By Emily Skehill, Peer Advocacy, Supports, and Services Associate
Everyone experiences hardships at times, but we don’t all bounce back at the same pace. While psychologists agree that some people may be born more resilient than others, we can all develop new behaviors and thought patterns to help us adapt in the face of adversity. If you’re looking to increase your own resilience, here are some great ways to start:
Look on the bright side!
It’s easier said than done but challenge yourself to find the silver lining. It’s important to acknowledge your negative feelings, but resilient people also find a way to see the little bits of good. If this doesn’t come naturally, you can work on altering your reflexive thoughts and self-talk. Our thoughts trigger our feelings, and we can change how we feel about a situation by changing how we think about it.
See challenges as learning opportunities
When faced with a hardship, aim to see it as a chance to grow. Think about what it’s teaching you or ways to problem-solve instead of focusing on why it’s happening. Seeing problems in this light takes effort. Accept that problems are inevitable and try to emotionally distance yourself from the issue. Think about the consequences objectively to identify what you may have exaggerated or imagined. Then, focus on improvements – how can you move forward? How has this helped you?
Know your power
It’s easy to place blame on outside sources for our problems. But resilient people tend to perceive themselves as having an internal locus of control – a belief that their actions impact life circumstances. Of course, you can’t control everything, but you can control how you respond to situations. Start shifting your locus of control by thinking about your goals and identifying which steps towards achieving them are in your control. Then focus on addressing those steps.
Take care of yourself
Imagine a full pitcher. Every time you face a difficult situation, you pour a little bit out. Before long the pitcher will be empty and you’ll have no more left to give. It’s important to take the time to fill your pitcher back up! Daily habits matter, like keeping a regular sleep schedule, exercising, and eating well. Figure out what else works for you – many people enjoy meditation, art, being in nature, or spending time with friends.
Lean on social connections
When facing a problem, it’s important to have people who can offer support and make you feel less alone. Family members, friends, and co-workers are great prospects for adding to your support system. You can also attend a support group or join one online. Talking about a problem with a friend won’t make it go away, but it will help you sort through your emotions, see the issue from another point of view, and brainstorm potential solutions.
Go slow and start with practicing one skill. Once it starts to feel natural, add on to another. It’s extremely difficult to change our automatic thoughts about crises but it is possible. By slowing down our reflexive reactions, we often uncover strengths that we didn’t know we had.