We may encounter stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. Being made redundant, health issues, losing a loved one, relationship difficulties and probably many others. Yet how we react can massively affect our wellbeing. Although we cannot always choose what happens to us, we can still choose our own attitude to what happens. Maybe not immediately as to how we react. Yet, given time and a little patience perhaps we can. One of the most exciting findings from recent research is that like many other life skills, you can learn resilience and bounce back from adversity.
Resilience comes from the Latin word resilio. It means to jump back. People use it regularly to describe our ability to cope with difficult experiences. Perhaps it’s an ability to bend instead of breaking. Some consider it perseverance. Others adapt to a situation. We can be more receptive to hidden opportunities that difficult problems present. Resilience is more than just survival. It includes letting go, learning and growing. Ultimately we can use resilience in finding healthy ways to cope.
Research shows that resilience isn’t a rare quality found in a few, extraordinary people. It is in fact a normal quality. Dr Ann Masten describes it as ordinary magic. She argues that resilience isn’t a fixed personal characteristic. We can be naturally resilient in some situations and not in others. Each person and each situation is different. So realising that we can improve on our resilience.
Build Your Resilience to Bounce Back From Adversity
The saying goes: “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger“. Experiencing some adversity during our lives does increase personal resilience. We can learn ways to cope. A person can identify and engage their support network. We adopt a sense of mastery over past troubles. From that an individual can feel able to cope in the future better. A new task at work may be scary but before we know it, that task becomes second nature. We need to remember that and not feel overwhelmed by other new experiences. They are just that, new. Resilience is not fixed or in our genes, nor are there limits on how resilient we are able to be.
A number of cognitive and behavioural skills have scientifically shown to build resilience in children and adults. With effort and commitment we can learn these and put them into practice.
Use some of the suggested actions from the calendar to build your own resilience.
Relationships and Resilience
One of the key sources of resilience is our network of relationships with other people. The network can be family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. A healthy relationship works in both directions. You scratch their back, they scratch yours. Just asking a mate to the pub, can you put their bin out or can you pick something up from the shop, perhaps even ask for an idea on what plant to put in your garden. Strong social networks also build happier communities and that increases the resilience in all of us. Don’t wait until times are tough. Share good stories too. It might feel odd at first but make it a habit.
There may still be times when you need professional help . Do not feel silly to speak to your doctor, a charitable foundation or even a counsellor or therapist. How do you know your smiling neighbour hasn’t done that so they can bounce back from adversity. It could be they just don’t want to broadcast it.
It isn’t about denying difficult things are going on. It is more about seeing a problem as a series of tasks to overcome. Break down a problem into smaller parts. Pick of the first one, then it will encourage you to face the next one. Just how do you know you won’t achieve something unless you try it.
Viewing a Problem Differently
Coping with adversity can be influenced by how we look at a situation. If you can, take a moment to yourself. Then think of those in a worse situation. Next think about your problem again. Is there any benefit coming out of it, no matter how small? It doesn’t mean you are avoiding the bigger issue. It is just about looking for a silver lining in that very dark cloud.
A study on breast cancer survivors, found that two thirds of the women participating reported that their lives changed for the better after developing the disease. Benefits they cited included their illness being a “wake-up call”, which forced them to focus on what truly mattered to them. It spurred them on to try activities, meeting new friends they may never have even tried.
Sure it isn’t easy but looking for some small nugget of positivity can ease the road to recovery over time. It needs that initial first step of action. It will re