Like bamboo in a hurricane, resilient people bend but do not break in challenging situations. But how can you achieve this positive outlook?
Relationships. Motherhood. Work. Health. Most women understand what it’s like to face challenges on a day-to-day basis. The juggle is real. And when we’re stressed, we go one of two ways. We fold under the pressure, or we call on our resilience to pull us through, moving forwards with confidence. Not downplaying adversity, but not being ruled by it.
Being emotionally resilient means being able to weather the storms of relationship struggles, financial woes, professional uncertainty, family problems, loss, grief, depression, upheaval and change. Resilient people adapt to adversity. They deal with minor stresses easily, and have the tools to cope with serious setbacks. They do not run and hide from the difficult things in life, but anticipate them, tolerate them and even learn from them. ‘It is shifting one’s objective in life from avoiding pain to building meaning,’ wellbeing expert Brianna Wiest writes on forbes.com, ‘recognising that pain will be some part of the journey.’
Developing emotional resilience means making yourself better able to recover from challenges, losses, shocks or unexpected problems. It arms your body and mind with the wherewithal to deal with emotional uncertainty, pressure and stress. And while some people are more naturally predisposed to being resilient, everyone can learn the basics.
Self-awareness is key. Understanding how you deal with uncertainty and challenges is a step towards being prepared when they come. If you understand what you’re feeling, and why, you can control your responses. You will also better understand the feelings of others.
So, teach yourself self-care. Give yourself time to process things, understand yourself better, be present, be real, and move forward. Don’t hide from the realities of life. Expect them, and be prepared for them.
‘Everything in your life that is sabotaging you is the product of being unwilling to be present,’ says Brianna Wiest. ‘We shop, spend, eat, drink, dream and plan our way out of the present moment constantly, which means that we never confront the feelings that we are carrying around. Being present is essential for developing mental strength and emotional health, because it allows us to actually respond to our thoughts and feelings in real time, and to confront that which unnerves us before we adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms.’
Not dwelling on things is also important. Get out of your head and simply be in the moment. Strike a balance between knowing yourself well and not indulging in self-criticism and over-analysis.
Know your people
Surround yourself with good people. You might be a strong person, but you need strong support. Friends and family who help and encourage emotional resilience are important. Even tough people sometimes need to ask for help. Be confident that when you ask, it will be given with love and understanding.
‘Practise being straightforward and assertive in communicating with others,’ says Mind. ‘If people are making unreasonable or unrealistic demands on you, be prepared to tell them how you feel, and say no.’
Look beyond your physical support network for inspiration. Being spiritual, in whatever form that takes for you, and being connected to your spiritual side, is empirically linked to emotional resilience.
Know the difference
Don’t let your struggles define you. Being anxious about something does not mean you are an anxious person. Being frightened of something doesn’t make you a wimp. ‘Adopting an idea about yourself into your identity means that you believe it is who you fundamentally are,’ notes Wiest, ‘which makes it significantly more difficult to change.’
Recognise that there is you and yourself, and then there are the things that happen to you. There are things you can control and things that you can’t. Practise acceptance. Emotionally resilient people believe that they, rather than outside forces, are in control of their own lives. If you take responsibility for what happens in your life, you will be more adept at problem-solving, and your reactions will be positive and constructive.
‘Find balance in your life,’ advises Mind, the UK mental health charity that has written extensively on emotional resilience. ‘Try making a decision to focus some of your energy on other parts of your life, like family, friends or hobbies. This can help spread the weight of pressures in your life, and make everything feel lighter.’
Know the possibilities
Emotionally resilient people see the positives in most situations. They believe in their own strengths, and trust that they can handle problems when they arise, rather than fearing them arising at all. ‘Expect the fearful thought, but recognise that it is not always reflective of reality,’ says Wiest. This shifts your mindset from a victim mentality to an empowered one.
Laugh, too. It is the best medicine and it affects how we physically react to stress. At times of uncertainty, it can be a great way to get perspective. Threats become challenges, not obstacles. Problems present opportunities for learning and growth.
And learn from your mistakes; don’t deny them. Allow stressful situations to make you stronger and even add meaning to your life. ‘Reward yourself for achievements – even small things like finishing a piece of work or making a decision,’ says Mind. ‘And forgive yourself when you feel you have made a mistake, or don’t achieve something you hoped for.’
With this approach, life becomes something to face head-on. You are
no longer fearful but interested, ready and welcoming for all that life has to offer.
Arming your defences
From a solid support network to good health, this is our quick checklist for a resilient life…
FIND YOUR ZEN
Save a few minutes each day to close your eyes, breathe deeply and calm your nerves. Relax with meditation, do yoga, walk
the dog, enjoy a bath or listen to a podcast. Identify what
helps you feel calm and make time for it. It’s especially helpful
if this is an activity that is completely different from the things
that cause stress.
BUILD YOUR TRIBE
Even if you’re busy, or feel low or worried, make time for friends and family. It will be time well spent. Sometimes, just telling people close to you how you’re feeling can make a big difference. Reach out, trust your tribe and take strength from them.
Taking a break – physically or mentally – is important. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time off from being tough and expecting too much of yourself.
CARE FOR BODY AND MIND
Getting enough sleep and being fit and healthy are key to arming your mind against stress. Even small changes such as going for regular walks, altering what you eat and going to bed earlier can make huge differences to your mental wellbeing, and in turn your resilience.
Resilient people know what they can control, and focus only on those things. They see the bigger picture and know that there is always more to something than their part in it. In any challenging situation, focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.
BUILD YOUR CONFIDENCE
Trust yourself and follow your intuition. Keep a diary of moments where you used your instinct and it paid off. Return to it. Create
a mantra that reminds you of your strengths and that you can call on to help you through a challenge.
A fixed mindset limits us. A growth mindset tells us that we can learn from our experiences and we can grow. This means we are open to all of life, even the hard parts. Use a growth mindset when you make mistakes. It will turn them into opportunities.