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This post is by associate writer Ameira Yanni

You've probably heard the term 'resilience' thrown around. But what is it? Resilience is the ability to cope mentally or emotionally with challenges. Being able to home in on your resilience is a valuable skill. One common misconception is that resilience is part of your personality; that's not at all the case, "it's something that we can all take steps to achieve"[1]. But how much of an impact does resilience have on our wellbeing?

How it Can Help

Resilience is a fundamental tool we should all add to our arsenal. It helps with "preventing the onset of mental health problems as well as potentially lessening the severity of existing mental health problems"[2]. The impact is undeniable; the whole point of resilience is to help you cope with things that challenge you. By doing so, your mental wellbeing will improve, and you'll know how to approach difficult situations. Being resilient isn't something that will come quickly or naturally to everyone. It's hard, and it takes a lot of patience and mindfulness. But it is most definitely worthwhile. Those who can practice resilience "tend to maintain a more positive outlook and cope with stress more effectively"[3].

How to be Resilient

Mindfulness

We often talk about being mindful and what it means. But combining mindfulness with resilience is a powerful tool.  Mindfulness is all about connecting with your emotions and surroundings; noticing each sound, breath, step, and focusing on them. It grounds us. In regard to resilience, the aim is to listen to your emotional or mental response to a situation. Some questions you can ask are:

  • What made you feel this way?
  • How are you feeling?
  • How is your response affecting your breath?
  • Does your heart feel like it's racing?
  • Do you feel flat or low?

Understanding how you physically react can help you handle how you emotionally cope with a certain scenario. For example, if you're breathing faster or your heart is racing, take deep breaths and focus on them. Inhale for four seconds, hold for four, exhale for six. Listen to the sound your breath makes. Breathe out on the back of your hand, think about how it feels. Take your mind to your breath, and away from the negative response to the problem at hand. Focusing on your breath reduces the physical impact, which, in turn, calms you down and allows you to handle the emotional response.

Communicate

Communication is imperative, not just for your wellbeing but also to help you build resilience. If you feel uncomfortable with a situation, you have every right to say so. "If people are making unreasonable or unrealistic demands on you, be prepared to tell them how you feel and say no" [1]. Being open and honest about how you feel is a fantastic way to practice resilience. You will work through those negative feelings aloud with those around you, and vocalising it as it happens prevents it from building up inside. Good, open communication also helps make "strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends can provide you with needed support and acceptance in good and bad times" [4]. Remember, "resilience isn't about putting up with something difficult, being stoic or figuring it out on your own. In fact, being able to reach out to others for support is a key part of being resilient" [4].

Take a Break

Being resilient doesn't mean you have to be switched on and positive all day, every day. Allow yourself to take a step back and relax. Whether that means going for a walk, getting a change of scenery or eating your favourite sweet treat, you deserve to have a break. And, you deserve to have a break from negativity, so be kinder to yourself. We're all guilty of not being as nice to ourselves as much as we should be. "Forgive yourself when you feel you have made a mistake, or don't achieve something you hoped for. Try to remember that nobody's perfect, and putting extra pressure on yourself doesn't help" [1]. Cutting yourself some slack, forgiving yourself, and being nice to yourself all help to build resilience and reduce stress.

Learn From Experience

If something in the past affected you, and you reacted negatively, learn from it. And, if you reacted in a resilient way, learn from it. "Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through difficult times. You might even write about past experiences in a journal to help you identify positive and negative behavior patterns — and guide your future behavior" [4]. Recognising and understanding positive or negative ways of coping with certain situations is another way to practice your mindfulness. The past is there for us to learn from.

Be Hopeful

Being hopeful and positive is an important part of being resilient. Yes, positivity can be exhausting, and a lot of the time, being positive doesn't feel like a feasible option. Certain things affect us, and it's okay to feel sad or frustrated at situations we can't control. But, you can be hopeful whilst also allowing yourself to feel those negative feelings. Being hopeful at the same time just helps to balance it out. "Positive thinking does not mean ignoring the problem in order to focus on positive outcomes. It means understanding that setbacks are temporary and that you have the skills and abilities to combat the challenges you face" [3].

Resilience is not a quick-fix. It's a gradual, and worthwhile, process. Focus on the positive things, cut yourself some slack, and recognise what makes you feel bad. Take each day as it comes, and put yourself first.

About Ameira Yanni 

Ameira has a BA in Drama and Creative Writing. Ranging from articles to screen-plays, Ameira has a unique, creative style fuelled with passion.

References:

  1. Developing resilience | Mind, the mental health charity - help for mental health problems [Internet]. Mind.org.uk. 2019.
  2. Reach Out. Wellbeing and resilience [Internet]. schools.au.reachout.com.
  3. Cherry K. 10 Ways to Improve Your Resilience [Internet]. Verywell Mind. Verywell Mind; 2009.
  4. Mayo Clinic. How to build resiliency [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. ; 2017. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/resilience-training/in-depth/resilience/art-20046311
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