illness that took away her ability to see and hear. It is a sad story, but at the end of her life, she was a great and prominent speaker that many who could see and hear believed she would ever attain. Her disability did not prevent her from rising.
  • Abraham Lincoln: This is a popular name because he was the 16th president of the United States of America. But many do not know that for a long time, he battled clinical depression. The possibility was that it was inherited, but the fact was that he faced it. He admitted his constant melancholy, worthless feelings, and suicide. He faced it head-on with a different attitude, and he came out strong. If you have thoughts about harming yourself or committing suicide, please reach out.

Examples of adversity

Adversity comes in diverse forms. While we cannot highlight all of them, here are some examples of adversity:

  1. Paralysis and disability
  2. Death of a loved one.
  3. Sickness.
  4. Lost opportunity (promotion)
  5. Failure.
  6. War.
  7. Racism and discrimination
  8. Natural Disasters.
  9. Lack of employment
  10. Divorce.

This is not an exhaustive list of adversity examples. But we’ll stop there. Regardless of the form of adversity that you face, there are healthy ways to get through it. While it may seem like a long process, it will be worth it. Let’s explore how to overcome adversity.

How to overcome adversity?

Here are five steps to take when you are faced with adversity.

Be self-aware

Self-awareness allows you to introspect and understand the actual cause of the problem. It will enable you to separate where you played a part and where you did not. It helps you see more objectively. Although it may not remove the pain, it can help reduce it and highlight what you need to work on. Self-awareness does not prevent you from grieving but allows you to see things from a clearer perspective, which is the beginning of healing.

Do not deny the situation.

Accept the situation because living in denial will only worsen your present predicament. After accepting, do not wallow in self-guilt. Some challenges come from our decisions; do not beat yourself too hard. We will fail often, but you will be better for it if you decide to pick out the lessons it brings and learn.

Learn from it

Amid complex challenges, there are lots of lessons to learn. A lifelong learner, they say, is a lifelong winner. When it is something that is beyond your sphere of control, understand it. If it was something you could have altered, except that it has happened and there is no going back, you can be better for it.


Writing things down is a way to expose your thoughts and gain clarity.  We have mentioned self-awareness; journaling helps you be more self-aware. Another way journaling could help is by writing out what you are most grateful for. This way, your thoughts are not fixed on the negatives but also on the beautiful things life offers.

See a professional

While you may think, “I can get through this alone,” overcoming adversity is not always so. You might reach a breaking point where it seems you cannot continue. Don’t allow yourself to be at this point before you reach out. Professionals are ready to help you live a healthier life despite adversity.