While the last few years have been marked by anxiety, grief and hardship, they have also given us the opportunity to develop a superpower: resilience. Navigating and overcoming the many challenges of recent years has led to a shift in perspective and priorities. While the pandemic has led to worsening mental health for many, languishing and thriving are often two sides of the same coin. So let's see if we can flip that coin and land on the side of thriving.
What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to adapt to difficult situations. When faced with stress, adversity or trauma, you still experience grief and pain, but you are able to keep functioning and rise from the ashes. In other words, it's the ability to withstand adversity, bounce back and grow despite life’s downturns.
What resilience isn't
According to the American Psychology Association, being resilient doesn't mean that you won't experience difficulty or distress. Just like practicing mindfulness, it's about being deliberate in the way you respond to hardship. While popular culture often portrays strong and resilient people as being stoic or figuring problems out on their own, that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, being able to reach out to others for support is an essential part of building resilience.
Resilience and mental health
Resilience can help protect you from other serious mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Improving your coping skills will make you stronger, happier and more capable of dealing with the challenges you face in life, work and your relationships.
Tips to improve your resilience
- Build and maintain strong relationships. Building strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends can give you the support and acceptance you need in good and bad times. It's equally important to establish other connections through things like volunteer work or joining a community that pushes you to be your best self.
- Find satisfaction in accomplishments. Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment every day. Setting goals to help you look toward the future is a great way to give your life purpose.
- Learn from your experiences. It's important to reflect on the ways in which you've handled hardship in the past. You might be surprised by how much you already know. Keeping a journal is a great way to learn from your past experiences and see how far you’ve come.
- Stay positive. You can't change the past, but you can always build a better future — for yourself and for those around you. Learning to accept and adapt to change will help you take on new challenges with less anxiety.
- Take care of yourself. You may have heard something along the lines of, "Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others." There's truth to this statement. Tending to your own needs and feelings will make you more willing and able to be of service to others. Be sure to participate in activities you enjoy. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. Practice stress management techniques. You know the gamut; so it’s time to start implementing it!
- Set plans (and don't be afraid to change them). Don't ignore your problems. Instead, account for what problems need to be solved in your life, make a plan and take action. Sure, major setbacks can take a long time to overcome. But knowing that your circumstances can improve is the key to developing a sense of resilience.
Just remember that being resilient isn't about bottling up your problems. On the contrary, it's about knowing when you need to improve your circumstances and taking deliberate steps to do so — and sometimes the first step is asking for help. At El Camino Health, our mental health and addiction specialists create an atmosphere of trust and understanding in which you can start to improve and even thrive. Click here to learn more.
This article first appeared in the May 2022 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.