When we think of resilience we tend to think of people like Nelson Mandela or Turia Pitt (above) who have survived incredible challenges. While it's true that some people are simply born or raised with a large amount of resilience, it's also true that resilience is a skill that can be cultivated in all of us.
What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficult situations and challenges. We can't always prevent ourselves from facing challenging and even traumatic scenarios, it's how we manage afterwards that matters. Resilience is the mental toughness that allows us to handle stress and adversity in a healthy way, without getting consumed by emotions.
So what makes someone resilient? When researchers explored the traits of individuals who have demonstrated extreme resilience, some showed a high association, such as:
Cognitive factors: Strong executive function and planning skills, optimism and a positive mindset
Emotional regulation skills: able to recover quickly from stress
Social factors: Strong social skills and a diverse social network, resilient role models
Physical health factors: Healthy sleep habits, physically fit, good nutrition
While this list might look intimidating, there are a number of ways we can improve these traits in ourselves with small changes to our everyday lives.
Practice mindfulness. Being present in the moment and aware but non-judgmental of our thoughts and emotions can help us better handle difficult situations and is proven to strengthen our brain's pre-frontal cortex, which controls executive function.
Build a support system. Surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you, whether it's friends, family, or a therapist. Keep in touch with them regularly.
Learn from failures. Instead of dwelling on (or ignoring) mistakes, try to learn from them and use them as opportunities for growth.
Set realistic goals. Having something to work towards can give us a sense of purpose and motivation, even in tough times.
Take care of your physical and mental health. Eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep. Also, make sure to take time for yourself to relax and unwind.
Practice gratitude. Be thankful for what you have, instead of focusing on what you lack.
There is a lot of scientific research on the thought processes involved in gratitude and its positive effects on the brain, including resilience.
Be adaptable. Be open to change, and be able to adjust to new situations and circumstances. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can help with this.
Of course, it's hard to work on resilience if you are struggling with situations like workplace stress, unsafe relationships or homelessness. Getting on top of these big issues first will leave space for you to tackle your physical health and mindset.
Remember, resilience is not something that you either have or don't have. It's a skill that can be developed over time with practice and effort.
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Information sourced from Everyday Health, Psychology Today Science.
Image credit: Wikipedia/Creative Commons
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.