How do we know if we are resilient? We might like to think that we are strong and capable and possess the attributes needed to bounce back when hit with adversity but we don’t really know until we are faced with it. Life may be cruising along quite nicely then suddenly something hits you, something unexpected, something that you hadn’t planned. A loss of job, a health crisis, loss of a someone you truly loved, a relationship break down, being bullied, a natural disaster, a struggle through infertility, a loss of physical capability, a mental illness…and the list goes on. No one is immune to adversity…it does not discriminate!
So how does one cope and overcome struggle and face unexpected adversity and do so with courage and grace?
Resilience is a complex process and is made up of a mixture of both internal and external factors. It is not a fixed trait reserved to a lucky few.
I would like to share 3 secrets or strategies that I have gained from my research on this topic for developing the capacity to overcome, and even be strengthened by the tough moments in life. These strategies involve certain ways of thinking and acting to help you navigate through these hard times. These three strategies are simple, available and more importantly they are all learnable skills.
- Understand and appreciate that suffering is a part of every human existence. Thinking this way will help you feel less discriminated against when the tough times hit. It will help shift your thinking from a ‘why me’ victim mentality to a mentality of empowerment and taking responsibility.
- Be selective about where you focus your attention. Try focusing your attention on the things that you can change rather than focusing on the things you can’t change. As humans we are hard wired to be drawn to notice the negative in a situation and negative emotions seem to attach to us like moss to a rock where positive emotions seem to run off us like water off a ducks back. Although being wired like this can serve us well in some situations, such as being threatened by a wild animal in the bush…..we need to respond quickly for safety and survival. This type of hard wiring response, however, does not serve us so well in everyday situations. It is not beneficial to go around treating everything as a threat by acting out aggressively or running away from a situation. Resilient people acknowledge the negative but they work out ways to really tune in to the positive of a situation and spend time focusing on this positive. Benefit finding and looking for things to be grateful for are important factors in resilience. A deliberate and ongoing effort to tune in to what is good in your world helps in overcoming sadness, depression and other negative emotions.
- In the aftermath of adversity and you are behaving or thinking in a certain way it is useful to ask yourself this one question…”is what I am doing helping me or harming me? Asking this simple question to yourself can be applied to lots of different contexts….whether you are looking through social media, looking through photo albums of a lost loved one, sending an aggressive text to someone who wronged you….. by asking yourself that one reflective question will help put you back in control of the situation and give you back some power over a situation.
These three strategies are tried and tested and well known in the resilient research world. Knowing them is one thing but putting them into practice is not always easy. Sometimes we need extra support to help us learn these strategies and that’s okay. Remember one step at a time, allow yourself to be active in the grieving process and remember to always be kind to yourself.
By Robyn Roberts