Resilience is defined as the ability to adapt well and bounce back despite of adversity and change. A resilient individual is able to survive, recover and overcome adversity. Resilience is a combination of many factors. Resilience is a complex and has multi components. Past studies assert that these are some of the components that facilitate resilience: perseverance, emotional management and awareness, optimism, more positive perspective, sense of humor, self-efficacy (belief in own capabilities), problem-solving skills (Kelley, 2005), self-confidence, a sense of personal responsibility, goal oriented behaviour (McMillan, Reed, & Bishop, 1993), flexibility and wide-ranging coping strategies for dealing with personal stress (Bun Lam, & McBride-Chang,2007).
Being resilient, however, does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are still present but the availability of these factors improves coping abilities and reduces the risk of developing psychological disorders. Resilience behaviors, thoughts and actions can be learned and developed by anyone. Resilience begins by taking the personal responsibility, the necessary actions and confronting the adversity. The diversity of cultures and individual differences imply that each person needs to find his own personal strategy to build his or her own resilience. The followings are a few of the many ways that can help build up resilience.
1. Emotion-focused Strategies: Some stressors we can solve and eliminate with effort but sometimes we are confronted with stressors that we cannot change or control. They just happen to us and all we can do is to try cope and do the best we can. We need to try and accept that the situation is out of our control. Emotion-focused strategies are handy in these situations as they help reduce the negative emotions that rise in these stressful situations. By increasing the sense of pleasure, positivity and contentment in our lives we are able to cope better with the situation and increase our ability to focus on that which we can change. Make your own list of the ideas of emotion-focused strategies and choose a few that you would like to do ( i.e. listening to music, massage, meditation, getting physical exercise, going out with a friend, writing in a journal or diary, taking a hot bath, expressing your emotions creatively (i.e. painting); humor (jokes or funny movies) etc.
2. Connecting with others: Having caring and supportive relationships is important factor in resilience. Family, friends and even taking part in community activities are important resource for emotional and practical support (i.e. financial help or information). Social contacts provide a sense of belongingness, stronger identity and can help reclaiming hope. Relationships that offer encouragements, comfort and reassurance increase a person’s resilience. Knowing that you are not alone and that you are able to ask for help and support from others, gives the strength and the ability to confront adversity. Social network is associated with increased wellbeing, higher achievement, more positive outcomes and increased academic, task or work performance (McMillan Reed, & Bishop, 1993).
3. Staying Flexible and creative- Resilience implies finding a balance in your life and permitting certain flexibility, especially when dealing with stressful events. It involves realizing that negative emotions will rise and that you can experience them as they come. Recognize the emotions, acknowledge its reason for existence and tolerate them. Avoidance, denial and repression of negative emotions (‘bottling them up’) does not make them disappear but just causes them to increase in intensity and frequency. It also increases the risk of mental illness. Emotion regulation is thus important. Avoid having iron rules such as I will never do that or say that… there are times that you will need to be flexible and creative in the manner in which you approach a problematic solution. Putting limitation of yourself just limits your ability to cope and successfully solve your problem. Use your creativity and flexible thinking to find various alternative solutions to the situation. Try new manners of approach and new activities. Besides learning new things, you might also enjoy yourself. You also need to realize that sometimes plans just don’t work anymore and need to be adjusted. Accepting that you cannot change things and finding the best manner to react and changing your plans also demands flexibility. Find a balance between taking action or meeting daily demands and relaxing, enjoying your social contacts and regaining energy, support and encouragement. Even the toughest fighter needs to recharge batteries and nurture himself. Be flexibly in your approach to social support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and relay on other when you need it. At the same time relay on yourself as well and trust your capabilities. Flexibility and creative approach to life’s adversity improves coping abilities and resiliency.
Bun Lam, C., & McBride-Chang, C. A. (2007). Resilience in young adulthood: The moderating influences of gender-related personality traits and coping flexibility. Sex Roles, 56, (3-4), 159-172.
Kelley, T. M. (2005). Natural resilience and innate mental health. American Psychologist, 60,3, 265.
McMillan, J. H., Reed, D. R., & Bishop, A. (1993). Defying the odds: A study of resilient at-risk students.” (Richmond, VA: Metropolitan Education Research Consortium, Virginia Commonwealth University).