How to develop resilience to cope with adversity

Image by Terry Be at Unsplash

Note: Really sorry. But I’m told that some others are also experiencing problems being able to ‘like’ and comment on posts. It’s so damn frustrating and please, trust me, I have been reading all your lovely blogs — I’m only able to comment or ‘like’ on 1% of them. Please bear with me; don’t leave me 🙁

What is resilience?

Beau Taplin

“It’s your ability to withstand adversity and bounce back and grow despite life’s downturns,” says Amit Sood, MD, executive director of the Global Center for Resiliency.

However, resilience is not a trampoline, where you’re down one moment and up the next, wrote Katie Hurley, LCSW, 2019. She suggested it’s more like climbing a mountain without a trail map. It takes time, strength, and help from people around you, and you’ll likely experience setbacks along the way. But eventually you reach the top and look back at how far you’ve come.

Why we need resilience

We need resilience because we experience all kinds of adversity in life; personal upsets such as bullying and abuse, financial changes, redundancy or work-related stress, mental or physical illness, and loss of a loved one, to name just a few.

We also have the shared tragic events in the news, such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters like recent floods in the UK, the earthquake in Croatia and the anxiety-provoking worldwide COVID-19 virus. We need resilience; we have to learn to cope with and work through some very challenging life experiences. So, in essence, resilience helps you handle stress more positively.

We’ve all heard the saying — kids are resilient. But, are they and are all kids resilient? McDonald (1) would argue “Resilience is not a trait that children and adults either have or don’t have. It involves thoughts, behaviors and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

How we develop resilience

Receiving Divorce Papers — Image
by Rawpixel.com

We develop resilience by drawing on our past learning or similar difficulties, to remember what we already know. What was it precisely that helped you to get through previous challenges i.e. being made redundant from work, a separation, receiving divorce papers, a period of physical or mental illness? Think about it for a moment and maybe make some notes — this will remind you of your past resilience.

Resilience relies on different skills and draws on various sources of help, including physical and mental health, rational thinking skills and your relationships with those around you. It’s not always about overcoming massive challenges; we all face lots of small challenges each day and we each need to draw on our reserves of resilience.

The diverse approaches and strategies we use to handle adversity have been learned and shaped by culture, society, and the family systems that we grew up in and are part of. While we all process trauma and adversity in different ways, there are certain protective factors that help boost resilience by improving coping skills and adaptability.

Common protective factors that will build resilience

Taking care of yourself — financially, healthy and balanced diet, exercise, physically, emotionally and mentally. Doctors, nurses and other health care professional are often the worst offenders in not taking care of themselves; often thinking that the rules don’t apply to them, but they do.

Taking care of others physically, mentally or emotionally jobs that involve caring for others are known to build resilience. Well developed communication (read here) and conflict resolution skills, social confidence and assertiveness are essential qualities needed to care for others — in both personal and professionally capacities.

Self-confidence and self-awareness — having a positive self-image and knowing yourself — noticing what’s going on inside your head and around you. Believing in yourself, remembering your past experiences, knowledge and skills and recognising your own strengths are crucial for confronting and managing the fears or anxieties in your life.

Being tactful — and choosing the right techniques and approaches to use in difficult circumstances. Don’t be that bull in a china shop, take your time and think about what you might say or do and how it might come across to or affect others.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle model 1988 — Image
by Oxford Brookes University

Self-reflection — enables you to process and make meaning of the good, the bad, the ugly or even the great (and not so great) learning experiences you’ve had. It allows you to explore your experiences, leading to new and better understanding and appreciation of them — what you learnt from them. See Gibbs Reflective Cycle model, which was in use when I was studying mental health nursing and can be used as a guideline for your own self reflection. Why not give it a go? And make notes.

Flexibility — a key component of resilience that requires you to be flexible in your thinking and actions, such as being willing to learn or try new things, see things differently and try other approaches — there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Thinking clearly and in an organised manner — being able to interpret any events/demand that crop up in a calm and rational way. When faced with increasing demands, one extremely effective and simple way to build resilience is to organise your thoughts. Take some time before you start on your workload to organise, list your thoughts and tasks, prioritising them as necessary.

Sense of humour — and being able to use humour appropriately — the ability to laugh at yourself and to laugh in the face of adversity. You’ll find that most doctors and nurses understand each others dark sense of humour, needed to relieve themselves of the burden and stresses of their jobs.

Reaching out — it’s important to be able to call on others to help you meet any challenges you face, because resilience is also about knowing when to ask for help.

How you can develop more resilience

Image by Megan Hine

There are several ways that you can develop more resilience in difficult or stressful events within your life, some of which are listed below.

Make a few lifestyle changes — practice being more assertive and up-front with others. If you think people are making unreasonable demands upon you, tell them how you feel and say no (remember – you don’t have to give a reason for saying no). The moment you um and ah, or say “I can’t because………” they’ll see the chink in your armour and push to get what they want. Use any form of relaxation, taking time to do things that help to calm you, whether it’s reading, exercising, going for a walk, taking a bath or listening to your favourite music.

Assess the sense of balance in your life and if one thing i.e. work, is taking up all your time, make some space for other things. Learn new hobbies and consider new interests, and make time for them. Make time to spend with family and friends, and make use of your support network.

Look after your physical health — work on your sleep hygiene, try to get into a routine to develop a better sleep pattern. Try to exercise regularly; be as physically active as you can, even if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. Eat a healthy and balanced diet — check out the stores for the cheaper wonky fruit and vegetables. Try to lower your salt, fat and sugar intake.

Don’t be so hard on yourself —make time each day to pat yourself on the back for your accomplishments and reward yourself for what you’ve achieved. Love yourself unconditionally and have some self-compassion – if you’ve made errors or you didn’t achieve what you wanted, stop punishing yourself and remember — nobody’s perfect.

Don’t fall into one of the major thinking traps which include using phrases like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘should’ and ‘must’ i.e “I’m p’d off because you never take the bin out” because I’m sure that at some point they have, and they’ll throw back at you “Yes I do. I took it out on Monday.” then the argument goes onto “No you didn’t,” and “Yes I did, and I did it the week before,” rather than what angered/upset you in the first place.

Try to resolve old or existing conflicts — not always easy, but settling arguments, or finding a new way to move forward with a loved one or a friend will assist you in feeling better and finding a sense of peace.

While I’ve managed to sort out some major technical issues I’m having with my own site — by following some of my own advice, like taking time out to relax by finishing a novel I’ve been reading forever — I’m still unable to like or comment on lots of other blogs. I’ve been going round in circles the last two days and nights, so I’ve taken a break to write this post and to apologise for my apparent lack of communication with you all. I will get back onto it!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on building resilience. How have you been coping in the face of adversity; all the lockdowns around the world? Is there anything I’ve missed on resilience and do you have any other handy tips?

You might also find the following posts useful

  • How to improve your verbal communication skills here
  • How to improve effective listening skills here
  • When and how do I say sorry  here
  • Never miss important social cues again here

 

References:

McDonald et al., 2012, Positive Psychology, The Crisis Kit https://positivepsychology.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Crisis-Kit.pdf

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

48 thoughts on “How to develop resilience to cope with adversity”

  1. Your browser settings may be the issue as to commenting/liking, although I don’t know why that would be happening all of a sudden. If you’re using Safari, go to “Preferences” in the “Safari” menu, then the “Privacy” tab. “Prevent cross-site tracking” needs to be unchecked.

    In Chrome, go to “Preferences” under the “Chrome” menu, then scroll down to the “Privacy and security settings” and click on “Site Settings” then “Cookies and site data”. “Block third-party cookies” has to be turned off.

    I’m not sure about Internet Explorer, but it would probably still be an issue related to cross-site tracking and/or third party cookies.

    1. Whoop, whoop. This really helped Ashley. Thank you for taking the time to write all this for me. I’d been through setting etc and couldn’t find out what to do lol. I’m Google Chrome and after waiting hours for my caches to delete — I’m back up and running.
      I am so relieved. This has taken me 4 days and 2 nights and I was stressed up to the eyeballs 🙁 I’m going to relax for a bit now that this is fixed.
      Thank you once again Ashley, much appreciated.

      1. I’m glad it’s fixed. It took me a long time and a great deal of fussing around to figure it out when this was an issue for me a while back.

  2. Overcoming difficulties is a great human trait but sometimes avoiding unnecassary problems before trying to settle a solution is better …It is not necassary to try to cross all bridges …Some ways are more efficient and effective than others …
    Give some time for yourself to rest and relax …God bless our world with love and peace eternally…

  3. Oh my goodness, this is absolutely brilliant. Thank you, thank you. I have learnt that as a child I never learned any life skills, or how to manage my emotions, or how to gather any forms of resilience. This has caused me so much damage which only in the last couple of years I have fully understood, but now, yes, now it finally makes sense. So despite being fifty years old, I am now starting to recognise my behaviours and trying to sort them out. Sometimes it makes me angry that I never fixed these issues before, but I just always thought that I was useless because that’s what I had been told and if you’re told that enough, you do believe it. Thank you for this post and now I’ve got to work out how to save it so I can read it again and again! Katie

    1. Aaaww, thank you Katie, it’s really encouraging to read that someone might learn something useful on my blog.
      ‘As 1 person I cannot change the world alone, but if I can change the world for 1 person…..’ I think that’s why we all write, do you?
      Hey — 50? we’re never to late too learn and it’s said we learn from our mistakes! Ha, I could refute that easily.
      I never learnt anything about managing emotions apart from hiding them – until I hit my 30’s. I ended up in counselling for three years – and what a shock that was. Once the emotions were out, I couldn’t put them back, I think I cried those 3 years solid lol.
      Maybe you’ll find some of the other articles at the bottom of the page interesting? In the meantime Katie, you stay safe and well. Caz x

  4. I hate the weird belief that kids are resilient. When I was a kid, both times after I experienced physical abuse, I just went on with my life because I had no choice; and because I thought that what I’d just experienced was normal, ya know? All that confusion leads to making it seem as if kids are, in fact, resilient; when in reality, I think they’re overwhelmed and confused and/or traumatized. But, anyway! Great blog post!! Resiliency is so important, and I like the concept of seeing it as a virtue or an aspect of inner strength, ya know? And I’ve just now realized that, because I’ve never thought of it as a virtue before, but it is one! I’ve developed amazing emotional resiliency from dealing with my narcissistic mother. I.e., if I’m in a terrible mood, I can bounce back from it quite quickly, as if it never happened. YEARS AND YEARS OF PRACTICE. And gratitude. When I was younger, there was pretty much no escape. Now, I can take my mom in small doses on my own choosing, which is so much better than HAVING TO LIVE WITH HER, HEAVEN HELP US ALL. So I think resiliency is one of those accomplishments I’m proud of, because it just takes practice. I love your tips for getting better at it!!

    1. Me too Meg – despite the fact I hated seeing my dad batter my mum (age of 3-4 onwards), there was nothing I could do. We were sent to bed and the next day no one mentioned. Nobody taught us about emotions, what to do with them or how to manage them. So yes, in hindsight, we were confused and traumatised.
      Yet I still went into relationships with men who were violent, well they weren’t initially.
      I’m so glad you’re able to bounce back quickly now, despite the process you had to go through to get there – I agree, years and years of practice 😉
      Aaaww, glad you like the tips Meg. You stay safe and well. Caz x

  5. I really like the metaphor of resilience being like mountain climbing. Those who have good habits and experience can make it look easy, but many of us are going to flounder and whine and get lost a few times. And it’s all good, so long as we eventually make it through and don’t try to push anyone else back down their mountain in frustration.

  6. Ahh! I’ve been suffering with the likes and comments for WEEKS now! It really is frustrating. I’ve been reading and when it allows I leave a like. Most of the time my comments aren’t even going through 🙁 I’m sad that you’re experiencing it too, but I’m also happy that it’s not just me!!

    1. Hi Ang, yes I know how bloody frustrating it is. But I’m fixed now so I’m back up and running 🙂 I got lots of tips and advice from the community – not sure how long you’ve had your laptop/device? I eventually had to clear my whole history, cookies and caches included. Wow! Everything’s loading so much quicker. I can ‘like’ and put my tuppence worth in on other blogs lol. Hope you fix it soon xx

      1. I will try clearing everything when I can find some time. Hopefully I can get this all working again. Glad you got yours figured out!!!

  7. hi nice post! I’ve also had problems commenting and liking.. for quite some time now. And difficulty logging into my account. It seems to be better today. I thought it was my device since my laptop is quite old. but today it seems to be better! Maybe its an overload since everyone is online now and working from home!!

  8. Another great post – love the tips to build resiliency. I really like DBT’s Reduce Vulnerability skills – treat illnesses, eat moderately, avoid intoxicants, sleep sufficiently and exercise. Doing all of these have made a huge difference in how I deal with crises.

  9. For me the most hopeful phrase was that it is a skill that can be learned. I’m discovering now that my resilience is greatly supported by others. I still can feel guilty about it, that I am not able to manage all things on my own. As I said, it is all sparkling new to me and your post shed a good and welcome light on the subject. x

  10. Hey Kacha, glad you found it useful. As I said in this post, professionals are the worst at accepting help – I know how difficult it can be and I feel for you. We all need to be ‘held’ and supported at times. You keep doing the things you do my lovely. Stay well and safe. Caz x

  11. Resilience is definitely essential in life. Life constantly throws curve balls and does the unexpected. It can make you feel like giving up sometimes so learning to roll with it as best as we can is so important!

  12. So grateful for the post . Indeed at times of adversities many of us might have the ignorant reaction instead of acceptance . It is as difficult to accept our strength as difficult it is to accept the short comings . But we have to believe in ourselves and if not eradicate the weakness but not give them power to conquer us and lead us to procastinate . We indeed have to use the strength of strengths to overcome the self loathing weaknesses . Shift the focus to the half full glass than the half empty

  13. Really great post! I think not being too hard on yourself is really important. We tend to be very harsh on ourselves but we forget that pobody’s nerfect!

  14. Adversity is part of life and we have to learn to cope with it. I wrote a blog article recently on the subject of adversity, inspired by the myth of Hercules. Hercules is one of the most popular hero of the Greek mythology. His life was far from perfect and filled with tragedies. He endured many trials and completed many daunting tasks. The myth of Hercules teaches us that everyone has monsters they need to conquer, seemingly impossible task that they need to accomplish and tragedies they have to overcome. When faced with some difficult situations in life , one can take comfort in the stories of Hercules who went from Zero to Hero, we can survive our own tribulations and become the hero of our own life. My youngest daughter Alize is narrating or rather singing the story of Hercules in my blog article https://authorjoannereed.net/from-zero-to-hero-the-myth-of-hercules/. Feel free to check it out!

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