Just how resilient are you?
I’ve written quite a bit about resilience in the past, as it’s one of my favorite subjects. And I’m pretty sure you have an idea of what resilience is after enduring a couple of years of the pandemic, political and social upheaval, economic and financial uncertainty and now war. Still, we may not be sure about the characteristics of resilience. There are a few definitions of resilience, but they all boil down to this. “Resilience is defined as the ability to withstand and/or recover from difficult situations.” While this is a great textbook definition of resilience, I love the way former SEAL Mark Devine explains it in his latest book “Staring Down The Wolf.” Devine says: “Resiliency is the ability to become a better person because of the obstacles we face in life, not in spite of them.” You could also call it being able to bounce back no matter how difficult the situation. And when you bounce back, it won’t be precisely the same situation. It will be to what is often called the “new norm,” which we’ll be facing once the pandemic is finally behind us.
The new norm
No one escapes pain, fear and suffering. The trick is to use these wisely. Pain can lead to wisdom; fear can lead to courage; and suffering can lead to strength. No one escapes change, but change leads to growth. So, it’s not just about how you handle a crisis. It’s about how you handle the new norm, too. It’s also about handling adversity, especially in our everyday lives, and having a good attitude when facing difficult challenges. “Each of us has to figure out what our particular challenges are and then determine how to get through them, at the current moment in time,” advised George Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology and director of Columbia University Teachers College’s Loss, Trauma and Emotion Lab. And according to Professor Bonanno, most of us will succeed. So, how do you restore equilibrium when your life has been upheaved?
Getting back on track
By now, we know that the world isn’t made of cotton candy, rainbows, unicorns, rubber bumpers and butterflies. On the contrary, we never really know what life will throw at us next. You can plan as best you can, but in the end, you’ve got to accept whatever difficulties you face and keep going, knowing well that it can be difficult. Many will ask themselves what attributes they need. Positive self-talk, flexibility and optimism are the first attributes that come to mind. Mindset, however, is the most important. When you talk to yourself positively, you eliminate negative thoughts that can activate the fear center in your brain. Our thoughts don’t control us. They’re just thoughts. The only power they have is what we give them! Being flexible and reframing your situation generally leads to being happy and helps create a healthy life balance. Being optimistic also enables you to cope well. It’s what special operations personnel call a “fire in the gut, make it happen” or “get it done” attitude.
Inherited or developed?
Some researchers believe that resilience might be inherited. Others tend to favor the influence of childhood events, such as trauma, frequent moving of residences, environment and situational context, all of which can help you develop resilience. Maintain a positive, realistic outlook and don’t dwell on negative information. Accept what you can’t change and focus energy on what you can change. Reevaluate complex challenges and look for meaningful opportunities within them. Develop a good sense of what you consider right and wrong. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Very few resilient people go it alone. No matter how you slice it, developing resilience isn’t easy. It takes time and intentionality. The road to resilience will undoubtedly involve considerable emotional distress. But traumatic experiences don’t have to determine the outcome of your life. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from difficult experiences, it can also bring about profound personal growth.
When life throws you a curveball
OK, you get gob-smacked out of the blue. And you will one day, believe me. The first step is to take responsibility for who you are and your life. You are not responsible for everything that happens to you. But you are responsible for how you deal with what happens to you. This is key! So, roll up your sleeves and get started. Launch your self-discovery by asking yourself, “What can I do about a problem in my life?” Prioritize genuinely connecting with empathetic people who care about you. People who you trust and who can validate your feelings. Focus on taking care of yourself, healthy thinking, wellness and learning from your experiences. Exercise, eat nutritional food and get ample sleep. Give your body everything it needs to manage stress instead of wasting precious energy on trying to eliminate the feeling of stress altogether. Change is a part of life, and we’re all going to experience it at some point. You can’t avoid it.
When you accept circumstances that can’t be changed, you’ll be able to focus on things you can change. Learn from your good and bad life experiences and use them as a positive springboard into your future. Your life experiences can either hold you back as baggage or help you along. It’s up to you. When you experience a life-changing event, there comes a time when you realize that things will never be the same again. You’ll feel it’s unfair and become stuck in the grievance of the moment. That’s when you need to process your anger and loss. Many recommend practicing gratitude but it’s not a panacea for agony and pain. Positivity is good, but you still need to acknowledge your pain, reframe your grievance and work to find beauty in the small things. Acknowledge that this is unfair, but don’t dwell on it. Choose hope and possibility and the beauty of the small things and simple joys you can still enjoy. You’re more adaptable and resilient than you think you are.