Yes, You Can: Four Ways to Strengthen Your Resilience
Everyone knows someone who’s been through a horrifying experience, yet somehow manages to keep smiling. People like that usually come to mind when we lose it over small things, like having trouble finding a parking spot or unloading the groceries only to realize we forgot the milk. Although there are some people whose natural predisposition lends itself to a greater resilience against hardship and trauma, resiliency as a trait is nuanced and to some extent can be developed. If you’re in the midst of a difficult time or just looking to prepare yourself for life’s inevitable bumps, here are four things you can do to strengthen your own resilience.
- Stop blaming yourself. Many of the environmental factors that affect us the most, like the income bracket you were born into or the educational levels of your parents, are things you did not choose and cannot change. Still other experiences that seem even more personal, like losing a job or becoming ill, are generally the product of either unforeseen or uncontrollable forces in our lives. Stop blaming yourself for the negative experiences that come your way. The way out of or through your situation may not be clear, but I can promise you this – it doesn’t begin by bad-mouthing yourself.
- Recognize what you can change. Despite the uncertainties inherit in the world around us, there is one thing you can control: you. A recent article in the New Yorker examined resilience traits in children to determine what gave those who succeeded a resilient edge that allowed them to overcome troubling backgrounds. One of the most important findings from several longitudinal studies was that children who had a more centered locus of control, in other words those who felt they were most able to impact their environment, overcame more severe challenges to create success and stability in their lives. The ability to anticipate setbacks without letting them deter you from the plans you’ve made for yourself will go a long way in accomplishing your goals.
- Make a plan of action. Any experienced planner knows that there will always be unforeseen obstacles that appear more challenging and intimidating than you can handle. One of the most effective ways you can combat the obstacles you have yet to encounter is by creating your own ideal timeline or plan of action to accomplish whatever goal you are setting for yourself. This way your plans won’t be determined by accidents or challenges you couldn’t predict; obstacles that appear without notice will have to fit into your schedule, not the other way around.
- Do something kind for someone else. Even when your bank account is empty it’s free to smile or open the door for a stranger. By being generous with others in whatever way is manageable to you, you’re sending subtle signals to your brain that not only do you have enough to take care of yourself, you have more than enough to share with others. Don’t forget that you are more than a collection of dollar signs or lumps you’ve taken; you are human being whose relationships with others make the world a better place.
The serenity prayer, long quoted by those in recovery from alcohol addiction, encourages the individual to take charge of their own life while accepting the things that won’t change. By taking on a similar attitude towards your life while being kind to others along the way, you’ll be strengthening your resilience against the unavoidable challenges in life. As a more resilient person, you’ll do more than just survive the turbulent periods of your life; you will thrive.