The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties is an important life skill. Resilience embodies problem solving, emotional regulation, thought challenging, and assertiveness skills. These skills help us cope with adversity and its aftermath.
When we develop resilience we are able to overcome daily hassles, major setbacks, negative life events and trauma. Most importantly, we can move forward and create positive outcomes.
Although quite simple, these six tips can make a profound impact on your approach to life, and ultimately boost your resilience.
1. Recognize your strengths
Your personal strengths (i.e. abilities, talents, or skills) have helped you solve problems, overcome difficulties and achieve goals in the past. Recognize them and write them down. If listing your strengths is difficult for you, think about things you enjoy and do well. What personal strengths do those things reflect?
Consult this list of personal strengths. For example, if you ran a marathon, that accomplishment taps in to several personal strengths: discipline, dedication, perseverance, adventurousness, time management, etc.
2. Learn from past experiences
Learn from past experiences and let them go. Think back to a past adversity and consider how you coped. What helped you over come it? What could you have done better or differently knowing what you know now? “The most important thing for us to realize is this: the past has no control over our lives, except the control we allow it to have.”
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3. Make contingency plans
“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” — Zig Ziglar
Consider the worst case scenario. If it were to happen, how can you cope with it? Prepare a plan that answers the following questions:
How would I initially behave should it occur?
What would you say about the circumstance?
What solutions could I implement?
What support resources will I seek out and utilize?
What could I do to navigate my emotions?
What will I do to challenge my negative thoughts?
Plan how to constructively deal with the problem. This often requires the use of your personal strengths, experience, knowledge and skills. Scenarios in our mind are often much more negative, drastic and catastrophic than what occurs in reality. Therefore, preparedness will raise belief in your ability to cope with whatever comes your way. When you know you are prepared it raises your perceived level of control.
4. Challenge negative feelings
“You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are.” — Yogi Bhajan
If you feel powerless or helpless, challenge that thought. Take a closer look at the adversity. Consider which factors are within your control and focus on them. When you audit the circumstance it reduces emotional impact. This will help you attain a sense of mastery. Lastly, make a conscious effort to eliminate behaviors that do not improve your well-being.
5. Confront challenging situations
Consciously challenge yourself daily. If it’s in your nature to avoid situations, make an effort to confront them. This will strengthen belief in your abilities to cope with hard situations. It will also build up your tolerance for distress. Consequently, when the going really gets though, the impact is lessened. Confronting situations will boost your tolerance, self-efficacy and coping skills.
6. Identify and strengthen your shortcomings
If you are aware of your shortcomings, then invest time and effort to develop them. For example, if certain situations make you anxious, gradually expose yourself to them. Slowly conquer that anxiety, and strengthen the skills that help you overcome them. Gradually, you will build up your resilience.
Resilience requires mental toughness. In conclusion, “Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress. Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”
Sources: Irvine, W. B. (2009). A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. New York: Oxford University Pres. Grotberg, E.H.(2003). Resilience for Today: Gaining Strength from Adversity. Westport CT: Praeger. Neenan, M.(2009). Developing Resilience: A Cognitive-Behavioural Approach.NY:Routledge.
This article has been edited.
Dr. Sharon Galor, at The Light Wave Psychologists Practice, helps expats demolish their obstacles, unlock their fears, strengthen and acquire new capacities and realize the life that they yearn for. Dr. Galor’s research was published in prominent peer reviewed journals. Dr. Galor’s online CBT program improves negative body image – Accept and Rock Your Perfectly Imperfect Body. She is also the author of Be assertive! Be your authentic self!. It is a straightforward, practical and easy CBT workbook which will enable you to apply the strategies directly in your life.