Building Resilience

Louis Laves-Webb

October 30, 2014

What Is Resilience?

Resilience refers to one’s ability to healthily cope with problems and obstacles in life. People who are resilient are able to manage and recover from difficult experiences, rather than dwelling on them or using unhealthy means of coping.

Resilience is not a quality you are born with or without. Rather, it’s a skill that can be cultivated through changing the way you think, act, and approach situations. It may come more naturally to some people, but anyone can learn how to build their resilience.

Tips for Improving Your Resilience

1. Build your support system.

People looking to increase their resilience might think that “being strong” means handling things on their own, but resilient individuals often have networks of people whom they turn to in times of need. Being connected to people you trust and who can be there for you when you need support will actually help you build your own resilience. Your support system can be made up of family, friends, a significant other, a support group, and/or a counselor.

2. Acknowledge change as an inevitable, essential part of life.

If you spend your life trying to control or prevent change, you will be consistently disappointed. Every single person experiences change in his or her life. Some of this change is exciting (like a new job or getting engaged) and some may not feel as positive (like losing a job, going through a breakup, or a friend moving away). Circumstances in your life can and will change, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t find happiness or fulfillment. Additionally, letting go of external factors you can’t control frees you up to focus on aspects of your life that you can control and improve.

3. Reflect on what you can gain.

Experiencing a crisis or a period of hardship can be challenging, but it often provides you with an opportunity to learn something. You can use past experience to help you effectively deal with problems that come up in the future. Think about what was helpful to you as you worked through the experience. You can use these positive/beneficial coping skills the next time an obstacle appears. Struggles can make you stronger and show you new perspectives on life.

4. Practice self-care.

When life becomes overwhelming or painful, it’s not uncommon for people to forget to take care of themselves. Their eating habits may change, they might begin to isolate themselves from others, or they may engage in self-destructive habits like substance abuse or self-harm. Even as life challenges you, it’s important to practice self-care. Sticking with a healthy balance of food, exercise, and sleep helps you feel sharper mentally and physically, making complicated situations easier to manage. Continue participating in activities that you enjoy or that relax you. Taking time for yourself may feel “selfish” if you have a long list of responsibilities, but know that self-care isn’t greedy. In fact, it often helps you accomplish even more while remaining centered.

5. Remember how much you’ve overcome already.

Everyone has gone through something that was difficult, distressing, or uncomfortable. Maybe you didn’t always feel like the most resilient person in the face of those situations, but the fact is that you survived them. Give yourself credit for this and any steps you’ve taken towards your own happiness and wellbeing. Sometimes, reminding yourself that you can develop resilience and you can make it through whatever you’re experiencing makes a huge difference. Believing you can be strong is the first step to getting there.

Resilience isn’t something that is built overnight–it will likely take some practice. Being resilient also doesn’t mean you won’t feel angry, hurt, or confused ever again. It simply means you will have a new set of skills and strength to draw from to help you move forward and thrive.

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