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How to Build Resilience

A rigid approach to life locks us into a tight barrel of existence that leaves little or no room to manoeuvre when unexpected events occur. We can not see, much less step outside, the narrow corridor we have chosen to occupy.

It is no surprise then, that when COVID hit, those without the ability to bend and swerve may have found themselves struggling to adapt to the “new normal” the pandemic brought.

Enter resilience. Resilience allows us to bend, but not break. It is both an attitude and an activity that builds flexibility, support and hope in our lives. How can you develop resilience? Read on.

Accept that change is part of life. Certain plans and choices may no longer be available to you due to circumstances beyond your control. Some goals may now be unattainable. Understanding this, now focus on those circumstances you can alter.

Take action. When possible, act on adverse situations as much as you can. Rather than allowing yourself to be buffeted by circumstance and feeling helpless, take action on the things you can change. Simply ignoring or wishing things would go away will not make you feel better. Just remember to focus on those things that are within your control. 

Move toward your goals. Goals give us something to work towards, and when we achieve them, we feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Develop realistic goals for yourself, even if they are small, to create meaning and direction in your life. Instead of focusing on what is no longer available to you, pivot and create a new path for yourself.

Keep things in perspective. Things happen. But you can choose how you interpret and respond to stressful and unexpected events. Try looking at the situation from a step back, or imagine how it might look in the future when circumstances are a little better.

Develop a comfort with ambiguity and the unknown. “We’ll see” is a perfectly acceptable answer when faced with uncertainty. Do not feel you must have a concrete plan for every situation. Stay limber and open to change.

Make connections. Good relationships with family members, friends, work mates and others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you strengthens resilience. Offering it in return creates feelings of connectedness and belonging. 

Look for lessons. Experiencing loss and hardship often brings moments of insight and wisdom as well. Many people who have struggled through difficulties have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.

Learn to trust yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear. Don’t forget to take stock and be grateful for what you have now.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Get enough sleep. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Find what works for you. Some people write about their stressful thoughts and feelings to “get them out”. Others use art in a similar way, expressing their pain or frustration with paint, clay and other visual media. Spiritual practices help some people place their fears in the hands of a higher power, allowing themselves to relinquish control of those things they can not change. Meditation can be effective at calming the mind, letting thoughts and worries pass like a river, separate from us. Use whatever strategies work for you to foster further resilience.

Do you nee help building resilience? The BFDC can help.

Adapted from the American Psychological Association.