Resilience: Bend, don’t break

This article was co-written by Dr. Mary Ross and Ryan Ghorayeb

It might be helpful to approach the stress of 2020 by acting like rubber. When pressure is applied to rubber, it bends, but doesn’t break!

Rubber’s ability to bend is called resiliency, and resiliency is not only a property of materials, but a key psychological trait that helps us deal with adversity.

What is resilience, and why is it important?

Resilience is crucial when it comes to managing hardships and adversity.  Most of us know this but we may not realize that there are many layers to resilience – it is not an all or nothing proposition.  It can be made up of many small things that help us cope with stress more manageably, that help with recovery and moving forward in our lives the best way possible.  

Be like rubber in its various forms:  bending, stretching, or taking a new shape. Tough things will continue to occur in our lives but we can take steps to care for ourselves and foster enough resilience that we don’t break.

So, if you have been feeling especially stressed out lately, don’t fret. Resilience is a skill that can be worked on like playing the piano or riding a bike – and resilience can be developed and improved at any age! Try practicing any of the following strategies to build your resilience.

How to build resilience

1. Self-care: mental and physical

One of the most important components in building resiliency is good self-care. A key piece is to engage in activities that are relaxing, bring peace or calm, and if possible, bring you happiness or meaning. This means different things to different people. For some, this may look like going for a beverage with a group of friends, while for others it means reading a book in the park. What is important about mental self-care is that it contributes to positive feelings about yourself. Participating in activities that you enjoy can strengthen your resilience by relieving stress and building confidence.

Your physical health should also be considered when you practice self-care. Exercising, eating a well-balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep every night are all essential in staying physically healthy. You don’t need to be perfect – think “good enough”. Often, when we are stressed, we are hard on ourselves, and this doesn’t help our stress levels. When you give your body what it needs, and are kind to yourself, you increase your capacity to deal with life’s stressors and the ability to bounce back from them.

2. Surround yourself with friends and family

Getting through difficult times can be much easier when you have others around you for support. Being able to confide in your friends and family can be a great way to relieve stress, facilitate a different perspective, and help you feel less alone. Supports can help to ground us and see the bigger picture in trying times, and hopefully help with ways to learn and grow as we move forward.

And the process goes both ways. When we support and help others, this can contribute to a positive mindset and build confidence.

3. Take ownership of your own mindset, and be as supportive and fair as you can

Sometimes we get stuck in feelings of helplessness and lack of control. These feelings can make coping with stress even harder.  You may not be able to change external events, turn back the clock, or know what will happen in the future. Lack of control and uncertainty can be very hard to grapple with.  However, you can work on being in the present, and evaluate events and feelings from a compassionate and fair perspective.  

Consider the impacts of these opposing feelings: 

  • Self blame vs. acceptance
  • Guilt and avoidance vs. acknowledging and reaching out
  • Being upset with yourself for how you are feeling vs. being gentle and kind with yourself in regards to how you are feeling

It helps to take action for yourself where possible. Even in times of terrible stress, we can make choices and take steps that help us move forward – even if it is one tiny step at a time.  Consider what you do have agency over and start from there.  Ask yourself what might be some supportive caring actions you can start and then build on.  The kinder you are to yourself, the more resilient you will be.

4. Ask for help

There are few greater feelings than deciding to build a skill and following through on your goal. However, sometimes solving a problem or developing a skill is not possible on your own, or, you may have no idea where to start. In this case, don’t hesitate to reach out – especially when it comes to your mental health. There are many great resources available to build your resilience, including seeking advice from mental health specialists, such as psychologists and counsellors.

 

If you would like to learn more about resilience and how to develop it, reach out to your care team and book an appointment with one of our psychologists today.