Resolving ourselves to desired change is a good thing. It only becomes debilitating if we forget to ensure we're built for the journey toward seeing the resolution come to pass. Attending to our resilience helps us withstand the unexpected interruptions to our resolute efforts as well as keep us in overall good health.
Resilience is the capacity to recover from difficult times; regaining our ability to thrive after having been through something difficult.
The human capacity for resilience is innate - meaning the potential to be resilient is built into us at birth. However, it can be weakened or strengthened, depending on our personal development and experiences. The great news about resilience is that it can be strengthened. Whether at the hand of an attentive culture in which we can immerse ourselves or through connections with key others in our lives, resilience has the chance to flourish in us from childhood through our adulthoods.
Both physical and psychological resilience are required to thrive against life’s hardships – one is short of effective without the other. Simply put, if I’m dehydrated, I’m distracted mentally. If I’m always exhausted, I'll eventually be unable to finish most any task I start. If I’m worried about my health, I’m likely to become irritable and lash out at others. Conversely, the psychological components of my self need attention if I’m to remain committed to my physical health. Let’s say I value spirituality, yet fail to find time each day for nurturing my soul’s identity, I will become imbalanced in all ways and eventually neglect those behaviors that lead to physical wellbeing. So, when we think about building our resilience, it's best to consider our whole selves.
Try having an ongoing and routine way of checking in with yourself to assure your basic needs are being met. We can get so focused on the busyness of life that the basics fall to the wayside. Even a simple, daily check that includes asking "have I had enough water to drink today?" or "Is there a goal I need to set and meet to feel more effective in my life?" can set us on the right course in building resilience. If our basic needs (nutrition, shelter, safety) are in jeopardy, resilience becomes hard to maintain. Reaching out and connecting with others who might help us get our basic needs met can make the difference in the building of our resilience. But, don't be mistaken - even people who's very basic needs are met can wane in resilience if they are neglecting their own care.
Constantly bearing the weight of heavy emotions is both mentally and physically exhausting. Creating a comfortable "dance" with our emotions is a key component to resilience. Often times we allow our emotions to lash out at distressing situations as if a literal tiger is pouncing on us, rather than taking the time to be more intent and choose our responses. Is it a kitten or a tiger? If it’s a kitten, use only the amount of physical and emotional energy needed to rebuke its effects. If it is indeed, a “tiger” of a situation, seek support from others to help you in the battle. The dance of emotions becomes easier when we strike a balance between regulating ourselves independently and knowing when to connect with others who can help us regulate those feelings.
Oddly enough, "softening" ourselves by exercising empathy and compassion toward others is another core ingredient of resilient people. Fostering empathy toward others can help us build social connections that combat loneliness. Maintaining those connections, whether more personal ones, or as part of the community-at-large lends itself to creating intent and purpose for our lives. In those efforts, we can practice creative thought, problem-solving, and learn to become interdependent. All of these elements combine to enhance our resilience.
If you struggle to maintain resilience, try working with a mental health provider to learn ways you can turn this around. In the meantime, bounce over to my Emotional Wellness blog and check out the great video I found produced by a therapist, Michelle Scheufler, LCSW on ways you can build resilience!
As always, material on this site is not meant to replace mental healthcare provision by a licensed provider. If you feel you're in crisis and at risk for self-harm or harming others, call 1-800-273-8255.
Life can unfold in unexpected ways, leaving us with much emotional pain. There are negative patterns that develop which can be altered for the better if we know where to look. Because of that, I am always searching for material that might help in someone's healing journey. If you're interested in reading more on ways to heal from shame, recover from relational wounds, and improve your overall quality of life, check out what's on my bookshelf.
Not "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, Shirley P. Glass, Ph.D. - a great read for anyone affected by infidelity.
Helping Her Heal, Douglas Weiss, Ph.D. - When your spouse has decided to move toward forgiveness and reconciliation after a betrayal at your hand, knowing how to support her (or him) can play a powerful part in healing for the relationship. This book can give you much needed guidance.
Grateful for the Fight: Using Inner Conflict to Transform Yourself and Your Relationships, Viola Neufeld - Find out how you can address the conflicts within yourself to achieve personal growth and improve the quality of your relationships.
Just One Thing, Rick Hanson, Ph.D. - Neuroscientist, Dr. Rick Hanson, has compiled 52 exercises for helping us remain mindful and gain peace in our lives.
Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a LifeTime of Love, Dr. Sue Johnson - Couples in all stages of their relationship will benefit from reading this book on how to create meaningful attachments.
Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve, Lewis B. Smedes - Learning how to remove the hardness of resentment from our hearts is the most powerful step toward healthy living!
I Thought It Was Just Me, Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame, Brene Brown - Shame is the most difficult human experience we encounter. This book may help you begin healing and free yourself from the burden of shame.
Running On Empty: Overcoming Your Childhood Emotional Neglect, Jonice Webb, Ph.D. - Dr. Webb writes about a powerful, yet often unnoticed adverse childhood effect that leaves many adults wondering why their lives seem to lack meaning, believe they should have accomplished more, or just don't feel right. If you have been wondering why you can be so accomplished in certain areas, yet feel completely unraveled in others, this book might be for you.
Boundaries of the Soul: The Practice of Jung's Psychology, by June Singer, Ph.D. - Having studied the great Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, June Singer was able to articulate in the most clear way, the underlying essence of one's 'personhood'. Want to know what many therapists hold in awareness as we help you live your best lives? Though quite an undertaking, this book is rich with explanation into what Carl Jung knew to be at the core of our humanness.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker J. Palmer - a master teacher and leader, Parker Palmer wrote this book about finding the way into our purpose in life. He uses his own journey through depression and vocational confusion as an example of how we create a sense of meaning in our lives.
Where Is God When It Hurts? A Comforting, Healing Guide for Coping with Hard Times, Philip Yancey - This book does a beautiful job of helping us understand the answer to this common question.
The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck - Another classic from my graduate school days. An in-depth and profound look at this journey of being human.
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