How to Build Resilience
Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulties. In other words, it is how tough you are when life hits you hard.
There are some people that seem to be made of something stronger: they fall and recover and fall again and stand back up on their feet immediately to relentlessly keep trying. They even seem to thrive on challenges.
Take professional athletes, for examples. They spend their entire career grinding teeth and certainly face many more moments of defeat than glory. Yet somehow they master the strength to keep going and to do so in a highly motivated manner.
So is it possible to train this skill?, I ask myself. Can I develop resilience over time and more importantly; can I prepare for the tough times ahead ? What if I lost my job, what if I fell sick? Nobody wants to be in these situations, but life inevitably strikes and I have always wished I had a way of preparing for adversity.
In reading about the subject, it seems there are a few strategies and techniques that one can implement to withstand the setbacks of life:
The first thing seems to be that we need to accept that bad things can happen. They don´t HAVE to happen, but if they do, our attitude towards them and how we process negative events plays a huge role. For those of us who are planning freaks, this isespecially important: maintaining a positive and calm self when things deviate from our schedules can be hard at first, but is the key to living a less stressful life. Because, frankly: when does ANYTHING go 100% as per plan?
Developing a tolerance towards things that make us uncomfortable is also a really good strategy and can be easily trained. Getting out of your comfort zone purposefully and often will help us cope with new and unexpected situations and train us to react in a more controlled and calm way. So, if, for example, you hate speaking in public, look for chances where you can do so (ie a friends´ wedding, a presentation at work). If you are afraid of flying or scared of heights, if you don´t like swimming in open waters… There are dozens of things we shy away from, because they make us uncomfortable, so it is just a matter of pushing ourselves into doing them and, most importantly, doing them with a positive attitude. If the result is a success; then celebrate. If you fail, see it as an opportunity to process the defeat in a constructive and positive way, learn from the experience and try again another time.
Plan ahead for the difficulty. This is especially useful prior to any big event, for example sports competitions. Think about what could go wrong and how you want to react to it. If you have a plan B for the adverse event, you can immediately and without too much emotion implement it and bounce back quickly. The story about Mark Phelps, who holds the record for most olympic swimming medals, is one of those that has struck with me ever since I read it: he was competing in the 200-meter butterfly final when his goggles filled with water virtually from the start:
“They started filling up more and more and more. And about 75 meters left in the race, I could see nothing. I couldn’t see the black line. I couldn’t see the T. I couldn’t see anything. I was purely going by stroke count. And I couldn’t take my goggles off because they were underneath two swim caps,”.
He still made the gold medal because he had actually trained swimming blindly in case this happened: How awesome is this!?
You can help building resilience by sticking to your Good Habits that will increase your emotional health and wellbeing, in particular:
- Improve your energy by exercising keeping a balanced diet and staying hydrated throughout the day
- Cultivate your relationships and keep a connected support network of family, friends and colleagues. Don´t shy away from asking for help
- Gain perspective and acknowledge that most of our problems are not the end of the world. Manage your emotions by trying to see things more objectively. Take a step back and breathe. Aim to take action when you are emotionally balanced and not in the heat of the moment, when sxxt is hitting the fan!
I hope you liked these thoughts on the subject of resilience. Here are some more links that you may find useful:
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