Strengthening Personal Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from the challenges and adversity that we all face in life. Some people naturally face adversity and deal with it, but even if you feel like you don’t deal with life’s hard knocks very well, the good news is that resilience is something that can be taught and learned.

What makes someone resilient?

A resilient person understands that pain, failure, and discomfort are part of life. Along with happiness, they are just some of the vast array of emotions we experience at any given time.

If we strengthen our resilience, it will not only make us much more emotionally balanced, but it can benefit our physical health too.

A study of 99 men at Harvard University found that the way they viewed negative life events (fixed and unchangeable versus temporary and able to be influenced) predicted the state of their physical health up to 35 years later.

How to strengthen personal resilience

When bad things happen, look for meaning

If you’re resilient, you’ll be able to find good things even in difficult situations. Every difficulty has the potential to teach you a life lesson. Resilient people have the capacity to feel sad about negative events, but they are also able to see what the event has taught them and what they have to be grateful for. If you aren’t resilient, you’re likely to only feel terrible if something bad happens.

But you can change this and respond in a more emotionally balanced way. You can do this by challenging negative thoughts and any negative self-talk. So instead of telling yourself ‘There’s no way I’ll get this job’ when you go for an interview, challenge the thought. What evidence is there to suggest you won’t get the job? Is what you’re telling yourself realistic?

Build a good support network

Having the support of friends, family, and work colleagues is important if you want to be more resilient. Problems don’t seem as bad if you are able to talk about them and others can help you to keep perspective. And the effects of having a good support network don’t just benefit your mental health, they can boost your physical health too. A 2006 study found that having close friends can increase resilience against illness. The study of 3000 nurses with breast cancer found that those with 10 or more close friends were four times more likely to survive than those without close friends.

Be grateful

When you face adversity, being grateful for the good things in your life helps you keep some perspective. Try writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day for 30 days. You can also try drawing your attention to the things in your life that you might take for granted; a roof over your head, a loving partner, and a job you enjoy for example.

Expect change, and accept it

Change is a part of life, and so is sadness and loss. If you choose to move towards pain and cope with it instead of trying to eliminate or avoid it, you’ll be so much more resilient. Ask yourself how you can solve your problems and what you can learn along the way.

Look after yourself

If you’re physically well, your emotional health is likely to be a lot better and you’ll be more resilient. When you eat well, get enough sleep and deal with stress, you’re better able to bounce back from setbacks.

In terms of your emotional wellbeing, practicing mindfulness or meditating can help to lower stress levels and encourage clarity of thought.

Making time to do things you enjoy is another key to becoming more resilient. Choose active pursuits like going for a walk over sitting in front of the TV, because studies have shown that time spent in nature is good for the body and the mind.

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills. For more information visit http://www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk