The importance of cultivating resilience in times of challenge

We are all dealing nowadays with the great challenge imposed on our lives by the Coronavirus. There are many aspects to this phenomenon and it is very demanding and difficult to handle on so many levels. In times like this, we need more than ever the gifts and wisdom of positive psychology since they can support and encourage us in times of hardship, teach us how to adapt and also how to emerge from a challenging time stronger than before. One of the great abilities we can learn and acquire through positive psychology is the power of resilience.

What is resilience?

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth. One can understand resilience as the psychological quality that allows us to face life’s adversities and come back stronger and more focused than before.

Psychologists have identified some factors that appear to make a person more resilient, such as a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. So, for some of us responding resiliently is easier but even if you don’t possess such traits naturally, you can learn to how to build resilience since it involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that anyone can learn and develop. The ability to learn resilience is one reason research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary.

Test yourself

But first let’s take a short test to determine the level of your resilience so you can become more aware of this quality in you. In these disturbing times of a world pandemic, what is your response:

  • Survival
  • I am glued to the news and media all day long
  • I feel afraid, powerless and sad
  • I am unproductive and lethargic
  • I am worried about everything
  • Acceptance
  • I am learning to let go of what I cannot control
  • I am making a new routine
  • I value my time outdoors
  • I am limiting my news and social media consumption
  • Growth
  • I am feeling more connected to the ones I love
  • I am helping where I can
  • I can be patient and kind with myself and others
  • I have confidence in my resilience and strength

If you chose answers from the survival section, your resilience level is low and you need to boost it. if your answers are more from the acceptance section, you already have a good level of resilience in you, but you can use this time to maximize it so you can enter the growth phase and benefit psychologically from this challenging time the most.

What can you do to build resilience?

There are behaviors, thoughts and actions one can develop to become more resilient. Here is a list of a few simple things you can do:

Fortify connections

It is very helpful to connect with understanding and supportive people. They can remind you you are not alone in difficult times and emphasize an optimistic viewpoint which you can also adapt. You can join a group online, and not feel isolated. try to prioritize genuinely connecting with people who care about you.

Adopt wellness

Taking care of your physical body is an important factor for mental health and building resilience. Self-care can help reduce excessive levels of stress both physically and emotionally so eat properly, have enough sleep, hydrate and regularly exercise. Strengthening your body will help to buffer negative emotions and be less tensed and anxious. One more helpful and necessary element in adopting wellness is including meditation, mindfulness or any other spiritual practice in your routine. These practices were found in research as building hope, gratefulness and peace which are important for building resilience.

Find purpose

When we feel a sense of meaning and purpose, we become stronger. So, helping other people, whether through volunteering or supporting friends who need our help empowers us and fill us with a sense of purpose. We can also become more proactive and engaged by looking for the actions we can take to promote a more positive outcome, even if our situation is hard or limited. So, in these times of seclusion and isolation, there are people who need our kind support and there are actions we can take within our confinement to enhance our skills and abilities or develop new ones.

It is also important to reflect where we had to face a great challenge or even a trauma and be reminded of the ways we have grown in some respects. Often, people report a greater sense of strength, even while feeling vulnerable. That can increase our sense of self-worth and heighten our appreciation for life.

Choose healthy thoughts

            Our thoughts influence the way we feel directly, so they can determine how resilient you can be when faced with hindrances. In times of trouble, our thinking loses its rationality and we see reality in a distorted and imbalanced way. Therefore, you can choose rational thinking, for instance, if you think that your life is ruined and you can never bounce back again, try to remind yourself that what happens now isn’t necessarily an indicator of how your future will look like and that you are not helpless. Keeping things in perspective is very important for resilient behavior.

            It is also important to be open to change and accept it when it arrives. Some changes are not our volitional choice but, they can bring new things to our lives we could not predict before.

We are actually more resilient then we think we are

            If you feel powerless and worried and fear what the next day could bring, remember that properly you are actually more resilient than you think. Research shows that when we become more aware of our resilient abilities and adhere to some of the suggestions above, we discover that our strength, resistance and emotional processing capacity are greater than we believed. So, don’t fall into the self-pity trap and lose vital energy on feeling weak, rather realize you are already strong and can cultivate higher levels of resilience starting today.

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