“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Maya Angelou
From everyday challenges to traumatic events with long-term impacts, life comes with difficulties. Resilience is what helps you adapt to these stressful situations. Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress such as family or relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.
What Does It Mean to Be Resilient?
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly and adapt to situations. Resilience theory argues adversity itself is not the most critical factor but rather how we deal with it. It’s a dynamic system to help us adapt successfully to threats and hardships in life.
Emotionally resilient people understand that whatever the stressor, it is temporary suffering. They are aware of their feelings and physical needs and accept that pain ebbs and flows. Resilient people incorporate mindfulness and self-care into their lives and generally surround themselves with supportive people.
Fortunately, you can build resilience. However, just like a muscle, it takes time and effort. It’s an ongoing practice and learned behavior, but it can be a positive driver of growth in your life once you embrace it.
3 Easy Ways to Build Resilience
Accepting discomfort is the first step in disarming your suffering. Once you have accepted the situation, there are ways to help ease the distress. For example, you could find a connection with supportive family and friends or join a support group for those with similar challenges.
Take care of yourself. Focus on your mental, emotional, and physical wellness by eating nourishing foods, resting, and exercising. Don’t mask your feelings with unhealthy behaviors; once you lean into the moment, it’s easier to begin moving through it.
Finally, look for purpose and meaning in the situation. Finding relevant meaning in the challenges of daily life empowers you to learn and grow from difficult or traumatic events.
A quick meditation to help with acceptance is called S.T.O.P. Stop, take a breath, observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, then proceed. As you sit with your thoughts, try to approach the situation with openness and curiosity instead of judgment. See what comes to the surface. Identify where you feel your emotions in your body. How are they making themselves known? Acknowledge your feelings, give a nod to them, then move on to the next moment with awareness and attention.
Related Reading: "How Emotional Resilience Can Help You Cultivate Happiness."
Self-compassion means treating yourself as you would treat a friend in distress with caring support.
Dr. Kristen Neff and her colleagues have identified three elements of self-compassion: mindfulness, self-kindness, and common humanity. Being self-compassionate means being in the moment, using kindness instead of judgment, and recognizing that we are all human.
It’s easy to become self-critical in the face of adversity, but this undermines our ability to motivate through the problem. Dr. Neff, in her T.E.D. Talk, The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion, says, “When we criticize ourselves, we become both the attacker and the attacked. This taps into our threat system and puts us into fight or flight mode. In modern times, threats are less often physical and more often emotional. When we tap into our mammalian caregiving system, it decreases our cortisone levels and releases oxytocin.”
Research indicates that increased oxytocin levels strongly increase feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness and facilitate feelings of warmth and compassion for ourselves.
Additional tools: "Simple Ways to Build Resilience and Emotional Fitness."
Look for Silver Linings
A silver lining is simply an optimistic mindset that promotes emotional resilience and the ability to adapt to challenges. Studies show that an optimistic perspective buffers stress by enhancing problem-solving and coping skills, emotional regulation, a healthy lifestyle, and flexibility.
Shifting your mindset is about thinking of a situation from a broader perspective and from different angles. It’s easy to catastrophize things, but instead, switch gears and try to develop an optimistic outlook. Visualize the outcome you want instead of worrying about what you fear.
Ask yourself, What’s good about this situation?” or “Are there things about this situation that will make my life better?” For example, say you missed the bus and had to walk to work; instead of thinking about how angry you are, think about how lucky you were to get some exercise!
Related Reading: "How to Develop Resilience, and Why You Should!"
Building resilience isn’t without toil. It can be emotionally strenuous and require focused work; however, the result is worth it. Life will never be without challenges, but by building resilience, it becomes a lot easier to roll with the punches and bounce back for a new day.
You can learn to be more resilient. Heartmanity created an Emotional Intelligence course that guides you through simple and practical steps to cultivate emotional well-being that is foundational to resiliency. Each module is designed to empower you by providing a rich learning experience with the exact skills you need to build a life you love.
Invest in yourself.