Resilient - who me?
Resilience can be understood as the ability to be able to 'bounce back' after something bad or even catastrophic has happened – to get up, dust yourself down and get on with it. However, this is one thing that most people seeking counselling struggle with. They are stuck and overwhelmed by their situation and feel that they can’t move forward, that they don’t have the resources. Resilient can be the last thing they feel. Although developing resilience can also be dependent on external factors, such as having a good support system in place as well as having clear plans or goals, it is a process, rather than a character trait and as such it is a process that we can practice.
How can we build resilience? How can we tackle this?
A good starting point is paying attention to ourselves, our bodies and our thoughts. How are we feeling? If we’re feeling tense, where is it placed? How is it manifesting itself? Do I have a knot in my stomach or is there a tight feeling in my chest? Our bodies are good at giving us physical clues to how we are feeling before we can process our thoughts. We need to slow down our heart rate, focusing on our breathing, noticing how our body is responding. This can then give us a good base for capturing what thoughts are running through your mind. Capturing and identifying what our thoughts are can allow us to challenge them, are they true or is this negative thinking?
If we are overwhelmed we may not see that we have a choice in how we are feeling. Rather we think that things are happening to us - that we have no control over it and therefore we can’t change anything. One of the simplest concepts, yet a difficult one to grasp, is that we control how we feel. Yes, negative situations can happen to us, but we choose how we respond to it. By understanding this we can start to challenge our responses to some situations we find ourselves in, learning to let go of stuff we have no control of and take responsibility for stuff that we have.
Being resilient is something we can all learn to do and counselling can help us focus on this way of thinking and challenge our negative thoughts which may be hampering our ability to 'bounce back'.
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About Donna Sullivan
Donna Sullivan is a BACP registered integrative counsellor who has worked with offenders in prison, women's outreach services and private practice. She specialises in relationship issues, in particular how men and women communicate their vulnerability to each other and is currently employed in helping men and women improve their relationships.