5 Key Strategies to Develop Resiliency
Do you ever wonder why some people seem to bounce back from adversity in a timely fashion, while others sit on the sidelines of life and don’t recover? One word. Resiliency. What exactly is resilience? It’s the ability to adapt to challenging life experiences and grow stronger by using your God given strengths to find meaning and purpose in life despite your circumstances. Some situations are so traumatic that they require higher levels of resiliency to navigate the deep waters we find ourselves facing. We can’t steer through things like witnessing a murder, the traumas of war, or being raped as easily as we can the normal expected difficulties of life.
The key to resiliency is learning to function and even grow under extreme on-going pressures without acting in maladaptive ways. Resilient people display some primary characteristics that are necessary for forward movement. The good news about resilience is that we are all born with the capacity to develop it, but it takes intentional deliberate effort, practice, and a mindset like Rocky Balboa.
Your mind and habits will determine the outcome of your future, so whether you’ve been traumatized by a major life event, or you’re just struggling through a difficult season, there are key strategies that can help you lower your resistance to stress and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Develop a Routine
People who are resilient are task oriented. They take measurable steps to deal with whatever adversity they have faced. When a trauma occurs it’s normal to be in shock. When my husband took his life, I spent the first six months in shock. Processing the event, dealing with anxiety, depression and confusion are necessary. It may take weeks or months like it did for me, but at some point we have to take purposeful action to move back into the rhythm of life. That may look like getting back to the gym, going to work, meeting with friends or trying new things.
Control what you can
One thing we can all be certain of in life is change and loss. The bad news is most of us aren’t comfortable with either. Change and loss create uncertainty and that makes life unpredictable, creating a tension or angst in us that makes us feel unsafe. When things don’t go as we painstakingly plan, we have to hold on to the belief that while we can’t control everything in our lives, we can control some things. To get back to normal we have to move toward controlling the small things in our everyday world to help us feel safe again. Resilient people know how to do that. It may be as simple as being in a familiar space, getting back to a routine, hanging out with friends, or doing a favorite activity.
Healing never occurs in isolation. In fact, isolation is inherently traumatizing. We need other people to heal from any major trauma or life altering event. Resilient people do this through connecting with others and telling their story. I was very blessed to have so many loving people to walk alongside of me during the first year of my loss. There were times when they literally carried me. I would never have been able to heal if I had not been willing to share my feelings surrounding the trauma.
Less resilient people have a poorer prognosis for healing because they are less comfortable with sharing their emotions. They lack openness and vulnerability. This hinders recovery. Highly resilient people will connect with others and ask for support when they need it. This connection helps facilitate healing and helps the person feel less isolated and alone.
Work adds meaning and purpose to life. If you’ve experienced a life changing event, the sooner you can re-engage with work and what you’re passionate about the better. Work not only takes your focus off your situation, it gives you an opportunity to give back. I didn’t want the tragedy to be the end of my story. If I truly believe that God is telling a story of redemption through the Gospel message, I have to believe he wants to tell one in my own life, no matter how earth shattering it was. My writing and speaking provided a venue to do just that. If you love what you do, it will be fulfilling. If you don’t, look at it as a good distraction for the moment while you brainstorm new possibilities.
Finding meaning and purpose in life doesn’t just happen. You make it happen. While we all have different temperamental differences, we can learn to channel them to find meaning in life again and enlarge our world. In order for that to happen you need to connect to the part of yourself that is curious about life. What do you want at this stage in your life? What things have you always wanted to try but haven’t? What new interests can you develop? Where do you want to be in a year? Five years? How are you going to make that happen? Resilient people know their core competencies and desire to push their boundaries. In other words, they know who they are they are willing to take some risks.
These suggestions are certainly not an exhaustive list on what goes into building resilience, but they are a start. While we’ve learned that resiliency can’t be taught, we know the key components to develop resiliency skills can be learned. It all boils down to working to develop your inborn strengths and putting them to work. In so doing, you’ll not only recover from life’s setbacks, but you’ll develop inner abilities you never knew were possible.