Resilience – 9 ways to build or strengthen resilience.

One aspect of being transformed means having the quality of resilience which simply means possessing the ability to recover from adversity. Lacking resilience can leave people stuck, paralyzed to the point of being unable to move forward. Everyone should have this trait because the consequences of lacking resilience can rob you of a brighter future.

Difficulty, tragedy, hardship, suffering will come to everyone in one form or another if you live long enough. That is just living life on life’s terms. We might not have a choice in the bad stuff that may come our way in life, but we do have a choice in how we respond.

Being able to adapt, cope, adjust, confront, carry on, endure, survive, move on or move forward, these are all qualities of resilience. I see too many people who lack resilience get stuck. They suffer the same tragedy or the same trauma over and over again. They stop growing. They stop enjoying life. They stop trying to better themselves. It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are several steps you can take in order to become resilient or to strengthen resilience. Just know that what works for one may not work for all and no strategy will work right away. As with any skill, learning to be resilient takes time, practice and patience. But, this is very doable for anyone with a desire to transform into a better way of living.

Here are 9 ways to build resilience:

  • Build self-awareness. Stay in touch with how you feel. Suppressing negative emotions is not adequately dealing with them. People often avoid painful feelings because, well, they’re painful. But, when you feel ready it is best to face emotional pain head on in order move on. If negative emotions aren’t dealt with adequately they will just keep reappearing and leave you stuck.
  • Hold on to the big picture. Whatever happens try to put things in perspective. How many times has something bad happened to you in your past and you thought, “my life is over”? Yet, more often than not those unwanted episodes in your life turned out to be the best thing for you at the time. You just didn’t realize it then.
  • Let time be your friend. I had a terrible tragedy happen to me a little over two years ago. It was worse than bad. It was mind numbing and shockingly devastating. But, I knew that I wasn’t going to feel that way forever. Just knowing that offered some relief. It would have been easy to continue to wallow in self-indulgent pity but there is just no future in that, and I knew it. Time does heal all wounds, if we allow it to happen. Allow time and perspective to work their magic for you.
  • Get moving. I tell this to patients every day. Your legs are connected to your brain. If your legs are moving you forward that means your brain is moving forward. Whenever you exercise there are neurotransmitters that are released like dopamine, endorphins, encephalin, epinephrine and others. These make your brain feel good which will make you feel better. They help relieve anxiety and depression. Exercise works as well as our best medicines for treating mood disorders.
  • Learn acceptance. You may as well. You can choose to deny what is happening or what has happened to you but that will not allow you to live in Real Ville. Acceptance is giving your self permission to move forward. Acceptance will be a biter pill to swallow at times but just like any medicine, it may be bitter at first but then you get better.
  • Set goals and move toward them. I believe this is one huge factor in letting go of tragedy. Setting goals and moving toward them requires forward motion. Early on, this provides the distraction the brain needs in order to move forward. In the fullness of time, attaining goals that were set during tragedy provides the context necessary for closure. This has worked in my own life.
  • Be optimistic, avoid negativity. It easy to talk down when you are down. Talking up will lift you up, even if just a small amount. When things seem to be crashing in on you, be as positive as you can be and reach out to the positive and uplifting people in your life. They will help hold you up even when you don’t feel like standing. You are as you think.
  • Have a strong social network. I don’t know what I would have done were it not for family, friends and colleagues when my life seemed to implode. Having a strong social network makes all the difference in being resilient. Also, as you draw strength from others you will be in a better position to one day return the favor to those you know that are in need.
  • Be kind to yourself. No, you aren’t perfect. No one is so allow your self that. If you’re feeling broken, become whole again by taking care of your four realms- the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual.

These are just some of the many ways to build and strengthen resilience. Add anything else that has worked for you.

Do you feel resilient? How has resilience helped you to weather life’s storms?

Written by

Clark Gaither, MD

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