Menanteau Serfontein – 25 March 2022
Resilience is what gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress and hardship. It is the mental reservoir of strength that people are able to call on in times of need to carry them through, without falling apart. Psychologists believe that resilient individuals are better able to handle adversity and rebuild their lives after a struggle.
Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not getting into a class you wanted to take, or being turned down for a promotion at work), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (hurricanes, war, terrorist attacks).
How we deal with these problems can play a significant role, not only in the outcome, but also the long-term psychological consequences. The good news is that there are things you can do to become more resilient.
What Is Resilience?
People who remain calm in the face of disaster have what psychologists call resilience. Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope with and recover from problems and challenges. These problems may include, but are not limited to:
- Job loss
- Financial problems
- Natural disasters
- Medical emergencies
- Death of a loved one
Instead of falling into despair or hiding from problems with unhealthy coping strategies, resilient people face life’s difficulties head-on.
This does not mean that they experience less distress, grief, or anxiety than other people do. It means that they use healthy coping skills to handle such difficulties in ways that foster strength and growth. In many cases, they may emerge even stronger than they were before.
Those who lack this resilience may instead become overwhelmed by such experiences. They may dwell on problems and use unhelpful coping mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges.
Disappointment or failure might drive them to unhealthy, destructive, or even dangerous behaviours. These individuals are slower to recover from setbacks and may experience more psychological distress as a result.
What Resilience Provides
Resilience does not eliminate stress or erase life’s difficulties. People who possess this quality don’t see life through rose-tinted lenses; they understand that setbacks happen and that sometimes, life is hard and painful. They still experience the negative emotions that come after a tragedy, but their mental outlook allows them to work through these emotions and recover.
Resilience gives people the strength to tackle problems head-on, overcome adversity, and move on with their lives.
Even in the face of events that seem utterly unimaginable, resilience allows people to marshal the strength to not just survive, but to prosper.
Who Is Resilient, and Why?
Some people acquire these abilities naturally, with personality traits that help them remain unflappable in the face of challenge. However, these behaviours are not just inborn traits found in a select few. Resilience is the result of a complex series of internal and external characteristics, including your genetics, physical fitness, mental health, and environment.
Social support is another critical variable that contributes to resilience. Mentally strong people tend to have the support of family and friends who help to bolster them in times of trouble.
Resilient people may also show characteristics like:
- Holding positive views of themselves and their abilities
- Possessing the capacity to make realistic plans and stick to them
- Having an internal locus of control, coupled with a willingness to take personal responsibility
- Being a good communicator
- Viewing themselves as fighters rather than victims
- Having high emotional intelligence (EQ) and managing emotions effectively
How to Build Resilience
Fortunately, resilience is something that you can build both in yourself and in your children. There are distinct steps that you can take to become more resilient:
- Reframe Your Thoughts
Resilient people are able to look at negative situations realistically, but in a way that doesn’t centre on blame or brooding over what cannot be changed. Instead of viewing adversity as insurmountable, reframe your thoughts to look for small ways in which you can tackle the problem and make helpful changes where possible.
Focusing on the positive things that you can do can help get you out of a negative mindset.
You can also use this approach to help children learn how to cope better with challenges. Encourage them to think about challenges in more positive, hopeful ways. Instead of getting stuck in a loop of negative emotions, your child can learn to see these events as opportunities to challenge themselves and develop new skills.
- Focus on What You Can Control
When faced with a crisis or problem, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by things that feel far beyond your control. Instead of wishing that there was some way you could go back in time or change things, try focusing only on the things that you can impact directly. Encourage your child to develop this skill by talking about their situation and helping them to plan how they can react.
Even when the situation seems dire, taking realistic steps can bring some improvement. No matter how small these steps may be, they can improve your or your child’s sense of control and resilience.
- Manage Stress
Building healthy stress management habits is an effective way to increase your overall resilience. To learn more about this, read the article entitled “Managing Stress”.
- Seek Support
Talking about the difficulties you are coping with doesn’t make them go away, but sharing with a supportive friend or loved one can make you feel that you have someone in your corner, which could help you to build your resilience. Discussing things with other people can also help you to gain insight or even get new ideas that might help you to improve the way you manage the challenges that you are facing.
To help your child develop a support network, try modelling good social skills, like sharing your feelings, being empathetic, cooperating with and helping others and expressing gratitude—and remember to reinforce your child’s good behaviour.
With some practice, these skills can be learned and mastered by adults and children alike. Eventually, you or your child will feel prepared to face stressful situations and become resilient enough to bounce back quickly. If you need help to learn how to keep your stress levels under control, it is suggested that you consider consulting a councillor or a professional therapist such as a psychologist.
NOTE: Most of the content of this essay has been obtained from an article entitled “What is Resilience?” Authored by Kendra Cherry, Updated on April 24, 2021 and Medically Reviewed by David Susman, Phd https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-resilience-2795059
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