Resilience or Defeat

We all go through life with bruises and scars as we are tackled with knocks along the way.   But, why is it that some people are more able to bounce back while others struggle to get off the floor?  Of course, it is a complicated issue, and likely is impacted by a number of variables.  For example, an individual’s coping is likely dependent on how frequent and severe the knocks have been, or if the struggles are dealt with along the way or instead are accumulated.   Individuals are also more vulnerable if the difficulties began in early childhood when reasoning and problem-solving were not yet developed and misinterpretation and personalization are instead the norm.  Our personality characteristics also play a role; for example, an individual who is more sensitive and takes things to heart may have more difficulty getting through struggles compared to those that are more indifferent.   

Regardless, none of us want to feel defeated by the blows we encounter.  With a defeatist attitude, we are more susceptible to depression and anxiety, bent towards negative thinking, face the future with skepticism, and oftentimes go through life being defensive and guarded rather than freer and more open to new experiences.   So, what is the catch? How can we be more resilient? 

According to an article authored by the American Psychological Association, there are 10 ways to help build resilience: 

  1. Having good relationships that are reciprocal.  Giving and receiving help goes a long way.
  2. Interpret problems as being manageable vs. insurmountable.  Consider them “bumps along the road” vs. unsurpassable mountains.
  3. Accept that change is a part of living; focus on the circumstances you can change and let go of what you cannot change.
  4. Develop and pursue realistic goals, regularly.  Move forward.
  5. Take decisive action on problems vs. avoiding them or wishing they would go away.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery.  Realize the strengths you have gained while feeling vulnerable; such as improved relationships, elevated self-worth, increased spirituality, heightened appreciation for life.
  7. Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and that you can build resilience.
  8. Keep things in perspective; see the forest and not the trees.  Avoid blowing things out of proportion.
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook; expecting good things to happen in your life.  Focus on outcome rather than being stuck with worry and fear.
  10. Take care of yourself; it helps your mind and body better deal with situations that require resilience; exercise, eat right, engage in enjoyable activities, delight in nature.

There are many helpful ways to strengthen resilience not mentioned above, including meditation or spiritual practices, feeling humbled by viewing other people’s problems having it worse than your own, and helping others.  Whatever way helps build resilience, the more able to enjoy life, with struggles.  Let resilience vs. feeling defeated be your story.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

St. Williams Mental Health