In our last article we looked at what resilience really is, and at the relationship between resilience and mental health.
Being resilient doesn’t protect a person from experiencing pain or distress. People who suffer trauma in their lives will often experience emotional pain and stress.
Being resilient does mean that a person will be better able to recover from challenging experiences when they happen.
While there are factors that might make some individuals more resilient than others, resilience isn’t a trait that only some people possess. Resilience involves attitudes and behaviours that anyone can choose to learn and develop.
Like building any muscle, increasing resilience takes intention and time.
Focusing on a number of key components - connection, health and wellness, positive mind-set, and purpose – can help a person overcome and learn from traumatic or difficult experiences.
Here are some simple ways that you could begin to increase your capacity for resilience:
Self-care, in its simplest form means doing whatever you need to do to give yourself the energy to meet the daily challenges of your life. Self-care is a fundamentally important practice for mental health and building resilience. Prioritising and taking action of positive lifestyle factors including good nutrition, regular exercise and healthy sleep can strengthen your body and help it adapt to stress.
Human beings are built to seek out feelings of connection with others. Connecting with people we trust can help us feel less alone when things are difficult. When things get tough it’s important to accept help and support from people who care.
Keep things in perspective.
When emotions are running high, there is a tendency to catastrophise or view things from a less than rational perspective. Try taking a step back and identifying any unhelpful thinking. You may not be able to change the events that are happening, but you can control how you interpret and respond to it.
It’s not always easy to be positive, when things are difficult. Thinking about what you do want to happen, rather than what you do not want can be helpful - a hopeful, optimism is empowering and can help keep you looking forwards during challenging times.
Move toward what you want.
Set some realistic objectives and take small steps that move toward the things you want to achieve. Instead of focusing on the big things (that might seem too big to overcome) ask yourself, “What’s one small thing I know I can do today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”. Feeling a small sense of achievement will help keep you motivated.
Take control, take decisive action, be pro-active – be empowered in your own wellness. Taking action will remind you that you have choice, you are in control and you have resources and a sense of purpose even when things seem really tough.
Mindfulness practice, journaling or meditation can help people feel more connected to themselves and to others, as well as helping to bring attention to the present moment, to the positive things and to the things that you have to be grateful for.
Learn from your experiences.
By reflecting on the things you have experienced, acknowledging how you responded and what was helpful, you may learn more about how you can respond effectively in future difficult situations. Reflecting in this way also provides evidence of the resilience you have shown before.
Asking for and being able to receive help and support when you need it is crucial in building resilience. For some people, at some times, using their own resources and some of the strategies mentioned in this article might be enough. For other people, or at other times, professional help may be needed. A coach, therapist or counsellor may be able to provide one to one support – and resilience courses and workshops may also be helpful. The important thing is to remember you’re not alone