Have you ever wondered how some people are able to manage traumatic situations and adversity better than other people? What separates those individuals from people who struggle with bouncing back from unwanted change? The answer is: resilience. Resilient individuals are able to learn, develop, and implement specific strategies and coping skills that allow them to respond well to life’s challenges and stressors. Resilience is not genetic or a part of our personalities but rather is a skill that can be learned by anyone. Resilience looks different from person to person however there are some common aspects that can be helpful to understand.
Resilient individuals tend to maintain loving and supportive relationships that help to combat feelings of isolation during daunting times. In addition to the presence of positive relationships, resilience is associated with healthy cognitive and emotional tools that any individual can build.
Some of these tools include:
- the ability to identify realistic expectations and follow through with plans
- assertive and direct communication
- healthy problem solving and conflict resolution skills
- a positive view of self that includes self-compassion
- healthy emotion regulation and impulse control techniques
- flexibility and acceptance of change
So what can we do to develop these tools? Here are some intentional actions we can take to build resilience:
- Engage in regular self-care. This means nurturing our physical, emotional, and social needs on a daily basis.
- Consider the bigger picture of situations in order to promote perspective.
- Initiate regular contact with others. This includes staying in touch with support systems as well as forming new connections.
- Focus on your locus of control. Let go of things you cannot change and direct your focus to those factors that you can take action on.
- Accomplish one thing everyday that promotes progress, even if it seems small.
- Practice positive and hopeful thinking. Reciting affirmations can promote positive feelings and experiences.
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions, no matter how painful or strong they seem.
- Consider how challenges can be opportunities for growth.
- Give to others. This can give us a break from focusing on ourselves and promote gratitude in our lives.
- Laugh. Seeking out humor can offer relief from physical and emotional pain.
- Practice assertiveness with others to communicate your needs.
- Practice mindfulness by being aware of thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment without placing any judgment on them.
Ideally we will actively engage in these behaviors prior to being faced with a crisis so that the emotional and cognitive tools associated with resilience are already established. However, because adversity strikes at any moment, we may not have these skills in place but that does not mean we cannot build them during tough and trying times. Oftentimes therapy or support groups can offer individuals assistance with these skills when going through a difficult time.