Resilience. This is a weighty word. For those in the helping field and beyond, this has been one of many “buzzwords” circling our society. As we consider resilience as it relates to wellness and wellbeing, what exactly do we mean and how might we practice this in our daily lives?
For those who aren’t familiar with the term resilience, it is defined as the “adaptation in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or stress: family/relationship problems, health problems or workplace/money issues.” Essentially, it is the ability to “bounce back” from difficult experiences. Personal resilience is a set of skills that can be learned and is a life-long process. A person must actively engage in the creation of their own skillset to bounce back from difficult circumstances. Resilience is vital in every aspect of life: physical, mental, spiritual, occupational, financial, and emotional.
The American Psychological Association identifies 11 ways to build resilience that include personal self-care and psychological growth, as well as a community-based support:
- Make connections.
This refers to making time for human connection outside of work. You may be involved in spiritual/faith-based organizations, or regular familial gatherings, or community-based events. Spending time with supportive, compassionate people.
Application: During your day make sure you have some in-person human contact with a family member, friend, or community member. If that isn’t a viable option that day, a phone call, text, or email will suffice.
- Growth mindset.
By re-framing your thoughts, you will be more able to bounce back from challenging circumstances. If you made a mistake at work, learn from it, seek consultation and let go of the negative self-talk. It is necessary that one does the best he/she/they can and if you make efforts to grow from the experience, you will be more likely to thrive.
Application: If you experience a difficult life circumstance that would typically experience a level of annoyance or frustration, try changing your perspective. Look at the person or experience and think,” this is really difficult and I am learning something important (e.g. patience and compassion).”
- Accept change as a part of living.
We experience change on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Adapting to the ever-changing science, technologies, work scenarios will improve your happiness and longevity in this life.
Application: When things don’t go as planned, take a deep breath and practice “letting go”.
- Taking steps to accomplish your goals.
Short-term goals provide an opportunity to work toward something more long-term. Take it a moment at a time.
Application: If paying off your loans is a long-term goal, consider what short-term goals you may need to accomplish to meet the long-term goal? Instead of buying a latte every day, try making coffee from home. Small purchases add up.
- Be decisive and act.
Spending time contemplating what you want is a necessary component to building resilience. Reflecting on past experiences that you enjoyed vs. ones you did not will guide you toward making effective and efficient decisions, thus giving you more enthusiasm to act.
Application: As you go from meeting to meeting, make sure you’re building in time throughout your day to reflect on what went well and how you responded to certain situations. This will give you capacity to make healthy decisions.
Reiterating the last point, self-discovery and reflection are ways to determine what works for you as an individual and what does not work. By knowing yourself, you are more able to make healthy decisions for your life.
Application: Spend time each day practicing awareness. Experiment on yourself. Try responding to situations differently and see how you feel.
- Positive view of self.
This may seem trivial—having a positive view of self – but it is critical to have a healthy relationship to oneself because as you become kinder to yourself, you become kinder to others. Research shows just how important it is by highlighting that positive emotions and self-compassion are parts of resilience.
Application: When you encounter a difficult life experience and are unsure whether you made the “right” decision, practice patience and compassion. You did your best with the information, the time, and the resources you had.
- Keep things in perspective.
Identify any cognitive distortions—defined by ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn't really true. These thoughts reinforce negative thinking patterns or emotions. Pay attention to these thoughts.
Application: When a person in your office hasn’t completed their part of a joint project try re-framing the thought. Instead of being angry and distancing yourself from them, maybe you could check in with them to see what's going on. Maybe they did the best they could and you might think,” They’re doing their best”. Maybe their best looks different than your best; that’s ok.
- Maintain hope.
Keeping a sense of optimism will build your capacity for something new and different. Novelty is necessary for innovation and creation, leading to increased resilience.
Application: You're scheduled back to back with appointments and you didn't have time for lunch. It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, to question your current job, and lose hope. Take time away from work, or ask for help, or do something new to re-build your sense of hope again. Ask for feedback from people who love you.
By taking care of oneself, a person is more able to care for others. Self-care is not a band aid, nor is it an easy "fix". Self-care is a lifestyle and it takes time to shift into a healthier lifestyle.
Application: The typical person in western society can get lost in the minutia of things and feelings of chaos and distress are commonplace. Make sure you are navigating your immediate world with mindfulness and intention. Set boundaries if necessary, take breaks, and do something you enjoy. Laugh!
This has also been a “buzzword” roaming through the self-help profession, but one that is necessary to ponder. Awareness and practicing formal or informal meditation will give you the most “bang for your buck” in terms of quelling your stress.
Application: During your day, take 30-60 seconds to notice the sensation of your feet on the floor or the breath in your belly. The more grounded you are in your body, the more able you are to handle stressors.
As you consider the above, please take a moment to incorporate 1-2 this week. Give it a try. See if you can take a few moments to breathe with intention, call a friend, or give yourself some positivity. Remember: practice self-compassion as you try to incorporate healthier lifestyle choices, it takes time to build resilience.