Regardless of who we are, at times, we are all confronted with stress, struggles, challenges, and difficulties.
The death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the loss of a job—life is full of trauma and adversities, whether we like it or not.
Why are some of us able to overcome these challenges while others completely fall apart?
Building resilience is the key.
When we learn to deal with and overcome adversity, we build resilience. Meaning, every time we confront a difficulty, successfully surmount it, and find the courage to continue, we become stronger, more confident, and capable of overcoming even future obstacles.
In other words, it is not so much what happens to you that really matters, it is how you respond to it that makes the difference.
Consider a few key ways that can help you personally build resilience to conquer life’s challenges from within.
Invest in Yourself
The most essential thing you can do for building resilience is to take care of yourself. While that may seem rather simplistic, it is actually the hardest thing to do during adversity.
Instead of nurturing our own well-being, we often worry about everybody else but ourselves. While it is certainly not bad to show love and concern for others, doing so at the expense of our own health is counterproductive. Only by sustaining our bodies and minds in a healthy state will we be able to cope with challenges in the future.
Strategies for good mental and physical self-care include:
- Regular, moderate exercise
- Sufficient quality sleep
- Limiting daily exposure to technology
- Socializing with family and friends on a consistent basis
- Engaging in hobbies and other interests
- Pursuing sensible and attainable personal goals
Aside from good self-care, investing in yourself also includes learning to take responsibility for your life and who you want to be. This requires a willingness to be accountable for your own personal growth and maturing process.
When we undertake cultivating and nourishing our inner emotional strength with self-discipline, we build the courage to confront adversity—not evade it.
Accept, Instead of Reject
In the same line of thought, to confront and overcome adversity, you first must find the courage to accept it. Prolonged denial and rejection of the facts is by no means beneficial. It will only cause the problem to persist and can leave you feeling anxious, empty, and agitated.
Worse even, denying the challenges we are facing—and the traumatic experiences we perhaps have trouble overcoming—usually prevents us from seeking the help we need. In the end, it denies us the chance for building resilience.
Conversely, when we acknowledge and accept difficult situations, stay calm, and assess the challenge rationally, we benefit in various ways. Not only can we come up with a logical plan of action for the current (and any possible future) hardship, maintaining composure also allows us to find compassion for ourselves. Which, in turn, keeps us from letting negative emotions consume us.
Of course, learning to respond with acceptance and composure during times of distress or after a traumatic experience is often easier said than done. It takes a lot of time and patience.
Things you can do to become more accepting in the face of adversity are:
- Let go of the illusion of control by understanding that you cannot change what happened, is happening, or will happen
- Normalize your emotions and help yourself relax through meditation during challenges
- Identify and address your stress, pain, and fears connected to the traumatic event
- Determine what actions you can reasonably take that will help you move forward through the adversity
Remember, accepting a challenge or difficulty does not mean you must surrender to it—quite the contrary. Building resilience only happens when you meet the challenge and overcome it.
Embrace Optimism and Positivity
Learning to respond to adversity in a good way also includes having an optimistic and positive outlook. And developing optimism and positivity means more than just being all smiles.
Some of the many benefits of an optimistic outlook include:
- Decline of negative feelings and thoughts
- Better overall health and a general risk reduction for illnesses
- More courage and ability to act in practical and constructive ways
- Improved self-confidence and problem-solving skills
- Stronger personal relationships
An essential way to become more positive is to learn to evaluate difficulties in a broader, more realistic, context. For example, when we learn to identify pessimistic thinking patterns that are out of proportion with reality, we can challenge and correct these patterns with more reasonable ones.
Of course, this is by no means easy. It takes consistent awareness and evaluation of our thoughts to make adjustments. Building resilience is like building muscles—repeatedly confronting obstacles will gradually help perseverance and strength to emerge from deep inside of us.
Remember, the main objective for embracing optimism is to allow whatever difficulty or trauma strikes us to change our life’s course in a positive direction. We cannot avoid the change, but we can direct how the change will affect us.
Establish an External Support Network
Obviously, much of what builds resilience comes from within ourselves. However, we cannot solely rely on our inner strength and self-confidence. Building external resources for support can also boost resilience.
When life becomes difficult and adversity strikes, we can all use the love, encouragement, and support from family and friends. Turning to and talking with a loved one can help ease our burdens, stress, and mental agony. In turn, kind words of affection and care from them can not only be comforting but also strengthen our self-worth.
Sometimes, their presence may be all that we need. The assurance that they are by our side to help guide us through rough times.
A few ways of building a strong external support system are:
- Aim for more face-to-face interaction with people instead of relying solely on social media
- Spend time with people who are positive and make you feel good about yourself
- Endeavor to open up more to people and express your thoughts and feelings
- Socialize with people of similar interests by joining a class or group that focuses on this shared interest
Building resilience does not mean to avoid struggles or to simply bounce back from a difficult challenge or a traumatic experience. It means finding a healthy way to overcome adversity by incorporating it into our lives and growing through it in a positive direction.
To do this, we must learn not to focus so much on what these difficulties are, but focus on how we perceive them and how we respond to them. The more we can seize the opportunity to use adversity as a way to help us mature and evolve, the more resilient we become.
If you would like professional help to overcome adversity or traumatic experiences, please contact me or learn more about my approach for trauma therapy HERE.