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May Flowers: The Power of Adversity

May Flowers: The Power of Adversity

The old proverb, “April showers bring May flowers” is said to originate in England or Ireland and means “Adversity is followed by good fortune” (2023, para 3). Wouldn’t that be welcome news for Nursing – good fortune in the cards – after the adversity of the past few years in the aftermath of the pandemic? It might be best, however, to ask “What is adversity?” as a starting point. The word conjures up trouble of some kind. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines adversity as “a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune” (2023, para 1).  Who would want trouble? But, let’s think about this. Is all adversity bad? Maybe for a time, yes, but is there any good in adversity, any good that could come out of it? Is it possible that adversity could actually be the source of, or promote, something good? So, not Adversity = Good but Adversity leads to Good fortune.

To be honest, there are levels of adversity, like adversity is on a continuum of severity and length of time in the adversity, and adversity is in the “eye of the beholder.” In other words, the meaning of adversity and the severity of adversity is a matter of perspective. The perspective varies based on individual background, point of view, and nature of the adversity (Noone, 2017). The Holmes-Rahe Stress Rating Inventory (The American Institute of Stress, 2023) provides a standardized scale to identify and prioritize stress levels and assess the potential severity of impact on physical and mental health.

The Inventory ranks forty-three life events based on the weighting of Life Change Units, with higher scores suggestive of a greater probability for negative impact of stress. Since stress is a normal part of life, some stress is to be expected. But how many times a day have you heard someone say, “I’m so stressed out!” A cumulative score of 150 or less would be ranked as acceptable stress level, and not indicative of negative impact on mental or physical health.  However, a cumulative score on the Holmes-Rahe Stress Rating Inventory in the 151-299 range brings a probability in the 50% range of a negative stress impact, and a cumulative score of 300 has an 80% probability of a negative stress impact (Noone (2017).

We can safely establish that stress can result in adversity, and that stress needs to be managed to reduce the potential for negative impact to physical and mental health. To do so, it is vital to identify the problematic stress area(s) and counteract the impact of the negative stress effect. That is the challenge, is it not? Finding effective ways to minimize potential for negative stress impact is the counteraction. What is stressing you out, and what would it take to reduce your stress level to a range without high probability to create negative stress impact? A good place to start is by taking a stress inventory. I am including The American Institute of Stress (2023) reference below for you to take the Holmes-Rahe Stress Rating Inventory as a start, the first part, to your “Good Fortune” journey.

Finding ways to live with LESS negative stress is healthy and could lead to good fortune. Feeling more control over one’s life has been shown to promote mental health (Carey, 2019). Adversity can bring about creative problem solving, lead to needed change, and build resilience. Can you see any “silver lining” in the cloud of adversity? Even a negative administrator or supervisor can be a silver lining if response to that adversity leads to a positive outcome in some way. An effective strategy for group unity, increasing, the strength of an in group is to create a negative outgroup. The positive outcome doesn’t justify the wrong or ill-advised actions, but it is helpful to acknowledge that good can come out of bad, the silver lining of adversity.

Establishing a career goal and working toward a higher level of education toward completing that goal leads to a higher level of perceived control over one’s future. This in and of itself can reduce the probability of negative stress impact – even while adding the stress of school! Let me ask you this…what would good fortune look like to you, wherever you are at on your life’s journey? “April showers (ADVERSITY) brings May flowers (good fortune) = NAME the ADVERSITY (STRESS) brings or could bring NAME the GOOD FORTUNE.


Carey, T. A. (2019). Mental health and control.

Merriam Webster Dictionary (2023). Adversity.

Noone, P.A. (2017). The Holmes–Rahe Stress Inventory. Occupational Medicine, 67, 581-582.

The American Institute of Stress (2023). The Holmes-Rahe stress inventory.

The Free Dictionary by Farlex (2023). April showers bring May flowers.



Posted: 05/02/2023
Updated: 05/02/2023 by Dr. Ruth L.M. Burkhart, DNP, MA, RN-BC, LPCC
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