Building Resilience to Overcome Challenges

How do you react to obstacles?

This includes significant challenges, like losing your job or the end of a relationship, and the little annoyances as well, like when you have to change plans or motivate yourself to do something.

Do you quickly bounce back from life’s challenges, or do you find yourself spending a lot of time and energy recovering?

Different types of struggles and hardships are an unavoidable fact of life and everyone must face them. The ability to overcome these challenges and find happiness and motivation, regardless of your circumstances, is resilience.

Resilience is telling yourself that you can make it through hardships

Resilience is a personality trait that everyone has, but not everyone has it in equal measure. This is why some people quickly rebound from challenges without seeming to be affected, while other people are floored by difficulties and struggle to recover.

Although this ability can seem completely natural for some people, strong resilience isn’t a trait you’re born with or without. It’s a characteristic anyone can develop. This takes a lot of time and effort, but the results are worth it.

Resilience has different characteristics

There are many different ways to be resilient depending on your personality and circumstances. Some of the key characteristics resilient people have include:

  • Positivity and optimism
  • Looking for realistic solutions to problems
  • Good communication skills – with themselves and others
  • Strong and supportive relationships
  • Adaptability and the willingness to change
  • Control over their emotions
  • Respect for their mental health
  • A sense of purpose and vision of the future
  • Always ready to learn

The most important qualities for resilience are optimism and adaptability. They allow you to feel satisfied even when everything doesn’t go according to plan. If you want to be resilient, then you must be willing to develop these traits.

Resilience helps you have a better view towards change

Everyone wishes they could change at least some aspects of their lives, like having a better job or fewer responsibilities. People who are resilient do their best to improve what they can, while accepting what they can’t change.

Part of resilience is being able to look at problems and find realistic solutions to them. Do some of the challenges in your life have solutions? If you don’t like your job, for example, is it realistic to change your career path? Or could you make changes to your job that would make it more enjoyable? To be resilient you must also be a problem-solver who takes action.

Not every hardship has a solution, such as the loss of a loved one or suffering an injury. When this is the case, try making changes to your attitude. Even if there isn’t a solution, you can always change the way you feel about it. Just accepting that a tragedy can’t be undone and doing your best to adapt to your new circumstances can make a valuable difference in your outlook.

Look for ways to improve your situation, and accept what you can’t change

Resilience helps you recover from hardships

Everyone will experience hardships. Nothing can protect you from that, but resilience protects you from the effects of those hardships. You can’t control everything, but you can control how you react to the obstacles that life throws in your way.

How do you react when things don’t go according to plan? If you got caught in traffic on your way to work, how would that affect your mood? You could get upset, arrive at work late and angry, make lots of mistakes and have a terrible day. Or you could accept that you should have left earlier, commit to being on time tomorrow, think of how you can make up for being late, and arrive at work composed and having learned from your mistake.

If you accept your mistakes, learn from them, and stay positive, you’re being resilient by turning a bad situation into one that you refuse to let control you.

As you build resilience, you’ll be less likely to see challenges as setbacks, but as opportunities to grow by overcoming them. You won’t think of yourself as a victim when life doesn’t go according to plan. Instead, you’ll feel capable of overcoming challenges and being stronger because of them.

It’s easy to forget how much power you have over your life if you control your reactions to your circumstances. Resilience is taking advantage of that power.

You can’t always control your situation, but you can control how you react to it

Resilience improves your mental health

Everyone needs to take care of their health if they want to live full and satisfying lives. By building and practicing resilience, you’ll become more mentally and physically healthy. And as your health improves, resilience will come more naturally.

How do resilience and mental health affect each other? These are just some of the ways the ability to bounce back from challenges is good for your mental health:

  • Resilience involves looking for ways to stay positive, and when you look for positivity, you’ll find it
  • You’ll try to find answers to your problems, and when you solve them, you’ll feel empowered
  • You’ll view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, so they won’t cause you as much stress and anxiety

Believing you’ll face obstacles and struggle to overcome or cope with them causes stress and anxiety. This can affect your health – physical and mental – in many different ways.

People who suffer from stress and anxiety can experience:

  • Breathing problems
  • Pounding heart
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Loss of libido, erectile dysfunction and fertility problems
  • Increased blood pressure and risk of heart attack
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Fatigue and tense muscles
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Heartburn
  • Weak immune system
  • High blood sugar

Your health affects every aspect of life, so you have to take care of yourself to live life to the fullest. Building resilience is one of the ways you can do this.

Resilience helps you recover from grief and trauma

Resilience can help people cope with the aftermath of a traumatic event, like surviving a disaster or the loss of a loved one. Although it’s much more difficult than dealing with small obstacles, the same principles of resilience can still be used. Instead of being a victim to your grief and waiting for it to pass, through resilience you can take control of your emotions and process them.

Resilience expert and author Lucy Hone teaches that there are three important strategies to resilience in the face of grief.

Resilient people know that tragedies happen – this is a fact of life you must accept. When you’re faced with a tragedy, don’t keep asking “Why me?”. When Ms Hone suddenly lost her daughter, she asked herself “Why not me?” because she understood that terrible things can happen to anyone.

Especially when grieving, you need to find the positives in life. If you don’t, you could end up losing what you have, to what you have lost. Find things to be grateful for. You may need to give yourself permission to be grateful while you’re grieving, but this will help you recover much more quickly.

Finally, ask yourself if what you’re doing is helping or harming you, and stop doing what is harmful. Asking yourself this question is taking control of your actions because you’re giving yourself the opportunity to do what you know is good for you. Be kind to yourself and make decisions based on what is helpful.

By actively doing what you can to process trauma or grief, you’re not being a victim to your experiences or your emotions. Instead you’re taking control, which can be very empowering.

Instead of feeling like a victim to your grief, take control of your emotions and find reasons to be positive

Building resilience is a long and gradual process

Because resilience is a personality trait, there are many different ways you can build it. You’ll need to think about what methods to build resilience will work best for you, but here are some goals you can work towards:

  • Find the positives in every situation – although it may not seem like it, there is always something positive about your circumstances. Finding three things to be happy about each day is enough to start improving your attitude and perspective.
  • Identify what you would (and can) change about your life, then find realistic solutions that would make you happier.
  • Be flexible in what you consider to be a good outcome or situation – if you always expect things to be a certain way, you’re much more likely to be disappointed.
  • Manage your stress and emotions – you need to control how you’re affected by events to quickly recover from them.
  • Build a support system of friends and family to help you through hard times.
  • Create an image of how you would like your life to be. Find a purpose and make sure that what you put your energy into aligns with your image and purpose.
  • Set small goals you can achieve rather than bigger long-term goals.
  • Forgive yourself when you make mistakes and keep on trying to change your behaviour and outlook.

Building resilience is changing the way you view problems and react to them. And making any sort of personal change is often very difficult. So take your time and don’t get frustrated or give up. Resilience is an important characteristic anyone can have and that everyone would benefit from.

Would you be happier if you were more resilient?

It isn’t easy, but you can become resilient

You don’t have to build your resilience alone. Many people find that talking to a trained therapist or counsellor can help them adopt the perspective that they need to change how they think about and react to problems.

Taking control of the way you react to oftentimes uncontrollable situations is highly empowering and will make you feel like a stronger and more capable person. You will feel more in control of your life and less concerned about the things that you can’t control.

If you want to build your resilience but aren’t sure of the best way to begin, or if you just have a question about resilience or mental health, please feel free to get in touch and ask me. I’m a certified life coach with many years’ experience helping people understand what they can do to improve their situation and get more out of life.

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