6 Simple Ways to Become More Resilient
Article by Margie Warrell
Few of us get through kindergarten without being knocked down a few times. Looking back, you can probably laugh at some of your playground scrapes. There’s something about the passage of time that enables us to view past challenges through a bigger lens.
It’s why one of the few things that actually improves with age is our resilience. That is, our ability to bounce back from setbacks without getting totally bent out of shape along the way. But of course you don’t have to wait until you’re old and wise to reframe your challenges in ways that help you work through them faster and stronger.
Related: 8 Daily Habits to Build Resiliency
Researchers have found that resilience isn’t some either-or trait which the fortunate few are genetically endowed. Resilience sits on a continuum and we move along it anytime we are willing to examine how we are looking at life. Our brain’s innate neuroplasticity enables all of us to build our own unique “Psychological Teflon,” so however you’ve coped with life’s inevitable stressors and setbacks in the past, you are never too old, too weak or too wimpy to strengthen your ability to handle future ones better.
And let’s face it: They will come.
Here are six key ways that I hope will help:
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1. Elevate Your Perspective
“Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.” I recall my mother saying this to me when I’d break out into complete hysteria as a girl—about what, I have no idea now. Most of us can recall times when we blew a relatively insignificant problem into a major catastrophe. But what we aren’t so good at is seeing the problems we’re dealing with now from a higher vantage point.
By elevating your perspective, you can see your problems for what they are—just part of life and not the end of the world. In fact, raise your perspective higher again and you’ll see they hold wonderful opportunities to learn and grow, and maybe even ways you can turn a perceived loss into a big win. To quote Albert Einstein: “Our problems cannot be solved on the same level of thinking at which they were created.” There is a distinct difference between having big problems and making small problems big.
2. Watch Your Language
Your words create your reality—be careful not to talk up your problems using dramatic or catastrophic language. Describe your circumstances as a nightmare or a sheer disaster and you’re setting yourself up to experience just that. Describe it as interesting, a unique challenge or, better still, an exciting opportunity for growth, and it will shift the emotions you bring to approaching it.
Often people use dramatic language for the payoff they get from it: a sense of importance, sympathy, or admiration. Other times it can fuel a sense of victimhood or powerlessness that abdicates them of responsibility to improve it. So be careful that whatever words you use to describe your situation place you firmly in a position of power, capable of working through whatever is ahead of you. Because no matter how much lies outside your control, there are always things that lie within it. Choosing not to complain, blame or sensationalize are among them.
3. Nurture Resilience Rituals
When life is pressing in on you, investing time to bring your best self to your biggest challenges is absolutely imperative. It’s your small daily rituals that set you up to handle everything else better. Spend at least 30 minutes a day on activities that nurture your body, mind and spirit. If you think you’ve got too much on your plate for that, make it an hour.
Exercise, meditate, garden, journal, play music, do yoga, read uplifting material, commune with nature. Taking time out from your busyness to do things that not only refill your tank but enlarge it will pay off a hundredfold.
4. Don't Let Adversity Define You
J.K. Rowling had her manuscript rejected countless times before Harry Potter stepped onto center stage in the imaginations of millions of children (young and old). Anna Wintour, former editor in chief of Vogue, was sacked from her first job as a junior fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar for being too edgy. She later told fashion students, “I recommend that you all get fired.” It wasn’t because she enjoyed losing a prized job in a competitive industry, but because she took what she learned from it to forge one of the most successful careers in the fashion industry.
No one likes to be sacked, rejected, have their heart broken or their pride dented. Although our setbacks and struggles can shape us, they don’t have to define us. When life deals you a particularly tough blow, don’t let your setback be your identity. Rather use it to propel you forward that bit better, braver and bigger than you ever would have been otherwise.
Related: How to Reframe Your Failures
5. Enlist Support
When faced with a personal crisis, many people tend to withdraw from those around them rather than reach out for support. If that’s how you’re feeling, lean into your vulnerability and reach out anyway because there is real truth in the saying that “a burden shared is a burden halved.”
It can take courage to share our struggle, reveal our shame, admit our failings or confide how out of our depth we might feel. Yet it’s not a sign of weakness to open ourselves up to others or to ask for help. It’s the opposite: a sign that we are brave and that we want to be stronger. As I write in my book Make Your Mark: A Guidebook for the Brave Hearted, “We can be braver together than we can ever alone.”
6. Choose Optimism
Bad things happen to good people. People won’t always act with integrity, and those we count on will sometimes let us down. This isn’t negative thinking; it’s reality. But that doesn’t negate the case for optimism. Far from it. In Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman writes, “Optimists endure the same storms in life as pessimists. But they weather them better and emerge from them better off.”
No matter how bad things are, they don’t stay bad forever. Harvard University psychology professor Daniel Gilbert found that people are not good at forecasting their feelings when they’re in the midst of personal adversity. They mistakenly assume that they’ll feel similarly in the future. Our negative forecasting bias drives us to underestimate our ability to recover: “It’s not that things don’t hurt. It’s that they don’t hurt quite as long or as much as we think they will,” Gilbert says.
However hard it might be to see any light at the end of the tunnel, don’t give up hope that you never will. As I write in Brave, “Hope is a risk that must be run” and is the cornerstone of optimism.
Related: 10 Ways to Build Mental Strength
Of course there is no simple six-step recipe to cope with life’s twists and turns, particularly those which turn your world on its head. But however big your problems might seem right now, or how poorly you’ve handled them in the past, keep faith that you possess the resources within you to handle them one day, sometimes one moment, at a time.
However big your problems might seem right now, keep faith that you possess the resources within you to handle them.
I’ve had my fair share of scrapes and struggles, hardships and heartaches. What they’ve taught me is that the human spirit is bigger than anything it faces. We just have to be keep faith that, to quote Napoleon Hill, “within every adversity lies the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
Today's recommended meditation: