Resilience is the capacity to recover from stress and difficult, challenging life experiences. Job loss, the death of a loved one, retirement, divorce, illness, moving house, major (or sometimes even minor) life transitions, a new baby, becoming an empty nester, marriage, new job, caring for parents, or just natural aging can result in a flood of overwhelming emotions and a sense of uncertainty that may promote anxiety and depression.
Most people generally adapt well over time. Why is it easier for some than for others? Can you enhance your own resilience? Yes, you can, over time
Resilience is a natural ability. Think about huge traumatic events that affect many people such as World War II, the terrorist attack on 9/11 or on a smaller scale, the Loma Prieta earthquake. 10 years later, if people think back to how those events affected them and how their lives have changed in order to cope, most people will say thay have bounced back.
This does not mean that resilient people don’t experience stress, pain or sadness. The ability to cope is partially dependent on being able to experience and process emotion.
Studies have shown that a prime factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships both inside and outside the family. Additional factors are the ability to make reasonable plans and carry them out, a positive view of yourself and enough confidence in your ability to cope, good enough communication and problem solving skills, and the ability to manage strong emotion and curb impulses.
Some steps you can take:
Make and foster connection: Asking for help, understanding and support from people who care about you strengthens resilience.
Set some realistic goals for the short term: Deciding you will get healthy or become organized is vague and can feel overwhelming. Instead, consider deciding to empty out one cabinet drawer per week, and dispense with or otherwise organize the contents. Breaking big goals into smaller steps is a useful strategy.
Take small but decisive actions: Taking the bags of old clothes that are piling up in your garage to a charity would be an example of taking action.
Set one goal for positive self care: Deciding to cook one meal per week, or drink 72 oz of water a day, or go to bed 15 minutes earlier would potentially be real steps toward health.
Don’t give up! No one creates change without stumbling over the bumps on the way, falling down, and picking themselves up to try again.
Get professional help if you need it! Seeing someone like me doesn’t have to be a lifelong investment and it doesn’t mean that your life is hopeless. What it does mean is that you are taking a step toward resilience, and you can feel proud of yourself for doing that. Counseling is confidential and a good therapist will help you build skills for resilience.