I am a pretty easy going person. I don’t get worked up about many things and I make decisions fairly quickly. I don’t labor over “what if this happens or what if that happens.” That doesn’t mean I don’t think things through or that I make rash decisions, it means that I can “roll with the punches” and adapt if something doesn’t go as planned. I know that one way or another I will get it worked out. Whatever “it” is.
I am emotionally resilient. That simply means I bounce back after a crisis or a stressful situation fairly quickly armed with new knowledge to stow away in my emotional toolbox.
Less resilient people have a difficult time coping with life changes and hardship. They rarely
find the silver lining and tend to see the worst possible outcome of every situation. Most of us know the person we would not go to in the event of a crisis.
Can You Learn to be Emotionally Resilient?
To some extent, physical, mental and emotional resilience is something we are born with. Because, biological factors as well as social factors, contribute to our personality, some of us may be born a bit more “naturally resilient” than others. However, there are a number of factors that contribute to being resilient and several strategies for learning to build resiliency. Studies show that one of the primary factors in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships in the family as well as outside in the world. Some of the factors that are important to boosting our resilience include:
- Ability to maintain supportive trusting relationships
- Ability to make realistic plans and then carry them out.
- Have good communication and problem-solving skills.
- Maintain a positive self-view and be confident in your abilities and strengths.
- Ability to manage strong impulses and feelings.
All of these factors can be learned and developed. It is possible to learn a new, healthier way of coping with the difficult things that come our way.
People who are emotionally resilient share some common characteristics. According to Al Siebert, PhD.,
“highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will.” He discusses these characteristics in his best-selling book The Resiliency Advantage. He also notes that resilient people are skilled at seeing things from someone else’s point of view. More characteristics of emotionally resilient people include:
- Emotional Awareness: They can identify both how they feel and why they feel that way.
- Perseverance: They don’t give up. They have the attitude “fake it till you make it” or “the only way to get through it is to go through it.” Even if they are not succeeding or doing things exactly right, they continue on.
- Internal Sense of Control: They are in control of themselves and believe they have a choice in most situations.
- Optimism: Resilient people have a tendency to see the positive in most situations and believe they can handle whatever may come their way.
- Support: They surround themselves with supportive people.
- Perspective: They don’t deny their mistakes, they learn from them and tend to find meaning in difficult situations instead of perceiving themselves as a victim.
- Sense of humor: Resilient people can laugh at themselves as well as the difficulties that present themselves in life.
Building emotional resilience is a personal journey. We can all get there, but how we do it may differ. Regardless of which road we choose to take, our past experiences can be an important source of information for learning to be resilient. When were we strong during some type of difficulty? How did we react to a life changing or otherwise very stressful time? What can we learn about ourselves and our coping skills from our experience? Who did we reach out to for support?
Learning to be Resilient
If you weren’t born naturally resilient all is not lost. There are several things you can do to help yourself become a more resilient person. It won’t be a piece of cake, and it will take practice and perseverance, but the result is a much happier and more confident self who can not only withstand life’s difficulties but come out better on the other side of them. The following strategies have been adopted from a combination of studies that have been conducted on resiliency.
Accept change: Change is part of living life. Some goals you may have wanted to achieve may no longer be attainable due to some unforeseen circumstances. Accept what you cannot change and focus on what you can.
Move toward your goals: Do something on a consistent basis that will help you move in the right direction. Ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do today that will get me closer to my goal?” It doesn’t matter how small the task is, as long as you’re going the right way.
Connect with people: Honest and positive relationships with family and friends are important. The ability to accept help and support from people who care about you strengthens resilience. These type of relationships may also be found in church, support groups, or any other group you are an active member in. Being able to receive kindness is just as important as offering it. Gratitude is an important part of being resilient.
Crisis are not unsolvable problems: Stressful events are going to happen in life, there is no getting around it. How you react to and interpret those events will determine how you will be able to handle the situation. Look ahead to how things may be better in the future.
Don’t wish away problems: Instead of waiting for a problem to disappear, act on the situation as much as possible.
Learn from experience: Many times you can change and grow from a bad experience or a terrible tragedy. You develop a greater sense of strength, an increase in your self-worth and confidence, and often more appreciation for life.
Develop confidence: Learn to trust yourself and your ability to solve problems and recover from negative life events.
Care for yourself: Your feelings and needs are important and you should pay attention to them. Find ways to relax and engage in activities you enjoy on a consistent basis. Exercise and eat right. A strong body and mind will help you deal with situations that require you to be resilient.
Try to find some silver lining in adverse situations. There is always another perspective, another angle or point of view. Sometimes it’s as simple as thinking, “Well, it could be worse.” Or “At least this didn’t happen.”
You have to be aware of your thoughts when an adverse event arises. The way you think directly impacts your emotions. So to feel differently, you have to think differently. Words such as never and always when talking about a situation are usually self-destructive. When you find yourself thinking, “I am never going to get that promotion.” Instead, change it to “it seems like I am never going t
o get that promotion.” Now you haven’t closed the door on the possibility and you have a reason to continue striving towards your goal. That is just one small example of the many ways you can alter your view of a situation and build your resilience.
Take every opportunity to learn what you can from each experience. It will better prepare you for whatever is on the other side of the mountain.