Have you ever wondered why some people are seemingly able to cope with whatever life throws at them, no matter how tough, yet there are others who crumble at the slightest sign of adversity? Or perhaps there was a time in your life when things were really tough and you just felt hopeless and could not cope, yet there were other times that were equally tough where you were able to handle it all. Have you ever wondered why this is the case?
The answer is resilience.
This is Part 1 of a series of blog posts looking at resilience. In this post, we will be covering what resilience actually is, what it means to be resilient, and why it is so important. In future posts, we will be looking at simple tools and tips on how to build your resilience so that you can overcome any challenges that life throws you.
So what is resilience?
Resilience is the “inner strength” or ability that enables us to maintain or regain our mental health, in the face of adversity. It is the ability to “bounce back” with the challenges life throws at us from time to time.
Research have shown that resilience is context and time specific, and is not consistent across all life domains. This simply means that your ability to bounce back can fluctuate over different points in your life and may even vary depending on what adversity you are facing.
💡 Resilience is like a rubber band
This is an oversimplified analogy, but you can think of your resilience like a rubber band. Everyone’s rubber band is different in length, thickness or elasticity. Usually, the rubber band is able to snap back to its original size and shape after the tension is released. However, stretch it too far or for too long, and it snaps.
The same can be said about resilience. Any stressor in life stretches you, whether it is work stress, relationship issues, disappointment or set back. At any given moment, you may have multiple stressors going on and usually, you are able to cope and “snap back” or bounce back. However if too many pile up, or a massive single stressor occurs, you may experience delayed recovery and potentially mental health problems.
Why is resilience so important
Resilience is important as it can help you in many direct and indirect ways.
These are just a few:
- It can help you overcome stress and adversity
- It can help you achieve your goals
- It can allow you to juggle more things at once and think more clearly
- It can help you in your relationships to be a better parent, friend, or boss
- Reduces your risk of developing mental health problems (like anxiety and depression)
- Reduces your risk of physical illness
You can build and strengthen your resilience
We all know someone who has endured and overcome the worst of hardships. You may have thought that they are just mentally stronger and there is no way you could go through something similar. Everyone has varying levels of resilience that they are born with, but that does not mean you cannot develop it.
💡 Resilience is like a muscle that can be trained and made stronger.
Just like how we can train our brain to react faster, think more critically, or improve your memory, we can also train ourselves to be more resilient. Resilience is like a muscle that can be trained to withstand heavier loads, repeatedly or over longer periods of time. However, just like building muscle, building resilience requires time, consistency and intentionality.
A simple exercise to build your resilience today
One simple way to build your resilience is to draw on past experiences. It may be helpful to write this down and refer back to it again.
Think about the last time you faced something particularly difficult.
Try to imagine exactly how you felt.
Now answer the following questions:
- What happened and what was so difficult about the situation?
- What negative feelings or thoughts did you experience?
- What made you feel hopeful?
- How did you overcome the obstacle?
- What particular strengths or skills of yours helped you deal with the situation?
- Did you draw on any social support to help? Who were they?
- If you could go back in time to give yourself a pep talk during that time, what would you say?
Resilience is an important skill that we can all develop and strengthen. You never know when you might need to draw on that extra bit of strength so we must be prepared by building our resilience consistently and intentionally.
We covered one simple way to build your resilience today. This is only the first part of a series of blog posts on resilience. Check back for future articles on the many different ways to build your resilience and changing the negative ways of thinking during times of hardship.