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Lifestyle: 10 ways to build resilience

06 Mar 2018

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing forward” from difficult experiences[1].

You can boost your resilience in many ways. In the book Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, the authors, Doctors Southwick and Charney, studied people who experienced great stressors, such as: prisoners of war, men in the special forces, victims of trauma or survivors of catastrophic events. They found that people with the most resilience in the face of extreme challenges shared several behaviours and mind-sets. From that research, the duo identified 10 factors associated with resilience. You don’t need to practice all 10 behaviours to build resilience; just pick the two or three or four that speak to you.

10 Great Ways to Develop Resilience

  1. Adopt a positive attitude. Optimism is strongly related to resilience.
  2. Reframe the situation. Just like the stressed-out study subjects were taught to reappraise stress as their friend, people who are resilient typically reframe a negative situation as an opportunity for growth, learning or change.
  3. Focus on core beliefs. People with a deeply held core belief, strong faith or a commitment to altruism often show more resilience.
  4. Find a role model. Seeing someone else who has come through adversity can strengthen your own resilience.
  5. Face your fears. Confronting a challenge rather than avoiding it will help you cope and build confidence.
  6. Seek social support. People who reach out to friends, family, church or support groups fare better during stressful times.
  7. Exercise. It improves mood, relieves stress and makes you physically stronger.
  8. Inoculate against stress. Challenge yourself regularly in the areas of emotional intelligence, moral integrity and physical endurance. That is, practice putting yourself in situations that are stressful – feel the fear and do it anyway. Over time, your body gets used to the stressful feelings and learns to live with it in a positive way.
  9. Find meaning and purpose in life. Having a clear purpose in life can boost your emotional strength during difficult times.
  10. Focus on the present, not the past. Focus on what you can control. Helplessness comes about from focusing on what you can’t control. Let past disappointments go. They only increase your sense of helplessness.

Keep asking great questions …


[1] Quote is from the American Psychological Association with the adaption of ‘bouncing back’ which I have turned into ‘bouncing forward’, in the manner described by Doug Avery in his Resilient Farmer workshops and books, see https://www.resilientfarmer.co.nz

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