Whenever I come across a little seedling emerging through a concrete pathway, I say to myself (and sometimes out loud) “Wow, that little fella has a strong will to survive!” Despite harsh conditions, trampling and even weed spraying, they always seem to bounce back. Even when I clean the patio of weeds I have to reconcile pulling them out because they are trying so hard to grow. I’ve been reading a book called The Hidden Life of Trees where the author masterfully describes the life of trees, their seeds and seedlings on the forest floor and all they must do to overcome the adversity of nature just to stay alive—let alone thrive. I found myself thinking about the similarities between the lives of trees and the lives of people. We all face challenges, misfortunes and failures in our lives that we have to overcome in order to continue on. If we don’t find our way through those situations, they can consume us, leave us feeling victimized or overwhelmed or see us fall apart completely—mentally and physically.
So what allows us bounce back after being knocked down? Well, it’s this thing called resilience. And while resilience won’t make the challenges disappear, it does give you the ability to harness your inner strength, see past the challenges and roll with life’s punches. Research shows that resiliency comes naturally to some but it’s possible for the rest of us to cultivate it. And by building resilience, we can come back even stronger than before.
So how can you become more resilient?
Think differently. One key is shifting how you think about adversity. For many, adversity is something to avoid at all costs—there’s a fear that the pain that comes with it will break you down. I’d venture to say we’ve all experienced adversity at some stage in our lives. And guess what? If you’re reading this, you came through it. There is a great deal of truth to the old adage “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. If you actually let it. Your experiences, whether positive or negative, are the very things that shape your character. Sometimes all it takes is viewing things from a different perspective—strive to find the lesson as well as the advantage in the situation.
Break it down. Is the challenge or situation in front of you as mammoth as it appears? Is what you believe about the event/challenge actually true (ie, is it really the worse possible scenario?) Does it require an immediate action or response or is there time to slow down, think logically and act more deliberately? Sometimes picking up a pen and putting it in writing is enough to stop the whirlwind of thoughts and feelings from getting out of control and allows you ask the question “what response is appropriate?”
Practice Positivity. Can you find a silver lining or an opportunity to foster positivity in the experience? Research has shown that resilient people focus on the positive aspects of situations rather than the negative. Practicing daily gratitude is an excellent way to bring more positivity in to your daily life and keep negativity at bay.
Get to Know Yourself. Spend time getting to know your strengths, your weaknesses, your achievements and how your currently respond to situations. Do you have good self-esteem? Are you confident? Are you reactionary? Are there things you could work on that would enable you to better manage stress? Keeping a journal is one way to help identify these attributes and set goals around improvements.
Practice Self Care. Are you finding time to care for yourself? Are you exercising? Meditating? Eating healthily? Sleeping well and relaxing? Caring for yourself is an important part of stress management and building resiliency. Exercising allows you to burn off negative energy and releases powerful endorphins to improve your mood. Meditation and mindfulness can help you create the space to think more clearly about a challenge; while fueling your body with healthy, nutritious foods can support your entire system in times of stress. Practicing deep, relaxation breathing and getting a good night’s sleep supports your body’s repair and restoration processes.
Ask For Help. If you’re struggling to deal with adversity and can’t find your way, don’t suffer through. Resiliency isn’t about being a martyr…in fact, asking for help when you need it is a crucial part of building resiliency. Ask for the support you need from a support group, loved one, a friend or a professional.
And remember, building resiliency takes time and effort…but the balance and strength you achieve makes it a worthy investment.