How do we build resilience?

What does it mean to be resilient? And where does resilience come from? Some argue that resilience is a trait we are born with while others believe it is something we develop over time, after facing hardships, disappointments and adversity. If resilience is something we develop over time, how do we go about doing that?

First, let’s define “resilience.” What does that word even mean, especially these days when it seems as though many of our children win trophies simply for showing up and are whisked away to safe spaces when there is even a threat of trouble or disappointment. To some, the word “resilience” means maintaining a stable equilibrium. For others it means being able to bounce back after stressful events. Merriam-Webster defines “resilience” as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

When we think about stressful, adverse or disappointing events or circumstances, it might be helpful to remember that stress is largely unavoidable. We all encounter some measure of stress pretty much every day. Stress is a part of our lives. It is how we respond to stress that matters. Adverse events, disappointments, happen to all of us. None of us will get through life without facing adversity or disappointment at some point. It matters how we manage adversity and disappointments that matters. Do we view stress, disappointment and adversity as a road block, throw up our hands and give up, or do we view stress, adversity and disappointment as a speed bump that if we go over slowly and with care, there will be little damage? The choice is yours.

We can choose to view stress, disappointment and adversity as insurmountable or we can view these things we all encounter as part of everyday life. We can choose to let them determine who we are or we can choose to look at them as stepping stones to becoming stronger human beings.

One of the ways we can build resilience is to remember that even the toughest, most difficult situations rarely last for eternity. If you think about it, even our feelings are temporary … visitors who stay for a while and then leave us. Most situations, however difficult, really are manageable, if we give ourselves permission to look at them objectively and to do so without catastrophizing.

Another way to build resilience is to maintain our sense of hope. If we choose to look at stress, adversity and disappointment as speed bumps on the road of life we can remain hopeful that once we slowly move over the bump. the road will be smooth, at least for a while. Then we give ourselves props for handling the challenging situation the best we could with the tools we had at the time. We take that as a lesson and learn from it, applying what we have learned to the next adverse event, stressful situation or disappointment.

We also can build resilience by remembering that we are stronger than we likely give ourselves credit for. This may mean upping our positive self-talk game, practicing positive self-affirmations and remembering to speak kindly to ourselves. We do not build resilience by engaging in negative self-talk or by putting ourselves down. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can with what you have right now and remember that stressful situations, adverse events and disappointments all are lessons from which we can learn.

~ Karri Chrisitansen, MSW, LSW, CADC, CCTP

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