You may have heard that people working through trauma benefit from resilience, but the term resilience itself is not always readily explained.
Read on to learn more about what resilience actually is, why it’s important, and how you can take steps to build resilience.
What is resilience?
Simply put, resilience is the inner fortitude and flexibility that helps you confront challenges, move past setbacks, and heal from painful experiences. Characteristics such as a hopeful outlook on life, well-practiced positive coping strategies, and successful experiences with overcoming adversity in the past can all contribute to resilience.
A common misconception is that people who are resilient simply don’t encounter setbacks in life. In reality, people who don’t experience at least a little adversity are likely to be LESS resilient than average. Resilient people face difficult experiences, cope with them, and grow from them, improving their ability to cope in the future.
Why is resilience important?
Having resilience is necessary in order to get through life’s challenges in a healthy manner. People with less resilience are more likely to turn to negative coping mechanisms to deal with emotional stress, such as misusing alcohol or drugs to numb painful feelings. They are also more likely to struggle with mental health symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, when confronted with adversity.
How can I build resilience?
Here are three key steps you can take to become more resilient:
1. Improve your emotional regulation skills
Getting better at managing intense feelings will help you avoid having your emotions take an outsized role in responding to a crisis.
For example, if you learn that your landlord has suddenly made a drastic raise in your rent, which means you’ll have to move unexpectedly on short notice, regulating your emotions healthily can help you keep from having an angry outburst that tempts your landlord to retaliate, or start feeling so upset and sorry for yourself that you don’t take necessary steps to move.
2. Focus on what you can control
Many, many things in life are outside of our control — that’s a simple fact — but over-fixating on that reality can bring about feelings of helplessness that are counterproductive, hindering you from finding areas where you CAN take action.
I often encourage clients to focus on what they can control when going through a divorce or exiting a long-term partnership, particularly if the end of the relationship was not their decision. While being newly single might be an unexpected or even unwanted chapter, there’s an opportunity to steer yourself in a direction that you want to land.
Where would you like to live moving forward? What kind of ongoing connection do you want to cultivate (or avoid cultivating) with your ex? Are there areas of your life that you’ve neglected in favor of the relationship that you want to re-invigorate or explore deeper?
3. Choose to see the best in yourself
In today’s age of self-improvement, many of us are very used to examining our flaws and working on ourselves. However, it’s important to also see the things in us that are already good — to cheer ourselves on when we try to do something hard and to celebrate ourselves when we go through a tough time and emerge in one piece on the other side.
Choosing to see the best in yourself builds self-compassion, self-esteem, and a sense of competency - all of which factor into resilience.
Ask for help
A final word on resilience — remember that no matter how resilient you may be, no one can do it all alone. We all have times when it’s hard to be hopeful or when those self-care strategies don’t seem to work as well as they used to or when the adversity we’re tackling feels so overwhelming that we feel stuck or tempted to give up.
Relying on loved ones, a mentor, or a mental health professional during these periods is crucial — the care and support extended by people you trust can really help get you back in fighting shape.
If you’re going through an especially tough period in your life or if you’re simply looking to do some work to boost your resiliency, therapy can be an invaluable resource. Click the button below to set up a free phone consultation — I’d love to tell you more about my therapy practice and how we might get started with working together.