Building Resilience: How to Bounce Back from Adversity

April 13, 2024

The importance of resilience in mental health

According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, resilience means “the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands”. Resilience helps you to bounce back after experiencing adversity and handle problems with more confidence and energy. In difficult situations like illness, losing a loved one, financial struggles or extreme stress, resilience helps to power through and cope better.

It is important to point out that resilience can be learnt and cultivated, it is not a personality trait some people have and others do not. It is built on four pillars: connection, self-care, purpose and a healthy mindset. By making decisions and creating behavior that promotes these values, you will build up your resilience over time.

Why do you need resilience?

Building resilience will not prevent anyone from experiencing the feelings that are connected to difficult times, like anger, frustration, despair, grief or pain. It will also not make you immune to hardships. But building resilience helps deal with setbacks despite those emotions. It also boosts growth and builds self-confidence to handle difficult situations in the future. 

Especially when your usual coping mechanisms include destructive behaviour like drinking alcohol, smoking, eating disorders and high-risk behaviour, building up your resilience can help to combat those and make you less inclined to fall back on those quick fixes.

Strategies for cultivating resilience and overcoming challenges 

By understanding and implementing the following strategies, you can develop the resilience needed to overcome adversity and thrive in the face of hardship. From building a strong support network to practising self-care and reflection, these strategies will enable you to build inner strength, maintain your mental wellbeing and face challenges with resilience and optimism.

  1. Build a strong support system.

Many people underestimate the power of a strong personal network when it comes to their mental health. But connecting with people who understand your trauma, can relate to your problems and empathise with you is crucial for building up resilience. Whether they’re already in your life, such as familyor friends, or new connections found in local communities or support groups, these relationships offer vital support in overcoming adversity. 

When building your support system, think about dimensionality and find people with different perspectives and backgrounds. Different individuals can provide help in different aspects of your life. The key is to build relationships with people you can trust, whose company you enjoy and who can give you different types of support. So to some you may go for career advice, others will help you to find a tutor for your child, whereas another person can give you a shoulder to cry on. Just like you do not need to do everything on your own, another person cannot give you great advice on everything. But a diverse support system will give you strength in dealing with adversity and build up your resilience.

  1. Take care of yourself

By practicing self-care and showing up for yourself, you gain more self-confidence and learn to rely on yourself. It is important to take care of your mental and physical health by regular exercise, sleep, diet, spending time in nature and doing activities that bring you joy. Many people neglect these due to stress, but do not realise that they actually build up resilience to cope better with stress. Start by dedicating an hour a week to your passion or hobby and schedule the time, because caring for yourself means bringing yourself joy. 

  1. Keep promises to yourself.

When building self-confidence, it is important to keep the promises that you make to yourself. Accomplishing the things you set your mind on – both big and small – can give you a great sense of success. Even small, everyday activities like vacuuming or watering your plants can increase your sense of accomplishment. Proving to yourself that you can achieve what you set your mind on improves resilience.

Helping others through friendly gestures, or volunteering can also give you a great sense of accomplishment and help you find purpose.

  1. Reflect on your past behavior

Be honest with yourself: Do you tend to drink more when you are stressed? Do you share your concerns with others? Did you allow others to help you? When faced with disputes, were your reactions valid or did you overreact?

Only by reflecting on your past behavior and coping mechanisms will you be able to change your behavior towards healthier and more effective solutions. Avoid short-term fixes and rather focus on building up resilience to tackle the actual problems.

  1. Exercise gratitude.

When everything seems to be going wrong, it is important to remind yourself that there are still things to be grateful for. This will give you a more positive outlook on the present and the future. Spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga or journaling can restore hope, bring peace and build connection with yourself and others.

Another good option is to start a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to regularly write down things you are grateful for. For example, it can be part of your evening routine or a nice activity for Sunday morning. After a while it will change the way you think and you will notice all the good things in your life. This will give you a more positive outlook and help you in the face of adversity.

  1. If it is complex, break it down.

Breaking big problems down into smaller, more manageable tasks can significantly increase the likelihood of solving them. Tackling one small problem at a time, with time for breaks in between, will make the big challenge resolve itself more quickly. 

The same applies to long-term goals. It is good to have a goal because it gives you direction and purpose, but to achieve it you need to break it down into small steps. Ask yourself, “What can I do today to move towards my goal? This will give you a more positive mindset and prompt action, which in turn increases resilience. To read more about productivity, check out our article on work-life balance here.

  1. Seek professional help.

If you feel like lost or find yourself unable to cope with the challenges life has thrown at you, do not hesitate to seek professional help! A licensed psychologist can help you understand yourself better and you can find ways together to build up your resilience and go through difficult times in life. 

Also, if you are not currently facing adversity, but have reflected on your past coping mechanisms and realize you need some advice, get professional help! Preventing further stress and struggle is always the better choice.

Conclusion

In conclusion, building resilience is not just about enduring life’s challenges; it’s about thriving in the face of adversity. By understanding the importance of resilience in mental health and implementing strategies to cultivate it, people can empower themselves to bounce back stronger from setbacks. Whether through building a strong support network, practising self-care, reflecting on past behaviours or learning to be grateful, resilience is a skill that can be developed and improved over time. Remember, resilience is not about facing adversity alone, but rather harnessing the power of connection, self-awareness and personal growth to navigate life’s ups and downs. With determination and the right support system in place, you can emerge from adversity with renewed strength, perseverance and hope for the future.

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