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4 Life Saving Steps for Dealing with Huge Challenges and Bad News

Sometimes we are confronted with news that shakes our entire existence.

On April 7th, 2003 I was told that I had a stage-4 skin cancer and would probably not survive the end of that year. My youngest son, Jean-Baptiste, was 8 weeks old at that moment, my daughters Heloïse and Eugenie were 3 and 2 years old. I had been running my construction business for 5 years.

Besides disbelief, I didn’t feel sick, the cancer was discovered through a little black (bleeding) spot on my knee, the sky fell down and rational thinking was far away those first days.

And we all get to hear this kind of news sooner or later in our lives, maybe you woke up one day and your spouse told you she was going to leave you or maybe you had to save your company from bankruptcy.

Sometimes we are confronted with news that shakes our entire existence.

As an expert in dealing with setbacks and difficult circumstances throughout my life, I found that these 4 steps were hugely important in finding the courage to go on and re-invent ourselves during the moments that our world seemed like falling apart.

1. Take a step back and breathe

The first moment we get to hear some horrible news, knowing that our life will never be the same again, our human reflex is to panic. We get in a state of primal reactions, we want to hide, fight or run. And nothing good comes out of that. Taking a step back and a deep breath is the best thing to do at that moment.

When I got to hear that I had a very severe cancer, I was 32 at that time, I knew that panic and stress would not help me. The only thought that kept me going during my year of surgeries and chemotherapy was: IS THIS THOUGHT OR EMOTION HELPFUL OR NOT?

2. Watch your thoughts

Thoughts born in panic and overwhelm are bad advisors. Our mood and emotions always color the thoughts coming up. We have to train ourselves to raise our awareness and see the color of our thoughts in all particular situations.

3. Detach from negative thoughts

Once we see the nature of our thoughts, it is up to us to get rid of negative thinking. It only makes the situation worse and it weakens us in a moment we need to be powerful. Some situations we have to accept, we have no choice, in the case of me hearing about having a stage-4 cancer, I had no choice but to accept that news.

I was very aware though that self-pity, depressed thoughts and doom thinking would not help. I wanted to survive at all costs to see my children grow up and was very dedicated to do whatever it took to help myself.

First of all, to trust in the professionalism of the doctors who treated me and my task was stay positive, good-humoured and sunny as is my nature. Even if those were my last months, I was not going to spend them in misery. And yes, my body hurt many times, and yes, I was exhausted, sleeping for 20 hours a day many times; but I never bought in to negativity, never.

4. Give yourself space for the emotions that rise up

In times of turmoil, it is of utter importance not to suppress emotions, we can detach from our negative and fearful thoughts that come up but we have to make space for emotions rising up.

Emotions of sadness, grief, pain, hurt, have to be welcomed and embraced. We are human beings, feeling beings. The beauty is that once we allow our emotions to be, they dissolve after a while. Suppressing emotions doesn’t make you strong, on the contrary, you get out of balance and they come back even intensified.

Honoring yourself in difficult times, acknowledging that you are going through a tough period and tapping yourself on the back for the great job you are doing, is the greatest gift to yourself.

Final thoughts

Mastering this entire process makes you extremely resilient to deal with changing circumstances. And the one who is most adaptable to change, is the one who is guaranteed to be successful, as Darwin already taught us a few centuries ago.

Although some of these steps might seem counter-intuitive, they have been extremely helpful for me and many of the people working with me. So next time life hits you with a brick in the face, be mindful of how you deal with your circumstances. It will make a world of difference and could save your life.


Barbara Vercruysse

Barbara Vercruysse is a coach, spiritual mentor, thought leader and public speaker. After facing several challenges in life and surviving a stage 4 skin cancer at the age of 32, she decided to live her second life at the fullest. So after running a successful 6-figure construction business for 18 years, she dedicates herself to her true passion now: guiding people through a deep transformation. She supports people around the world in leading a fulfilled life, creating impact and success by living and leading with love. One of her clients is BMW where she operates as a Quality Manager and Business Coach, she is responsible for screening all business processes and guiding people to perform optimally in their job. Having worked and still working with several coaches and mentors herself, she knows the transformative power of a personal coach. Once you open yourself up to being coached, you begin to receive the same advantages enjoyed by great actors and athletes everywhere, you grow so much stronger and you become more responsible for changing yourself. Empowering people, supporting them in taking their lives to the next level, sharing love, wisdom and compassion, have become her life mission. Barbara is a Certified Master Life Coach, Business Coach and wrote: ‘Start the Life of Your Dreams – A 7-step Program to a Successful and Fulfilled life’. She was published in the Huffington Post and wrote the book: '7 Most Powerful Techniques to Release Stress'. She was recently selected for the ThoughtLeaderSchool founded by Bryant McGill and is part of the selection committee of

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Michele bloom
Michele bloom

Thank you

Jackie Wilushewski

It really does make a huge difference on our mental state and ability to deal with huge life changes when we can slow down and breathe. It can be really hard but I know that it makes a tremendous difference.

I totally agree that watch our thoughts is so important because our emotions are high or out of wack and it can spiral quickly. One of the best pieces my Mom told me was never to make a decision when you are mad or sad.

Thank you for sharing these steps with us! <3

Fran Merkh

Yes, I face the worst thing that may happen in a crisis and look for a new approach or statement to stop a negative one. Right now I’m rethinking the fear I will become psychotic when or if my son dies of colon cancer. Have not come up with one yet but it’s there and I’m surrounding the negative thought with care, comfort and prayer.


Really helpful and very good steps to take when confronted with difficult situations.

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Ehost web hosting reviews

Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I have
read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this site.

Sue Smith

Wonderful article! The first few times I found myself in very difficult challenges it seemed humanly impossible and so shocking. It really knocked me hard. And yet, after more times of going thru unexpected hardships you learn that you can be a survivor if you choose, your mindset really does color your perspective, and there are always choices you can make to improve your situation. That is why I love and appreciate Jenni and Bryant’s writing so much….they focus on what you CAN do, how you CAN think, and the positive things that help! If you have never been thru a hardship yet, that is great, but when they hit, remember, they are amazing for developing the skills you need! I have an inner strength now that I never had before the challenges. I have a better perspective on life, love, and what is really important in life. I have an appreciation for these hard times because of all the lessons I learned thru them. Now when hard times hit, I have more of an interest in them instead of a dread and woe is me attitude; now I wonder what I will learn this time. They always develop you more. It is not so bad when you let go of the dread and go with the lesson. They are gifts in disguise. 😉

Sue Smith

Barbara, I salute you! 💖


Life is full of challenges and we get to learn alot from this which is inspiring us to face it strongly…

Akiroq Brost

First of all, I feel so blessed to have met you. I am so very very grateful that you survived this ordeal. Secondly, I am so glad that you are sharing your experience with others. This article will help others!

“IS THIS THOUGHT OR EMOTION HELPFUL OR NOT?” Really hit close to home for me. I often ask myself is this helping or harming me when looking at what I am doing, or about to do. It really helps to guide a better path through life. This is a very powerful question to ask ourselves not just in times of crisis, but also in our every day lives.

I completely agree, separating thought from emotion is important in time of crisis. Emotion can easily overtake logic and rational. It’s important to be aware of ourselves when we are in a volatile state.

Realizing we have a choice in what we think is incredibly empowering. Acceptance is key. Focusing on what we can do and not on what we can’t. Surrendering whatever is too much for us to handle to a greater power, to faith, to hope.

Giving ourselves the space to be ourselves is so important. Finding that solace, that reprieve, that quiet time to sit with our thoughts. Allowing that time and space to feel and work through what we’re feeling. Repressing our thoughts and feelings grows them. Allowing them, allows release.

People always say, don’t hang on to the past. I definitely agree we should not hang on to the pain of the past. We should absolutely, however, hang on the wisdom we’ve gained. Let our pain make us stronger and wiser.

Wonderful article. Very inspiring. Thank you Barbara. <3

Brooke Lillith

Beautiful sister Barbara this article had me in tears my love. So beautifully written and I LOVE the steps. I just love this line so much – “Honoring yourself in difficult times, acknowledging that you are going through a tough period and tapping yourself on the back for the great job you are doing, is the greatest gift to yourself.” So much divine wisdom and truth!!! You are truly a warrior queen and such a brilliant inspiration. Your words touched me so deeply in every way. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us all beautiful goddess. Love you beyond words angel!!! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3


Huge challenges give us the opportunity to rethink a situation, to reposition and adjust our actions and mindset. Usually, in the process of huge challenges and hurdles we are pushed to a higher level of thinking, praying, and focusing on what is true and good. The reality of life is that you will have challenges and obstacles, what you have in your arsenal of spiritual tools and mental tools will be enough to guide you to your answers.