“Resilience is the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.” (from Merriam-Webster Dictionary.) We’ve all been under compressive stress. COVID-19, political tensions and upheaval, racial tensions, economic and personal issues have created a pressure cooker that will not go away with a wave of a hand on January 20th or any other date. So you need to know how to be resilient. When you feel you’ve been stretched to the breaking point, you have to bend with the wind, be resilient.
What Resilience Isn’t
Being resilient doesn’t mean you won’t have stress or trauma or emotional pain.
It’s not something you’re born with or that you lack due to genes.
And it’s not something only certain people can have.
What Resilience Is
Resilience is like a muscle. It must be exercised, practiced. It takes time and intention. But it can and will get stronger.
Psychology Today says there are factors that can help make you more resilient. A positive attitude, the ability to regulate your emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback allow you to adapt, to be resilient.
And according to the American Psychological Association resilience has four core components: connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning.
Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean be a Pollyanna who doesn’t see reality. It’s the ability to see the positive in all outcomes. When you have a positive attitude, you believe in looking for answers, in trying again.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.Thomas A Edison
Some people seem to be born with this ability. But you can learn to have a more positive attitude. Recognize when you are having negative thoughts. Turn around negative thinking by rephrasing that thought. Don’t deny your feelings, but redirect them.
Negative thought: This is going to bad day.
Rephrased: I’m afraid it is going to be a difficult day, but it’s also an opportunity to find new solutions.
After you’re more practiced at positive thinking, you may be able to rephrase it as I’m looking forward to the challenge to find new solutions.
Ability to Regulate Your Emotions
The ability to regulate your emotions doesn’t mean you need to become a robot without emotions. Regulating your emotions means being less emotionally reactive. Keeping yourself from “going off the deep end.”
Instead of telling yourself, I will not get frightened, you tell yourself, If I see a fearful picture, I will stay calm. Seems too simple, right? That’s because the intent isn’t to take away the fear, but to reduce the knee-jerk response.
Read more about regulating your emotions.
Ability to Learn from Failure
We humans tend to pretend failure doesn’t exist. If we look at failure at all, we look to the inspirational stories of how someone who failed repeatedly became a success.
Instead of being paralyzed by a failure or bad outcome, instead of asking why me, look for things you could do differently.
When we learn from our mistakes, we are stronger and more likely to be successful the next time.
Cultivate your connections to friends and family. We humans are social creatures. Yes, even introverts are social creatures, though not as social as others. We need connections.
During this pandemic, it’s difficult to maintain those connections but not impossible. FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook’s Messenger Chat, email, telephone calls, and other internet services can help you keep those connections.
When you are going through a difficult time, you may withdraw from people. Don’t. Reach out. Friends or family who will listen and be supportive are invaluable.
Resilient people have at least one or two people they can turn to for support.
Taking care of your physical self is essential. It’s much more difficult to be resilient if you aren’t at your optimal health. Enough sleep, exercise, and a mostly healthy diet will help. Too much alcohol, recreational drugs, or over-indulgence in unhealthy behaviors will sabotage yourself.
Read more tips on self-care.
Look at the entire situation. See not just the negative, not just the positive, not just the neutral parts. Healthy thinking is balanced thinking.
Pay attention to your thoughts and self-talk. Practice positive self-talk, bolster your self-confidence. Practice gratitude, journal, meditate, practice positive thinking. Use your mental health first aid kit. You have one, don’t you?
What is unhealthy thinking?
- Filtering—when you filter out all the positives or all the negatives
- Personalizing is when you automatically blame yourself for the negative outcomes.
- Catastrophizing—expecting the worst outcome. If one thing goes wrong—the rest of the day will be a disaster.
- Polarizing—seeing things as either good or bad with no middle ground.
If healthy thinking is too difficult, reach out to a connection or seek professional help. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Find meaning in your life. No, I’m not talking about religion necessarily. Find the things that give you purpose. Create. Help others. Meditate. Take nature walks. Volunteer (safely—you know the drill). Take action—do one thing each day toward a goal outside of yourself. You’ll be amazed at how the little steps can make a big difference in your sense of self-worth and self-control.
I don’t know about you, but I have felt stretched to my personal limit more than once during these past seven or eight months. I needed a reminder that I am, that I can continue to be resilient. I’ll bet you needed to know that you can be resilient, too. It’s okay to feel beaten down some days. Remember your healthy thinking skills, reach out to your connections, focus on self-care and what is meaningful to you. You can bounce back. In fact, I’ll bet you have bounced back more than once. Please share your stories of resilience, of how you bounced back in the comments.