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Building Personal Resilience

Posted 19 March 2020
by Clare Davy

What is resilience? And why is it so important when navigating through life’s ups and downs?

The American Psychological Association defines 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. It means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences” (APA, 2017).

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People demonstrate resilience every day! Research further indicates that resilience is not a trait people either have or do not have but rather that it is built by behaviours, attitudes and the support networks that can be adopted and developed by anyone.  We all display resilience in varying degrees and differently depending on the situation.  The good thing to know is that it is something that we can develop.  So how do we build resilience?

The following four elements are important to build personal resilience:

  • Social support
  • Physical health
  • Your behaviour
  • Your thoughts

Social support

We are social beings, meaning we need to make connections and form companionship through building and maintaining intimate or close social relationships.  While good relationships with family and friends are essential to our overall wellbeing, being active in the wider community provides us with further opportunities to establish connections and support networks.  Ensuring you have a strong social support network and accepting support from those who care about you will help build your resilience.

Your physical health

Maintaining your physical health is essentially about looking after yourself. We all know the key factors include establishing a regular exercise routine, eating well, watching caffeine and alcohol intake, not smoking and drinking plenty of water. 

Something getting a lot more air time recently is the importance of good quality sleep.  We cannot underestimate the value of a decent night’s sleep.  By taking care of your physical wellbeing helps keep you primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Your behaviour

Your actions do speak louder than words! You might say, “I want to handle the stressors in my life better” but never do anything to help yourself achieve this.  Some strategies to direct your actions that will build resilience include

  • setting achievable and realistic goals directs your actions and helps those tasks that seem insurmountable become achievable;
  • meeting your problems head on and taking action rather than wishing they would go away, while also recognising when you need to step back to re-energise yourself;
  • actively spending time with your social network to gain support and encouragement;

Your thoughts

Your thoughts are your reality.  If you believe you are not capable of dealing with a tricky situation, then the chances of you resolving the issue is not very favourable.  The key is not to let your thoughts control and define you.  Developing positive and constructive ways of thinking will build resilience.  Try the following to improve your mindset

  • Viewing yourself in a positive light, believing in your ability to solve your problems and overcome obstacles
  • Trust your instincts 
  • Keep things in perspective – try considering will this matter in 12 hours, 12 days, 12 weeks, 12 months?
  • Being optimistic
  • Accept that change is inevitable in all aspects of your life
  • Always look for opportunities for self-discovery

Don’t be too hard on yourself!

Resilience involves being flexible and finding balance in your life as you deal with stressful circumstances. Looking after your physical and mental wellbeing and cultivating good social support networks are the building blocks for personal resilience.  Remember developing resilience is a personal journey and part of that journey is to discover your ever-evolving personal strategy for fostering resilience.

References

The Road to Resilience. (2017). Retrieved from American Psychological Association

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx

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