How do you deal with challenging experiences? Do you allow failures to interfere with the pursuit of your goals? Or, do you see adversity as an opportunity for growth and positive change?
Do you bounce back? Or do you fall apart?
In other words, are you resilient?
In this article, we’ll explore resilience: what it is, why it is important, and how to develop it. As you will see, developing resilience will help you have the strength and fortitude to overcome adversity, and to keep on moving forward towards your dreams and goals.
What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to adapt in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.
People who are resilient tend to maintain a positive outlook and cope with stress effectively. They typically come back stronger after experiencing challenges, problems, and setbacks.
Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience. While it is true that some people are more resilient than others, we all demonstrate it throughout our lives.
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Think about times you have faced difficulties and overcome them. It is the rare person who makes it this far in life without conquering some kind of adversity. Resilience is not necessarily about overcoming huge challenges. Each of us faces plenty of challenges on a regular basis.
Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. In fact, developing resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress. It is what gives people the ability to come back from disappointment and failure stronger and more determined than ever.
Resilience is not a trait or characteristic that you either have or don’t have. It is a learned ability, one that can be learned and built and developed by anyone. Resilience relies on different skills and draws on various sources of help, including rational thinking skills, physical and mental health, and your relationships with those around you.
Resilient people not only survive and bounce back after a setback, but they also come back stronger and wiser. People who are highly resilient are excellent at finding the silver lining in any situation. They excel in finding the lesson each negative experience has taught them and applying what they learned in future endeavors.
“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” ― Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Resilience is an important skill to develop.
Resilience can help protect you from various mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Resilience can also help offset factors that increase the risk of mental health conditions, such as being bullied or previous trauma. If you have an existing mental health condition, being resilient can improve your ability to cope.
It won’t make your problems disappear, but resilience can give you the ability to see past them, find enjoyment in life, and better manage stress. This is important because chronic stress is associated with harmful health consequences such as high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, insomnia, heartburn, indigestion, and heart disease.
Here are some of the traits of resilient people.
According to the research of psychologist Suzanne Kobasa, there are three elements that are essential to resilience:
Resilient people view difficulty as a challenge, not as a paralyzing event. They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and as opportunities for growth. They don’t view them as a negative reflection on their abilities or self-worth.
Resilient people are committed to their lives and their goals, and they have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning. Commitment isn’t just restricted to their work – they commit to their relationships, their friendships, the causes they care about, and their religious or spiritual beliefs.
Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events that they have control over. Because they put their efforts where they can have the most impact, they feel empowered and confident. Those who spend time worrying about uncontrollable events can often feel lost, helpless, and powerless to take action.
The American Psychological Association says there are several factors that contribute to resilience:
Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.
Several additional factors are associated with resilience, including:
- The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out.
- A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities.
- Skills in communication and problem-solving.
- The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.
All of these are factors that people can develop in themselves.
How can you develop resilience?
Whether you’re going through a tough time now or you want to be prepared for the next one, here are 11 techniques you can implement in order to foster your own resilience.
Make connections. Good relationships with family members, friends, and co-workers are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper. Create and maintain a strong social network of people you can trust.
Cultivate positive thinking. When you are stressed, it is easy to focus on everything that is wrong. Try to see the positive in every situation – change the narrative if you can. This doesn’t mean you should deny reality, but try to move forward and avoid getting trapped in a cycle of negative rumination. The practice of Expressive Writing can help you gain new insights into the challenges in your life. “It involves free writing continuously for 20 minutes about an issue, exploring your deepest thoughts and feelings around it. The goal is to get something down on paper, not to create a memoir-like masterpiece,” explains Greater Good Magazine. That website offers another technique for exploring upsides of a challenging event: “Finding Silver Linings invites you to call to mind an upsetting experience and try to list three positive things about it. For example, you might reflect on how fighting with a friend brought some important issues out into the open and allowed you to learn something about their point of view.”
Build self-confidence. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience. Resilient people are confident that they’re going to succeed eventually, despite the setbacks or stresses that they might be facing. This belief in themselves also enables them to take risks: when you develop confidence and a strong sense of self, you have the strength to keep moving forward, and to take the risks you need to get ahead. When you hear negative comments in your head, practice immediately replacing them with positive ones. Becoming more confident in your own abilities, including your ability to respond to and deal with a crisis, is a great way to build resilience for the future.
Learn from experience. Think of how you’ve managed with hardships in the past. Which skills and strategies helped you through rough times? Every mistake has the power to teach you something important; so don’t stop searching until you’ve found the lesson in every situation.
“On the occasion of every accident that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use.” ― Epictetus, The Discourses
Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try to look beyond the present to imagine how future circumstances may be better.
Be adaptable. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter. Flexibility is an essential part of resilience. By learning how to be more adaptable, you’ll be better equipped to respond when faced with a life crisis.
Maintain perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Resilient people understand that, although a situation or crisis may seem overwhelming at the moment, it may not make that much of an impact over the long-term. Try to avoid blowing events out of proportion.
Look for opportunities for self-discovery. Adversity can teach you a lot about yourself. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, a greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, an increased sense of self-worth, more developed spirituality, and an enhanced appreciation for life.
Be optimistic. Staying optimistic during tough times can be difficult, but maintaining a hopeful outlook is an important part of resiliency. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the problem and live in denial – it means understanding that this crisis or challenge will eventually pass, and brighter days are ahead.
Find a sense of purpose or a cause to support. After dealing with a crisis or tragedy, finding a sense of purpose can play an important role in your journey. This might mean becoming involved in your community, cultivating your spirituality, or participating in activities that are meaningful to you. Create your own meaning.
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Take care of yourself. When we are faced with challenges, self-care can feel overwhelming. It is important to make your health a priority, though – especially during times of crisis. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Eat a healthful diet, exercise, get some fresh air, and get enough sleep. Participate in hobbies you enjoy, and make time for relaxation. Meditation can help you relax and bring your attention to the present, enabling you to work through negative thoughts and feelings in a calm and mindful way.
What do you think?
Do you consider yourself a resilient person? Are there things you do to improve your resilience? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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