The importance of building resilience

We all experience points in our lives where we face challenges, difficulties and issues. Often, we are told by friends, ‘Be strong, you’ll get through this’, or ‘You need to be more resilient’ but what does that mean, and how can we achieve it in a practical sense?

What does resilience mean?

In essence, being resilient means being able to adapt and bounce back when something difficult happens in our lives. It is the ability to once again pick ourselves up after trauma or painful experience.

Our levels of resiliency will change and develop throughout our lives, and at points, we will find that we do not cope as well as others, as well as surprising ourselves when we manage a difficult situation. In another sense, resilience is just one of many psychological tools we implement to get us back to feeling normal again.

Why is resilience important?

As we all know, when we are in a weakened position where we feel as if things are going from bad to worse, it can be very difficult to find our balance, or swim against the tide, or, recover and regain stability.

Resilience is important for several reasons; it enables us to develop mechanisms for protection against experiences which could be overwhelming, it helps us to maintain balance in our lives during difficult or stressful periods, and can also protect us from the development of some mental health difficulties and issues. Some of the various benefits of becoming more resilient are listed below.

  • Improved learning and academic achievement.

  • Lower absences from work or study due to sickness.

  • Reduced use of risk-taking behaviours such as excessive drinking, smoking or use of drugs.

  • Increased involvement in community or family activities.

  • A lower rate of mortality and increased physical health.

Are there different types of resilience?

The phrase ‘emotional resilience’ may be one which you have heard before. It is quite a simple term which refers to how able we are to manage the emotional impact of stresses, difficulties and trauma in our lives. However, there are different sorts of resilience which we develop and need throughout different points in our lives. 

Inherent resilience - this is the natural resilience with which we are born. This natural resilience protects us, and informs how we discover and explore the world; learn to play, learn and also to take risks. This sort of natural resilience occurs a great deal within children under the age of about seven, (provided their development was not disrupted and they did not experience any sort of trauma).

Adapted resilience - this type of resilience occurs at different points in our lives and is usually brought about through a difficult or challenging experience. Being made redundant, and going out the next day to look for a new job, or the end of a relationship, and finding the strength to, over time, rebuild your sense of confidence to once again meet someone new. Adaptive resilience is resilience which needs to be learnt on the spot and can give us the ability to manage stresses and pain.

Learnt resilience - this type of resilience is built up over time, and we learn to activate it through difficult experiences from our past. We learn to know when to draw on it, and to use it during stressful times. It is through this resilience, which we learn, grow and develop our mechanisms for managing, and find ways to draw on strength we did not know we had in times when we need it the most.

How can we develop more resilience?

There are several ways that we can develop more resilience in difficult or stressful events within our lives. I have listed some of these below.

Make some lifestyle changes - practice being more straight-forward and assertive with others - If you feel people are making unreasonable demands upon you be prepared to tell them how you feel and say no. Use relaxation tips, and take time to do the things which calm you down, whether it is taking a bath, going for a walk or listening to music.

Develop interests and hobbies, and make time for them. Make time to spend with family and friends, and make use of your support network around you. Assess the sense of balance in your life - If one area is taking up all your time, then make some space for other things.

Look after your physical health - get a good night’s sleep, and develop better sleeping patterns. Try and be more physically active, and exercise regularly. Make sure to eat a more balanced and healthy diet.

Be less hard on yourself - find time to praise yourself for your achievements and reward yourself for what you have accomplished. Resolve old or existing conflicts - this can be difficult, but settling arguments, or finding a new way to move forward with a friend or loved one will assist you in finding a sense of peace. Forgive yourself - if you did not achieve what you wanted, or you feel you have made a mistake, ease up on punishing yourself and try to remember that no one is perfect.

Going forward

There will be times in all of our lives when pressures mount or we experience pain and trauma, and at points, we will struggle to cope. However, through learning about ourselves and realising what we can and cannot manage, we will be able to develop strategies which allow us to become resilient, to take these difficulties in our stride, and to feel confident in our abilities to manage. This is a process like any other and does not just happen, but in each of us, there is strength, and courage we did not know we had.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Joshua Miles BACP Accredited Psychotherapist

Joshua is an experienced Integrative Therapist who works with people to better understand themselves & their difficulties. He has assisted people in developing strategies to be more resilient & manage life when facing challenges. He works with a wide range of issues such as loneliness, isolation, depression & anxiety. He is based in Shoreditch.… Read more

Written by Joshua Miles BACP Accredited Psychotherapist

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