Encountering setbacks is a part of life. Most of the people that we admire who have accomplished meaningful things including raising a family, starting a successful business, or being crowned champions in their sporting endeavors have all had to work through challenges to arrive at that goal.Everyone faces difficulty in life, and that can stem from physical challenges and limitations, or circumstances that are entirely beyond their control, or a mix of the two. Building resilience is how we manage these challenges. Do you press on when things get tough, or do you struggle to stay on course and give up when things don’t go according to plan?
According to the APA, 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.”
Anyone can be resilient and keep pressing on through life’s challenges. Although several factors play a role in making someone resilient, it’s not just some personality types that can be resilient. Learning how to be resilient is much like how we learn to do anything in life – it takes time and sustained effort to grow. You don’t wake up and just run a full marathon, nor do you gain the skill required to do anything in life without intentionality and hard work.
Strategies for Building Resilience
By paying attention to certain areas of your life, you can gain the tools you need to deal with difficult situations and experiences, enabling you to grow from those experiences, rather than simply going through them. The following strategies can help build resilience in your life.
Human beings have the profound capacity to plan beyond today and to see beyond the here and now. We can see this in the fifteen-year-old mowing lawns during the summer to save up for a new gaming laptop, or the adult choosing to forego alcohol and the party lifestyle because they’re finding it detrimental to their health. We can look beyond the pleasures of now and work toward something bigger and better.
To build resilience, we need goals, a sense of meaning, and purpose in our lives. Without them, we are blown about by every wind, and we have no reason to stay the course when things get rough or when pleasant but lesser alternatives present themselves. Having something to look forward to and plan for allows us to push through hard circumstances.
To build resilience it is vital to find your “why.” Knowing why we’re doing something can keep us focused and motivate us as we deal with stress. Your why can be rooted in the desire to please God, serve others, excel and reach your full potential, or some other goal. A goal that remains as a fixed beacon to which you can look during stormy times helps you navigate life’s storms. Your resilience grows with each obstacle overcome to reach that goal.
Healthy thought patterns
How we think can have a profound effect on our behavior and resilience. The apostle Paul encourages believers saying, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). This is because our thought life influences how we live and has a significant impact on whether or not we build resilience.
Having healthy thought patterns includes such practices as repenting of sin, meeting failures head-on, looking ahead with hope, and maintaining perspective so as not to be overwhelmed by circumstances.
Without hope and a sense of perspective, building resilience is nigh impossible. Hope is what enables us to keep going even when things are falling apart around us. You carry on because tomorrow may be better than today. Putting one foot in front of the other in pursuit of that tomorrow is the stuff resilience is made of.
And when faced with overwhelming circumstances, maintaining perspective on the stressors you encounter will help you meet the challenge of the moment. The tragedies and hardships that beset us can derail us if we catastrophize and fold under pressure.
Maintaining connection with othersThe people around you matter. The fact that God made us in his image and that makes us deeply relational creatures should remind us of our interconnectedness with others. That connection with others can help us build resilience in many ways. Having cheerleaders in your corner, people that encourage you when the times are tough can take you further than if you were to go it alone.
Sometimes we need people to pray us through the tough times, and many people can attest to the power of encouragement from a brother or sister in Christ, and how that kept them going when they had no strength left. Building those relationships and being connected to others gives us a support network that can help us pull through and weather the tough times.
Additionally, walking with someone like a mentor that deliberately invests in your growth, and to whom you can look for continued inspiration for the journey, is vital. Mentors can be people in your life that you know, or they can be mentors from different eras or parts of the world whose life story has proven vastly important in goal setting and finding your “why.”
Seeing how others have weathered storms and grown because of them can be a guardrail or lamppost for you during your moments of stress. Nothing says “it’s possible” like looking at the life of someone else who did it. It puts whatever you’re going through into perspective, making it look more and more like an obstacle that can be overcome.
Maintaining wellness is a huge help for dealing with hardships in life. Your overall sense of wellbeing can greatly affect your resilience. Getting good sleep, adequate rest, and eating well, give you reserves of energy, creativity, and the capacity to deal with stressful situations.When you sleep well, your body has an opportunity to recover from the experiences of the previous day. Resting your body and mind gives you the energy and creativity you need to face challenges. Getting good sleep often allows you to look at the problem differently in the morning.
Good nutrition also helps your body by giving it what it needs to keep it healthy. A healthy body is better able to adapt to stress than an unhealthy one. Avoid unhealthy foods such as overprocessed foods or foods high in sugar and fats, as well as unhealthy eating patterns to numb the pain.
Turning to alcohol and drugs to cope with tough situations only serves to mask the problem. Turning to food for comfort or substances to settle our fears may only succeed in helping us avoid the issue, creating new problems for us now or down the road.
The difficulties and obstacles we face can be overcome, making us stronger. Building resilience is important because there will always be stressors that eventually present themselves. By being adaptable, maintaining a connection with others, learning from our mistakes and successes, having a sense of purpose, maintaining a hopeful outlook, and pursuing our overall health, we position ourselves not only to face challenges well but to grow from them.
Building resilience is something all of us can do, but if you find that you struggle to stay the course in the middle of hardships, reaching out to someone like a therapist can be a great way to find support and learn strategies to build resilience.
“Racers”, Courtesy of Miguel A. Amutio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Lighthouse”, Courtesy of Gaia Armellin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Meeting in the Middle”, Courtesy of Shane Rounce, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Yoga”, Courtesy of Madison Lavern, Unsplash.com, CC0 License