Emotional resilience. Strength. Mental toughness. The way we rise up to meet challenges is a significant part of having a fulfilling and successful life. (As we each define that individually, of course.) As they say, it’s not about the challenges we face in life as much as our attitude towards them.
Since childhood, life has thrown more than a fair share of trauma and serious challenges my way, so emotional resilience is a topic with which I am more than familiar.
Formal resilience training can include a variety of techniques for building the mental toughness required to handle the obstacles thrown our way. Here are some of my best tips for building resilience:
Be honest with yourself:
Challenges have a way of making us uncomfortable by bringing out our insecurities, so people often subconsciously use obstacles as excuses for not trying. The first step in building resilience is to acknowledge what specifically is causing your inner discomfort.
It may be a fear of change, fear of failure, fear of success, or a fear of landing somewhere in-between that is holding you back. Remember that nobody else can hear your inner conversations, so try to be honest with yourself. You will not be able to move forward unless you can acknowledge what is holding you back.
Know your strengths and weaknesses:
When you consider how your skill set compares with needs to be done to overcome an obstacle, you are likely to find that you have the natural ability to face the challenge. Also think about how you have overcome obstacles in the past, so you can utilize those skills again. When a skill required to overcome a particular obstacle is not your strong suit, you will know immediately the area in which you will need to enlist help.
Pay attention to what is happening in the moment, and try to be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness practices such as meditation or journaling may provide emotional benefits (such as clarity and calm) that aid in building resilience.
Control is important to all of us because it makes us feel safe, and the perceived loss of control when facing an obstacle can be the main reason we lack resilience. We may not be able to control a situation or challenge, but we can control our plan of attack and our attitude. Taking control of these pieces can help you to face a challenge with more optimism.
Break it down:
Try looking at the situation in various moments, parts or pieces. (Believe it or not, there’s actually a scientific name for this, called Functional Fitness.) When you break it down, it may not feel quite so overwhelming. You may just realize that in reality you can handle much of the situation with ease and will clarify which aspect of the situation is the real obstacle. That allows us to develop the resources that will help us respond to adversity or challenges.
Consider the outcomes:
Can the situation you are facing be viewed in any other way? What if you were someone else looking in? What would they say? Before you take on a challenge, try to consider other points of view. Open your mind to all the possibilities and make this a learning opportunity. Studies show that people who have more images of their possibilities have more success in overcoming adversity.
Also, when considering potential outcomes, remember that you do yourself no favors by expecting perfection. Expect success instead.
Give yourself a break:
Stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body. Find ways to relax and re-energize. Do yoga. Take a hot bath. Take a long walk. Read a book. Watch a movie. Go out with your friends. Hit the gym. Make quality family time. Try a new recipe. Paint a picture. Write a short story. Give yourself whatever type of time you need to keep your reserves in tact.
Plan your strategy:
This is probably the one tip that has served me the most in life. Planning ahead and being as prepared as possible is one of the best ways to deal with any obstacle and help you feel more in-control. Being prepared and having a strategy will give you the confidence boost you need to hit the ground running.
Believe in yourself:
Choose YOU. Having confidence in yourself and your ability to rise to the occasion deprives the challenge of its power over you. Resilient people are generally optimistic (or at the very least, hopeful) in the face of adversity. As the old adage goes, if you believe it then you can achieve it.
Go for it:
You have been real with yourself. You know what you bring to the table and where you stand. You know what outcome you expect to achieve and how you plan to get there. You are ready, so go all the way and do not stop until you are on the other side. Face that challenge once and for all.
There is another name for these tactics for building resistance. They are also called COURAGE. Without it you will simply remain stuck. So ask yourself, do you want to be the one who looks up at the mountain or do you want to be the one who sees the view from the top? Only you can determine the answer.
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