Studies show that resilience, more than any other trait, is the key to a healthy mind and body. All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. But how we respond to these has a big impact on our well-being. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose our own attitude to what happens. In practice it’s not always easy but like many other life skills resilience can be learned.
Where do you start?
Developing resilience is a personal journey. People do not all react the same to traumatic and stressful life events. An approach to building resilience that works for one person might not work for another.
You can build your resilience by:
• knowing your strengths
• building your self-esteem – have confidence in your abilities and the positive things in life
• build healthy relationships
• knowing when to ask for help
• managing stress and anxiety levels
• working on problem solving skills and coping strategies.
What are coping strategies?
Coping strategies can enable you to deal with stress and maintain a sense of control in your life. There are many different ways of coping with stress and everyone is different, so it’s about finding something that works for you. Anything that is not harmful to your health and wellbeing is worth a try, such as:
• taking time out to relax
• exercise or meditation
• breaking a challenge down into small, achievable goals
• celebrating achieving your goals
• keeping a journal
• thinking about the big picture.
Neuroscientist Dr Sarah McKay, author of The Women’s Brain Book, explains resilience as “bending like bamboo, rather than breaking like a twig in the face of a stressful event”. Not being able to ignore or deflect challenges but bed down and bounce back afterwards.
A certain amount of acceptance is the key to build resilience, recognising that we have very little control over external events, but that we can control how we react to them and how we allow them to affect us. This links back to awareness and living life mindfully – being aware of what is around us and what is happening inside. Crucially it is about observing all this but not getting caught up in thinking and worrying about what we are observing. It then gives us more control of what we decide to give our attention to.
Having other people in our lives to lean on and reach out to in times of need is one of the greatest buffers for stress. Focus on building strong relationships and seeking professional help in areas where an expert can add value, so you feel able to ask for help when you need it.
Like any other muscle, if you start training now you’ll be more than prepared for the next time you get a knock back.