Building Resilience to Change

Kayak flipping in rapids.

© possum – depositphotos.com

We all experience times of tragedy, trauma, adversity, stress, health issues, financial turmoil, and other difficulties – otherwise known as life. It’s how we come through these challenges that matters, and our ability to rise above them and keep going. That ability is what’s known as resilience.

When people use disordered eating or a focus on weight or body, these are coping mechanisms to deal with adversity. It’s an attempt at being resilient, but it’s a false resiliency. It’s pretend, and it’s deceiving, and when you’re in these behaviors and thought patterns, that’s hard to tell. Unfortunately, when you’re malnourished it makes the situation – and your ability to deal with it – much worse.

In the challenges that present in the business world, turbulent times have been called being in “perpetual whitewater” – always in the rapids of a river with things whirling by, needing to constantly adapt and never able to just sit back and get comfortable. There’s always some kind of adversity or something to overcome. When one thing passes something new comes along.

Without resilience, we feel discouraged or defeated. With resilience, we have confidence that we can overcome things and turn them around – this is strengthened even more with experience.

As we pass through the natural stages of life, they bring new challenges. For some parents, just as kids are setting out on their own and relying less on us, our own parents may need attention. We may be called into duty as caregivers for our children’s children, introducing new time struggles and potential relationship issues.

Hopefully our maturity and resilience grow in time as we do, but not always quick enough. In today’s fast-paced world, entire industries have sprung up to help us cope with our stress and overloaded schedules. We need these retreats, yoga practices, meditation, and the like to center ourselves and survive these times, let alone thrive.

What are some ways to build resilience?

  1. Seek support from others – This might be a support group, counselor, mentor, friend, significant other, spiritual community, or another group. Look for people who have their own difficulties but they’re navigating through them.
  2. Give support to yourself – Cheer yourself on with phrases like, “You can do this!” “Things will get better,” or “This too shall pass.” Remember what you’ve overcome in the past, and tap into your own inner wisdom.
  3. Support others – Helping someone else can also help you. Incorporate some random acts of kindness, or look for a volunteer opportunity.
  4. Watch your emotions – Practice catching yourself before reacting. For example, you may find that you get irritated before you get angry. Pause and check in, and then use of these other strategies to process that feeling.
  5. “Act as if” – This 12-step program slogan means pretending that you have the resilience you want, even if you don’t really feel it yet, eventually you will.
  6. Take action – In every situation there is something you can do (or stop doing). Be honest about what’s in your control and focus on that.
  7. Write it out – Journal about your situation and your feelings, and include a list of gratitudes.
  8. Calm down – Look for tools to help focus and relax the mind (our favorite recommendations are Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, and Health Journeys).
  9. Put a cap on your worries – Don’t “pre-worry,” long before you should be worried about something. Set it aside until you can process it with someone; don’t let it take over or interfere with your sleep.
  10. Listen to your body – Speaking of sleep, how is yours? Any body aches or tummy troubles? These can be symptoms of stress.
  11. Weave in some new activities – Energize your life with fun and creativity. Change your routines. All of this helps you be more resilient and build new thought patterns.
  12. Find a sense of purpose – Define your values and a long-term vision for your life. These will help steer you back to center when things get rocky.

With strategies like these we can learn resilience. Over time we’ll respond better to adversity instead of turning to self-harming behaviors like disordered eating.

Aim to see challenges as opportunities, focusing on the positives of a situation. Carol Dweck calls this a growth mindset. Change is an adventure and an opportunity to grow as a person. We grow past things; we grow from experience; ultimately we can look forward to these opportunities instead of dreading them.

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