Resilience is a word we hear a lot about these days but it is something that can often be misunderstood.
The online dictionary defines it as “An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”
The general narrative at the moment seems to involve an interpretation that adversity brings about resilience – somehow coping with difficulties makes it easier for us to cope with difficulties.
That might sometimes be true but there are a lot of factors that will impact on whether or not we get tougher or depleted by adversity.
Children are not born resilient. They gradually learn resilience by being supported by adults when they experience challenges and when this happens repeatedly, they will usually become more resilient, though it always depends on the number and type of challenges they face.
It isn’t so very different for us as adults. Some personalities may find change or even problems easier to handle than other but we generally all manage it better when we have certain strategies and supports in place.
Some events may be so life changing or traumatic that recovery may take a long time – there’s a sense that the event is so huge ‘damage’ is inevitable. But we also know that the same ‘event’ or trauma could happen to two people and the impact may be very different, some of that may be down to personality but part of it will be down to their resilience at that time.
That is another fact that is not always highlighted in conversations about resilience – it varies. Some days we can cope with all sorts other days we can demolished by something really quite minimal.
One of the features that may influence our resilience is our self-esteem. But in a slightly circular way our resilience can also improve our self-esteem. If we feel good about ourselves, we are less likely to respond negatively to events that are challenging, but when we manage to cope with challenging events, we may feel more positive about ourselves. As human beings’ things are rarely straightforward.
The important thing though is to take any steps we can to build our resilience so here are a few ways in which we can all do that.
Develop a sense of purpose
One of the things that helps people keep going even when things seem tough is having a sense of purpose. It doesn’t matter if its personal or professional challenge, things like running a marathon or a race for life, or maybe completing a course, buying a house, getting a particular job, making something, supporting a charity through voluntary work or a sense of purpose and a reason for living does us all good. So, make a plan, devise something you can enjoy working towards and that will help you to build your resilience in a more general way.
Look on the bright side
Sometimes this can be very hard and can almost sound a bit callous. But developing the habit of optimism can help us all. A good way to start is usually by being grateful for something. Obviously not the challenge but there is always something to be thankful for and somehow if we spend time developing the habit of being thankful it gets easier to be optimistic and think more positively about other things. It’s the idea of looking for something positive even in difficult times and making a conscious choice to focus on the positive not the negative – the silver lining rather than the cloud. It can be tough but he more you do it the easier it becomes.
Especially when times are tough, we need to prioritise taking care of ourselves. We all know what to do but somehow when life gets busy or difficult, we do less of those things which take care of us. Also, when times are tough, we often seem to develop an inner bully that delights in telling us how we should be doing better, how we are useless or how others would cope better or whatever. But the fact is that we are doing the best we can and the last thing any of us needs is someone giving us a hard time – especially when that someone is ourselves! Watch your inner chatter and remember it’s your choice whether you listen to it or not – treating yourself with kindness and nurturing yourself will help you be more resilient.
Gather your cheer leaders
One of the things that can spur on sports teams is cheerleaders and as individuals they can help as well. Talking to a friend won’t make our problems go away but somehow it can help and of course they can help us make sure we are looking after ourselves. Spending time with friends is good for us, not just when we talk about problems but simply having fun is good. We are designed to have connections with other humans, the number we need might vary but almost all of us do better when we have regular times with friends who we find supportive.
But perhaps the most important thing is that we don’t need to wait for a challenge or crisis to build our resilience we can start right now. This week you can plan in doing some ting s that will make you stronger and more resilient for the future. – whatever is ahead.
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