Nine Ways to Build Resilience
Resilience is the art of recovering from adversity. It’s our ability to adapt to challenges, whether they’re everyday stresses or life-changing events. They can occur in both our personal and professional lives, with or without warning.
Since everyone experiences challenges, your best defense is having confidence in your ability to handle them. You can prepare yourself with knowledge and skills so that you’re able to navigate difficulties without feeling powerless or victimized.
When life gives us situations that aren’t what we’d hoped for, all is not lost. It’s true that some people seem to recover from stress and adversity quickly. It’s possible they’re less sensitive to it naturally or they’ve learned how to stay calm during the storm. They may have a strong spiritual guidance system that supports their healing. Wherever their resilience comes from, they do what’s necessary to adapt and recover.
For others, resilience is a trait that can be learned and developed. And that means it’s also an opportunity for personal growth. There’s a common belief that we’re harmed in the areas of our life where we need to grow. Emotional pain is sometimes a way to motivate us to make changes in those areas.
Resilience comes from having a strong emotional foundation for our life. This foundation is made up of basic beliefs and feelings that give us the strength and courage to meet challenges when they appear.
- feeling safe
- having positive relationships with a sense of connection
- believing in your competence
- feeling you have control
- developing and maintaining a positive outlook
Stress and adversity rob us of our peace of mind and often create physical symptoms. Even if we felt secure previously, we may suddenly find ourselves grasping for anything to help us feel better and regain control of our life. If we’re not careful and don’t have good support systems in place, we can do ourselves even more harm.
Cultivating the following attitudes and practices will help you develop the resilience you need to recover from what ails you, whether it’s a loss or trauma or anxiety from everyday life:
1. Acknowledge that life is not always good, we will always face challenges.
This belief in the complexity of life keeps us from feeling like victims. We understand that everyone has difficulties, we have not been singled out.
And, if we can accept that the lows we experience are only one aspect of the natural rhythm of life, then we can also acknowledge that better days are possible. Depending on the experience, it may prompt us to do something differently in the future. For example, people have been known to change careers after recovering from an illness. It may be difficult to see a brighter future in the middle of a painful episode, but that is the purpose of cultivating these attitudes.
2. Recognize what can be changed and what cannot be changed.
This practice follows our success in the first step. Dwelling on situations beyond our control will only create more despair. Instead, accept them, at least temporarily. View them as opportunities to find an alternate route.
Then place your attention on matters where you can create change. This shows you that you do have some control. Changes may not happen right away or easily, but your energy will be on options and possibilities instead of obstacles. Unless you open yourself to opportunities, you risk not noticing or brushing off what’s available to you.
3. Humans are hardwired to pay attention to negative events. Use awareness and gratitude to restore balance.
This comes from older times when our lives depended on our constantly watching for threats to our survival. If you’re not in imminent danger, restore balance by acknowledging what you do have and what you like about your life. A daily practice of recognizing and tuning into what’s good in your life will help you see that life is not made up only of challenges and pain.
If you need a reminder, consider making signs to place in your home and/or on your phone or computer.
4. Recognize that our emotions, although sometimes uncomfortable, tell us what matters to us.
A full life includes a variety of experiences. We can’t always know at the time what impact people and situations will have on us. As we experience them and react to them, tiny (or great) emotional memories are created. And if we’re aware, our reactions will help us to either confirm our values or let us know which ones might need a review.
5. Be flexible.
Rigidity will not help you heal and recover or grow as a person. Flexibility, on the other hand, lets you revise your plans and adapt to new situations. If something new is required in your life, clinging to old ways of living and beliefs that are no longer possible or helpful will only prolong your discomfort. Give yourself time, but eventually, stop resisting what you need to do.
6. Be kind to yourself.
Pamper yourself. If you’ve forgotten what makes you feel good, start exploring. Just do it in a way that’s healthy.
7. Maintain your relationships, don’t isolate yourself.
Pulling away ultimately won’t help you feel better. Even if you’re an introvert or you need more time by yourself initially, don’t withdraw completely or permanently. Be sure to include people in your healing or adapting. You don’t want to add loneliness to your challenges.
Whether it’s your family, friends or a support group, or you reach out to help others, stay connected.
8. Take action to feel in control and use your gifts and abilities.
Depending on your situation, consider viewing it as an issue that needs a solution or a strategy. This helps you avoid sinking into negativity. It gives you some control and something to focus on, something to create. Remember what you’re good at and use those traits and talents to move forward. You might also get involved in a cause that has meaning for you. Lastly, developing and following a ritual or routine, anything from cleaning the house to a spiritual practice, can empower and comfort you.
9. Each day, ask yourself if what you’re doing is helping you or harming you.
Use your emotional intelligence. This applies to anything from what you eat to whether you’re ready to forgive someone. You have your life to live, difficult or not. Everything you do or don’t do is a choice. Try to be objective, and use your inner guidance if you don’t have clarity.
In summary, taking these steps, preferably when life is calm, will help you feel confident when you hit a rough patch. Even if you’re in the midst of a challenging time, start to adopt a new perspective about life’s complexities and take back control.
About the Author
Karen Elena James is a health and wellness professional who combines her background in children’s welfare with her own personal growth experiences and research. She provides ideas and support to people on a path of self-discovery and emotional health. Her website is www.karenelenajames.com.