The Importance of Resilience

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Resilience is what gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress and hardship. It is the mental reservoir of strength that people are able to call on in times of need to carry them through without falling apart. Psychologists believe that resilient individuals are better able to handle such adversity and rebuild their lives after a catastrophe.

Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not getting into a class you wanted to take), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks). How we deal with these problems can play a significant role in not only the outcome but also the long-term psychological consequences.

What Is Resilience?

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to remain calm in the face of disaster while others appear to come undone? People that can keep their cool have what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to cope with problems and setbacks.

Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges.

These problems may include job loss, financial problems, illness, natural disasters, medical emergencies, divorce, or the death of a loved one. Instead of falling into despair or hiding from problems with unhealthy coping strategies, resilient people face life's difficulties head-on. This does not mean that they experience less distress, grief, or anxiety than other people do. It means that they handle such difficulties in ways that foster strength and growth. In many cases, they may emerge even stronger than they were before.

Those who lack this resilience may instead become overwhelmed by such experiences. They may dwell on problems and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges. Disappointment or failure might drive them to unhealthy, destructive, or even dangerous behaviors. These individuals are slower to recover from setbacks and may experience more psychological distress as a result.

What Resilience Provides

Resilience does not eliminate stress or erase life's difficulties. People who possess this resilience don’t see life through rose-colored lenses. They understand that setbacks happen and that sometimes life is hard and painful. They still experience the emotional pain, grief, and sense of loss that comes after a tragedy, but their mental outlook allows them to work through such feelings and recover.

Instead, resilience gives people the strength to tackle problems head-on, overcome adversity, and move on with their lives. In the wake of traumas such as the 9/11 attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster, many individuals demonstrated the behaviors that typify resilience. Not only were they able to remain strong in the face of almost unbearable loss but they were also able to carry on and even offer emotional support to others affected by the same tragedies.

Even in the face of events that seem utterly unimaginable, resilience allows people to marshal the strength to not just survive but to prosper.

Factors That Contribute to Resilience

Some individuals come by these abilities naturally, with personality traits that help them remain unflappable in the face of challenge. However, these behaviors are not just inborn traits found in a select few individuals. According to many experts, resilience is quite common, and people are very capable of learning the skills that it takes to become more resilient.

Social support is another critical variable that contributes to resilience. Mentally strong people tend to have the support of family and friends who help bolster them up in times of trouble.

Other factors associated with resilience include:

  • Holding positive views of themselves and their abilities
  • The capacity to make realistic plans and stick to them
  • Having an internal locus of control
  • Being a good communicator
  • Viewing themselves as fighters rather than victims
  • Having high emotional intelligence and managing emotions effectively

How to Build Resilience

Fortunately, resilience is something that you can build both in yourself and in your children. Some of the important steps that you can take to become more resilient:

Reframe Your Thoughts

Resilient people are able to look at negative situations realistically, but in a way that doesn't center on blame or brooding over what cannot be changed. Instead of viewing adversity as insurmountable, focus on looking for small ways that you can tackle the problem and make changes that will help. Focusing on the positive things you can do can help get you out of a negative mindset.

You can also use this approach to help children learn how to better cope with challenges. Encourage them to think about challenges in more positive, hopeful ways. This way, instead of getting stuck in a loop of negative emotions, kids can learn to see these events as opportunities to challenges themselves and develop new skills.

Seek Support

Having people you can trust and confide in is important for building resilience. Talking about the difficulties you are coping with doesn't make them go away, but sharing with a friend or loved one can make you feel like you have someone in your corner. Discussing things with other people can also help you gain insight or even new ideas that might help you better manage the challenges you're dealing with.

Focus on What You Can Control

When faced with a crisis or problem, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the things that feel far beyond your control. Instead of wishing there was some way you could go back in time or change things, try focusing only on the things that are in your control. Even when the situation seems dire, taking realistic steps to help improve the situation, however small these steps may be, can improve your sense of control and resilience.

A Word From Verywell

Resilience is an important ability and something that you can get better at with time. Start by practicing some resilience-building skills in your daily life. Developing a positive outlook, having a strong support system, and taking active steps to make things better can go a long way toward becoming more resilient in the face of life's challenges.

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