Resilience (or resiliency) is one of the latest catchphrases in the spheres of education and children’s mental health. But what about our resilience? As adults is it too late to learn this ‘skill’? Are we fated to bounce from disappointment to setback to adverse life events, our emotions and anxieties bouncing to the extremes with us, always feeling like we are one bad day away from going under?
Of course not!
Our schooling experiences may have focussed more on rote learning than life skills, but that doesn’t mean we can’t build our capability for flexibility and self-care. After all, research has shown that although some people seem to have a natural capacity for resilience, the behaviours behind ‘bouncing back’ can also be learned.
What is resilience?
The Oxford Dictionary defines resilience as ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties’. The secondary definition, which we think works well for humans too, sees it as ‘the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity’. So the question then is how elastic are we? How quickly can we spring back into a neutral (positive) state after being stretched thin by some event life has thrown at us? Being resilient doesn’t mean you won’t experience stress or adversity. However, it can empower you to weather, and learn from, challenging or traumatic experiences.
Building resilience is like forming a soft (but strong!) buffer between the world at large and your mental health. Strategies to nurture this cushioning defence include:
Building connections & fostering a sense of purpose
It’s important to have people you can confide in; supportive people who’ll listen, give positive feedback and ‘have your back’ can remind you you’re not alone in the midst of difficulties. Extending this beyond your one-on-one relationships to local groups or organisations can also play an important role in helping you remain buoyant. Volunteering, cultivating your spirituality or participating in sports or other activities you find meaningful are all great ways to increase your personal well-being.
Taking care of yourself – ‘self-help’ at its most elemental – is also incredibly important when it comes to resilience. If you treat yourself well – with proper nutrition, plenty of sleep and regular exercise – you are affirming that you are worthy of such care. Tending to your physical self will boost your resources to manage stress and reduce anxiety or depression. Cultivating wellness also means avoiding negative escape routes – alcohol, for example, may seem an easy ‘quick-fix’, but the buffer it provides is never going to be a long-term strategy.
Embracing healthy thoughts
Life doesn’t always go our way, and sometimes it’s hard to be positive, but that doesn’t mean we need to be hard on ourselves. Listen for negative thoughts in your head and imagine you were saying them about someone you love. Would you really think that way about someone else? Of course not! So give yourself that same level of respect. Practice replacing thoughts that invalidate your abilities or sense of self with positive alternatives – ‘I can do this’ or ‘Perfection may not be possible, but damn I’m doing my level best!’ Building self-esteem is a great step towards building resilience.
Getting help when you need it – particularly before you really need it – is crucial to building resilience. For many people, the kinds of strategies listed here will nurture and strengthen resilience over time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t ask for help if we get stuck along the way. Using Positive Psychology, our empathetic therapists at Happy Minds can support and guide you in creating individual approaches to dealing with everyday life calmly and consistently, whatever it might throw at you.
Happy Minds Psychology
With a particular focus on women’s health, and supporting women through life’s transitions and challenges, we’re here to help you smooth your path forward. Reach out to the team at Happy Minds Psychology on 0431 666 050, fill out our contact form on our website to request a callback or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re located in lovely Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula and can assist with counselling sessions face to face or via Telehealth Australia wide.