There are people in your life who survive hardship after hardship and come up smiling every time. You probably also know some people who seem unable to move on from difficult times.
A family who are dear to my heart have endured more than any other family I know: violent crimes, accidents, untimely deaths of children and adults. As they face yet another loss of a loved one, I wonder how they cope. But cope they do. It doesn’t mean that they don’t feel the pain. They do. Yet they also have emotional space for other feelings like gratefulness, hope and appreciation.
Another family I knew, years back, lost their son on the border. They were unable to recover and eventually the remaining family disintegrated.
Some have it; some don’t
How does one person have resilience (the ability to recover or adjust to misfortune or change) and another does not?
You’re probably going to hate this answer. You may even think it’s superficial. You may think its over-simplified.
The answer is: it’s the way they look at life.
If something is hurting them they still have the ability to be grateful for something else. They do not cover up their pain – they acknowledge it. They allow positive feelings to exist beside negative ones. They avoid generalizing. They may be in pain, yet they have the ability to feel empathy for others. They look for opportunities and believe a solution exists to problems. This outlook enables them to see the dreadful aspects of life and also to see the wonderful aspects.
Resilience is built up by creating effective (rather than destructive) thought-patterns.
If you want to boost your resilience (and who doesn’t?) here are steps:
3 steps to building resilience
1) Boost your self-image
Resilient people value themselves. Focus on your self-talk – the conversations you continually have with yourself.
Is it constructive or destructive?
Does it serve you well or does it break you down?
Take charge. Change your self-talk so that it encourages and supports you.
When you have a strong self-esteem you will find it easier to cope with the downs of life.
2) Stop with blanket statements and emotions
Generalizing is destructive. A general thought leads to general emotion. If a man hurts you and you now believe all men are bad then whenever you’re in the company a man you will feel negative emotions like distrust and hatred. These may be totally inappropriate.
If you have a negative experience, and you decide that the universe cannot be trusted, you will experience negative emotions even in the face of joyous or happy experiences.
Have a look at your emotions. If you feel negative emotions almost continuously (blanket emotions) it may be because you are holding onto a general or blanket belief. You can recognise these beliefs by words like all, never, everyone, always. As in “All men are cheaters”; “The world is unsafe”; “You never say nice things about me”; “My boss always yells”.
Start looking at the words you’re using. Change blanket statement into more truthful statements like “Some men are cheaters” instead of “All men are cheaters”. You will experience lighter, more positive emotions.
A bad experience is one experience – don’t make the experience about every aspect of life.
3) Take care of your physical self
Your physical body is the engine of your life. This is also where you experience your feelings. Just like a car won’t go if you don’t give it petrol and maintain the engine, your life will be more difficult than necessary if you do not take care of your physical body.
If you are totally exhausted, you do not respond to difficult situations in the best way. If you are highly stressed, your emotions will be less stable and you will find it difficult to bounce back from challenges life’s sends you.
Resilience requires a healthy body and mind. It is your responsibility to keep that body and mind healthy. Look after your physical needs. Boost your self-esteem with positive ad constructive self-talk. Remove blanket statements and emotions from your life.
Resilience building is up to you. Give yourself your best chance at dealing with life – good and bad. Take the steps!