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 and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.
Life doesn’t come with a map, and you never really know what’s going to appear around the next corner. The unexpected happenings, particularly the difficult ones, don’t have to knock you over permanently. You can learn how to adapt, work with or through the challenges you encounter – this is resilience. Resilience involves behaviours, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop.
Resilience does not mean that you don’t feel distress or difficulty. In fact, your resilience develops through experiencing stressors and learning as you go along. It does require some focus and intentionality and there are some core areas that you can look at that will help you further develop and strengthen your resiliency.
Tips to Increase Mental & Emotional Resilience
Take care of your body: Nourishing and supporting your body is key to building mental and emotional strength. By taking time and giving the appropriate attention to your self-care needs, you will build a firmer foundation for dealing with the unforeseen storms. So, eat well and exercise! These are two of the basic building blocks for your wellness.
Sleep well: Getting enough sleep is a vital component to our overall wellbeing and adaptability. Anyone who’s gone several nights with bad sleep can testify to the short fuse and low emotional threshold that results! Small problems appear much bigger when you’re exhausted.
Practice Mindfulness: If you don’t already have a meditation or mindfulness practice in place, today is a good day to start! Incorporating these practices into your daily life, even in a small way, can go a long way in strengthening a positive mindset and the ability to more easily deal with challenges that come your way.
Avoid negative outlets: While it can be tempting and seem easier to numb out or avoid stress factors through the use of alcohol, drugs or other outlets, rather focus on building your psychological and emotional toolkit and your body’s resources to better cope with the unavoidable stressors that arise.
Build and Maintain Connections
Prioritise relationships: Connecting with empathetic and understanding people can remind you that you’re not alone when dealing with difficulties. Focus on finding trustworthy and compassionate individuals who validate your feelings, which will support the skill of resilience.
Ask for help: We often think that resilience is “my own strength as an individual”. However, knowing when you need support and reaching out to find it is a key characteristic of some of the most resilient people. Pain and trauma may trigger the tendency to self-isolate, so it’s important to recognise that and to connect with loved ones who can be there for you. Our resiliency grows when we can lean on others at the point that we can’t go it alone any longer.
Embrace healthy thoughts
Keep things in perspective. How you think can play a significant part in how you feel—and how resilient you are when faced with obstacles. Try to identify areas of irrational thinking, such as a tendency to catastrophize difficulties or assume the world is out to get you and adopt a more balanced and realistic thinking pattern. You may not be able to change a highly stressful event, but you can change how you interpret and respond to it.
Accept change. Accept that change is a part of life. Certain goals or ideals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations in your life. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
Practise your attitude: Daily problems, from spilt coffee, to traffic jams or internet issues provide opportunities to practise optimism. The three questions are: How long will it last? How bad is it really? and How much am I going to blame myself? Constant practise will help make resilience habitual.
Find purpose and meaning: This is about establishing a sense of the bigger picture. It covers everything from goal setting to spirituality and could be as simple as waking up in the morning and setting an intention for that day or week. Having a sense of the bigger picture allows us to approach the daily problems and challenges from a different perspective which enables a more creative approach to dealing with them.