We’ve all encountered challenges that left us feeling deflated: the event you spent hours organising wasn’t as popular as you’d hoped; you set up a fundraising raffle, but a group of parents complained loudly when they had problems buying tickets; someone sent you a list of complicated suggestions and posted comments on social media because you didn’t use their ideas.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from the difficulties we all face. The good news is that psychologists have identified methods and strategies that enable us to navigate through crisis and overcome misfortune.
Look for the silver lining
Mentally strong people have the ability to see the positives in tough circumstances. Rather than seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses, they recognise that it’s possible for good things to come from hardship. This doesn’t erase the hardship, but it can make it easier to cope with.
The next time you face a challenge, ask yourself the following questions: ‘What can I learn from this? What is this an opportunity for? How can this positively affect me?’
Focus on your strengths
Think of a time when you did something you were really proud of. Now think about the strengths, skills and talents you used to make this happen. These are your signature strengths. Know that you carry these with you wherever you go.
You can deploy these strengths whenever you’re faced with a challenge, such as moving home, starting a new relationship or changing career. Embracing your strengths will give you confidence in your ability to handle any challenge that comes your way.
‘If you learn from defeat‚ you haven’t really lost’ Zig Ziglar
Choose your response
We all experience bad days and crises in our lives, but how we respond to these situations is up to us. When something ‘bad’ happens, we can choose to react negatively, or we can opt to remain calm and look for a solution. Often, our reactions are habits we’ve fallen into. It’s important to realise that you always have a choice. When faced with a setback, pause for a moment and consciously decide how you would like to respond.
This too shall pass
When you’re going through a tough time, it can feel as if things will never change. Whatever the situation, remind yourself that ‘this too shall pass’. What is stressful now will be just a memory within a few weeks, months or years. Nothing lasts forever. Everything changes with time, especially the way you see things.
‘You can’t turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again’ Bonnie Prudden
What’s your explanation?
The way you explain life’s setbacks to yourself is important. Psychologists say that an optimistic (and therefore more resilient) ‘explanatory style’ is composed of three main elements. Firstly, optimistic people view the effects of bad events as being temporary rather than permanent. Secondly, resilient people don’t let setbacks affect unrelated areas of their life.
Finally, resilient people don’t blame themselves when bad events occur. They see other people or circumstances as being the cause. People with an optimistic explanatory style tend to be happier, healthier and more successful at work, at school and in sport. Those with a pessimistic explanatory style are more prone to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
Let it out
Honour your feelings and recognise that difficult emotions such as anger, depression and loneliness are a natural part of the human experience. Let your emotions out by having a good cry if you need to. Crying can help you to regain your emotional balance as it releases toxins that have built up in the body due to stress. You should find that you feel calmer and less anxious afterwards. Another good way to express your feelings is through a creative outlet such as painting, blogging or playing a musical instrument.
Creative activities can reduce stress and help you to process your experiences and feelings. The options for self-expression are endless. Whether you write poems, take photographs or draw sketches, creative pursuits offer you the space to deal with a range of emotions in a healthy and constructive way.
‘When you have exhausted all possibilities‚ remember this: you haven’t’ Thomas Edison
When faced with a setback, it’s all too easy to be hard on ourselves – but that won’t help a bit. If you have one cigarette after quitting, or fail to stick to a new study regime, beating yourself up is likely to start a downward spiral that can be hard to escape. Instead, practise self-compassion. You actually made an effort, which is more than some people ever achieve. Treat yourself with kindness, climb back in the saddle, and keep going.
Lessons in failure
No one is immune to failure. We all experience disappointments, frustrations and bruised egos from time to time. However, resilient people don’t let failure stop them. They find the lessons hidden within these difficult moments and use these to help them overcome their next challenge.
If you’ve made a mistake or something’s gone disastrously wrong, take a little bit of time to reflect. Ask yourself some constructive questions. What did I do right? What could I have done better? What’s the lesson here? Successful souls manage to pick themselves up and persevere, armed with greater knowledge and wisdom.
Struggles lead to strength
The strongest tree in the forest is not the one that is protected from the wind and rain. The strongest trees are the ones that are exposed to the elements. They develop deep roots and stout trunks in order to survive.
In the same way, the struggles we face and overcome in our own lives make us stronger. Reminding yourself of this fact can help you weather the storms of life.
- From Resilience: How to Turn Adversity into Strength by Josh Floyd (Summersdale Publishers, £6.99) summersdale.com