Taking care of our mental health means acknowledging and addressing our mental needs, but another key component is learning how to turn stress and hardship into opportunities for growth. Life will always have unexpected obstacles, but resilient people know how important those challenges can be for future success.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to withstand, overcome, and grow from hardship. We can think of resilience as a combination of perseverance and positive adaptation in the face of anger, sadness, disappointment, and even trauma. People who are resilient not only survive during difficult times — they thrive.
Why Resilience Matters
It’s important to remember that thriving after trauma does not erase the hardship and its emotional toll. Ignoring what you’ve been through isn’t a badge of honor, but developing the skills necessary to grow from it and move forward more confidently can give you a sense of control over your life. Developing resilience will help you work through future hardships more effectively as you transform your relationship with stress and adversity.
Am I Resilient?
Judging our skills, including resilience, can often be challenging. If you’re interested in upping your resilience, start by getting an accurate measure of where you currently stand. Several scales measure resistance or its related elements by asking you to judge statements related to outlook, stress, and personal history. Many of these tests are helpful in measuring your progress if you’d like to improve your resilience.
The Connor-Davidson (and related Brief) Resilience Scale is one of the most widely used scientific measures of resilience. It attempts to value both your ability to recover from stress and the environment buffers that help you move forward. The Brief version is easiest for personal use, but request a copy of the official 25-question scale if you’re devoted to understanding your resilience more fully.
If you’re interested more in the protective factors present in your life, try the Scale of Protective Factors assessment. For a robust evaluation of internal and external resilience factors, try the original Resilience Scale test.
Just like any other skill, practice is what makes your capacity for resilience increase. Fortunately, you don’t have to put yourself into difficult situations to get that coveted practice. You can isolate some of the components in many ways and build up your resilience for the road ahead.
Identifying and acting on your physical, emotional, and mental cues is essential to resilience. Practice improving your self-awareness by journaling every day. Try to name your emotions and recall the triggers and solutions you employed. When you’re in the middle of a problematic situation, practice thinking before acting. Your self-awareness will improve if you reflect on your feelings before you address them.
Goals and Vision
Having personal goals, drive, and vision can be an important part of resilience. Overcoming difficulty is much easier when we have something to run towards. Practice setting goals every few months by making seasonal vision boards. Set small, medium, and large goals for yourself so that you have some guaranteed success alongside the challenge.
People with high resilience are able to reason through difficult situations or find alternative paths around obstacles. Sharpening your problem-solving skills is a great way to be more adept in the face of trauma, grief, or unexpected hardship. Working on problem-solving can be fun and practical. Challenge yourself with brain game puzzle books or try escape rooms with friends. Even these recreational activities will help activate the problem-solving centers in your brain.
Anyone who has a strong support network has a leg up when it comes to resilience. We cannot overcome hardships entirely on our own. Finding, maintaining, and nurturing your relationships is a skill that many people overlook; valuable relationships are the ones that come naturally and easily. Focus on identifying family, friends, work, and social networks that fill you with strength and energy. Put time into improving your communication skills to call on these bonds in the future.
Your physical health plays a crucial role in resilience. Just as other aspects of mental wellness are linked with physical and emotional health, resilience relies on a robust physical foundation to make it through hard times. Take care of yourself and prioritize physical health if you want to weather future storms.
This skill may be the most outwardly related to resilience, so it’s crucial to practice every chance you get. Take opportunities to push through an obstacle you might otherwise avoid, even if it’s small. One of the best ways to improve your perseverance is to congratulate yourself when you’ve used it! Positive reinforcement can work to build new skills even faster than negative consequences.
With small daily practice, your capacity for resilience will improve quickly!