Five Strategies to Build Resilience
People often try to cope with difficult situations by making an effort to be strong – or even pretending that it’s not happening. The problem with this approach is that it fails to deal with the feelings that the situation brings up. Instead of pushing yourself or putting a “brave face on it”, build resilience so that you can cope with the inevitable challenges that life throws at us. Start practising these healthier ways of handling adversity and discovering happiness through resilience.
1. Tell a different story
Have you ever gone over and over something that’s happened in your head? Perhaps you wonder how you could have behaved differently. But this is just reliving a painful experience and does nothing to help us move on. Instead, you need to find ways of resetting your thoughts. One way to do this is called Expressive Writing. This involves writing down anything that comes into your head, on whatever is bothering you. This will allow you to examine your thoughts and confront them. It doesn’t have to be great writing; the aim is not to produce a quality piece of work, but rather to get your thoughts and feelings out. Then you can try another exercise called Finding Silver Linings. Although it may not seem as though there are any benefits to a bad experience, it may have showed you who your real friends are, or taught you that you are stronger than you thought you were. These exercises will help you feel less pessimistic; you can maintain the benefits by continuing to practice them and build resilience.
2. Confront your fears
Adopting the practice of rewriting the narrative is useful when dealing with past problems, but doesn’t help when dealing with present fears. How can we handle things that have yet to happen? You can start by slowly building up your tolerance, and gradually pushing yourself a little further every time. For example, if you’re nervous about taking a long-distance flight but would one day like to visit Australia, begin with a short flight and gradually extend your travels. As you become more comfortable with spending longer in the air, you will work your way up to a long-haul flight. This works by slowly desensitizing you with gradual and increased exposure to a situation you’re afraid of or uncomfortable with.
3. Be kind to yourself
We’re often much harder on ourselves than we would be on other people, and think that we’re alone in our fears. But being kind to yourself will be very beneficial to your well-being. So practice self-compassion, and be as kind to yourself as you would to others. This involves a three-step process. Start by being mindful of your feelings, but don’t judge them. Simply acknowledge them. Then remind yourself that everyone feels this way at some point. Finish by giving yourself permission to have these feelings and accept yourself as you are. If you find this difficult, ask yourself how you would treat a friend with the same feelings. You can also try writing a letter to yourself; make sure that it contains only words of compassion and acceptance.
Meditation and mindfulness are a great tool to build resilience. They help bring us back to the present, rather than living in the past or worrying about the future. These techniques also help us deal with negative feelings. You can try programs like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which are designed to show you how to use meditation to improve your mental and physical well-being. There are also techniques like the Body Scan, which can be used to identify where you hold stress and teach you how to relax those areas. Or you can develop a more mindful relationship with food, rather than turning to junk food when you’re stressed. Another important technique is mindful breathing, which involves focusing on your breathing and will help you experience fewer negative thoughts.
5. Forgive people
Forgiveness may be difficult, but holding on to grudges is not the route to happiness. How can your well-being develop properly if you’re living in the past? Begin by acknowledging what happened, but then decide to give up your feelings of resentment so that you can move on. Forgiveness is for your own sake, not that of others; you will benefit from understanding other people more or finding ways in which you can learn from the experience. Remember that everyone is human, and the person who wronged you may be suffering as well. Viewing these negative experiences in a different light can help you to develop your resilience and teach you how to cope with difficult situations in the future – something that will inevitably occur at various points throughout your life.
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