Resilience is the ability to bounce back quickly from difficulties, also referred to as a person being tough, stoic, flexible, and robust.
As you might be able to tell, there are plenty of adjectives that can be used to describe resilience!
What is resilience and where can I get some?
According to mental health experts, resilience is the psychological quality that allows some people the opportunity to bounce back after the adversities of life have knocked them down.
This often manifests as a person being more robust than they were before or allows them to at least return back to their emotional baseline where adversity is manageable.
Regardless, resilience isn’t something that can be bought off the shelf and neither is it a result of good DNA. Resilience is something that is built over time as a person moves through their unique set of life challenges and difficulties.
Highly resilient people don’t tend to allow failure, traumatic experiences, or life’s disappointments to overcome them, instead, they find a way to emotionally heal, change paths and continue moving in the direction of their goals.
How resilience develops
Psychologists believe that resilience can come from a whole range of personal attributes including:
- A person having a positive attitude
- Perceiving failure in a positive light (and seeing it as a helpful feedback mechanism)
- Natural optimism
- A person’s ability to regulate their emotions
Interestingly, genetic predispositions do correlate to how someone might handle challenging situations. However, early life experiences and environmental factors play a huge role in how resilience through DNA is expressed.
Positive thinking, for example, can often help to soften the blow in the wake of a traumatic event (depending on the event of course).
There are plenty of examples where trauma victims have managed to turn disturbing experiences around and become advocates for networks such as groups for survivors of domestic violence and bereavement.
It is often more complicated for those who have experienced trauma to ‘think on the bright side’ if they did not receive adequate support during and after a traumatic event occurred.
In cases of domestic abuse, for example, it’s common for survivors to blame themselves for what their abuser did to them. In complicated bereavement, there is also a tendency for the griever to blame themselves for the death of a loved one with or without justification.
Trauma experts explain that trauma can often get ‘stuck’ in the nervous system resulting in addictive tendencies, relationship issues, and a whole plethora of mental health problems for the sufferer. Although building a platform for resilience in complicated cases might prove challenging, it is possible.
With the help of therapy, trauma can be worked through and released from the nervous system allowing an individual to understand any unhelpful ‘triggers’ and responses to external life challenges and, if need be, modify them.
Stress management tools can help to enhance emotional resistance enabling an individual to get through tough times. It also allows them to build resilience safely in the knowledge that they can and will get through.
There are several ways in which a person can manage their stress including:
- Allowing themselves to enjoy pleasurable activities and hobbies and clearing busy schedules
- Changing their perception of stress and try to look at challenges as an opportunity for growth and learning
- Exercising the body and mind – this can take many forms such as long hikes or bike riding through to daily meditation
- Using positive mantras such as ‘I know I can handle this’ and ‘I’ve got this’
Why Resilience Is So Important
Resilience offers people the opportunity to:
- Cope with setbacks and life challenges in a more solution-oriented way
- Develop self-esteem and a more positive temperament
- Relate to others more authentically and maintain strengthened relationships
- Develop deeper levels of tolerance, perseverance and independence
- Problem solve
Developing an emotional threshold to stress is an important life tool as it allows us to problem-solve without the interference of emotions. When our emotions become turbulent, it can be extremely challenging to ‘switch off’ and find the right solution.
Our ‘thinking brain’ needs time to process new information and this is where resilience steps in.
If you imagine someone being repeatedly punched on the same spot of the arm, after a while they’ll likely stop feeling any pain at all as the body builds resilience and the pain threshold becomes greater.
In this way, our internal lives are not that different to our external lives. Essentially, the more ‘hits’ we take, the more resilient we become which increases our ability to handle stressful situations more effectively.
Several ways that people can start to build resilience almost immediately include:
Believing in Yourself
Practising self-care rituals consistently can have a positive impact on our emotional health. Essentially, putting our most basic needs first such as regular exercise, good nutrition, meditation, and journaling often contributes to levels of self-esteem and how much we believe in ourselves in any situation. The more we put our own needs first, the higher our self-esteem will be.
When people experience extreme adverse situations, it often leaves them with emotional scars. Many people find that searching for a new purpose or life goal can be extremely cathartic. Victims of bullying, for example, might become actively involved in campaigns against bullying and harassment. Essentially, finding purpose empowers people to turn a negative into something more positive, it also gives them new meaning.
The ability to adapt and thrive is an essential building block leading to resilience. When faced with a crisis, it is common for people to crumble and become stuck where they are, those high in resilience allow themselves the space to experience any sad emotions before looking towards a brighter future.
Looking After Yourself
As mentioned earlier, self-care plays a pivotal role when it comes to resilience. Those with existing mental health conditions or addiction disorders, need to pay special attention to what their minds and bodies are telling them, especially in times of crisis. When the going gets tough, it’s all too easy for people to revert to unhealthy coping mechanisms, hence why nurturing the mind and body is so important to prevent relapse from occurring. Getting the right amount of sleep, eating a balanced diet, and consulting with a therapist are all helpful ways to practise self-care during difficult times.
The ability to effectively solve problems plays a huge part in how someone can bounce back from adversity. Being able to compartmentalise emotions in a solution-oriented way helps us to figure out what to do in any given situation. Emotions can be helpful problem-solvers too. Just not when they are high in intensity. A good way to practice problem-solving is to write down a list of realistic solutions and go through each one carefully. This helps to apply logic instead of high-intensity emotions and allows people the space to come up with possible solutions.
Changing Your Perspective
Dr Wayne Dyer infamously said that ‘’When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.’’ Sometimes what we perceive to be a problem is often a call to action or a positive misdirection of some kind. For example, someone might hate their day job, but do nothing about it until one day they are made redundant. Amidst all the worries of becoming unemployed, the chances are the person will go on and find a job that is better suited to them. The same principle can be applied to other areas of one’s life. Oftentimes, change is required for people to level up enabling them to build their emotional capacity.
There are many other ways that people can build resilience. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, for example, can help an individual to understand any old patterns that are no longer helpful to them.
At White River Manor, we provide a safe and encouraging platform for people to explore their journey of transformation. Get in touch with the team today to discuss how we can help support you through this journey.