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What Is the Meaning of Resilience?

by Joanna Cakala |

How to Build Resilience in Your Everyday Life and How to Be More Resilient at Work

resilience-meaning

What do you do when life gives you lemons? Do you focus on how bitter they taste, or do you make lemonade?

While it’s impossible to avoid setbacks in life, you can learn how to overcome them and even use them to your advantage. That ability is called resilience. 

Resilience in the face of adversity is the key to living a happy and fulfilling life where you’re able to utilize all your strengths and recover from failures. 

If you tend to focus on the negatives of your life, then this article is for you. We will explain what qualities you need to become resilient as well as the relationship between resilience and mental health. You’ll also learn how to become more resilient in everyday life and build resilience at work specifically. 

Why Is Resilience So Important? How Are Resilience and Mental Health Connected? What Is the Key to Building Resilience in the Face of Adversity?  

Resilience is the ability to adapt to changes and overcome whatever challenge life throws at us, despite how difficult the obstacle may be.  

The reason resilience and mental health are so important is that everyone will face hardships at some point. It’s simply a part of life and the sooner you accept that, the better off you will feel. If you aren’t resilient, you might be overwhelmed easily, give up on your goals when things don’t go smoothly, and lose focus, which might make your personal and professional life difficult. Constant stress can negatively affect your well-being and lead to serious mental and physical health problems.  

Here are some everyday life examples to give you more idea of what being resilient means: 

 - A person who didn’t get the job they applied for sees it as a challenge to improve their skills instead of giving up working in that area of expertise.

 - A person who got dumped by their partner lets themselves feel sad but doesn’t break down and still believes they can find love.

 - A person who receives criticism at work accepts it as an opportunity to improve rather than proof of their incompetence.

 - A person who didn’t get into university doesn’t give up on their life and still believes they’re a valuable person.

 - A person whose car breaks down doesn’t respond with panic but looks for solutions instead. 

These are all examples of building resilience in the face of adversity. 

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What Is The Connection Between Resilience and Mental Health? How Can We Build Resilience in the Face of Adversity? 

Have you ever wondered why some people who experience trauma reach adulthood nearly unscathed why others might develop posttraumatic stress disorder and struggle to navigate personal and professional life? 

Being resilient allows you to enjoy good well-being even if you face many difficulties in your life. Previous studies have linked resilience to higher overall satisfaction and more positive emotions, which is why it can prevent mental health problems such as depression and anxiety[1] 

If you’re resilient, you ultimately give yourself mental space to become the best version of yourself. While life will always be challenging, failure doesn’t have to bring you down. That’s how you build resilience. 

What Skills Do You Need To Become Resilient? How Can You Improve Your Resilience and Mental Health? 

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg is a pediatrician who recognized resilience as one of the most important skills to develop in adolescence that allows us to thrive in adulthood. According to his theory, resilience and mental health are made of the seven essential following components: 

  1. Competence

Competence is the ability to handle stressful or anxiety-related situations in an effective way. The more stressed you are, the less resilient you are, hence it’s important to learn how to relax so you can rely on these skills when you need to step back and feel more grounded.  

  1. Confidence

This is a belief in your abilities that can help you bounce back even if these abilities are challenged. A resilient person will still see themselves as competent despite experiencing difficulties. 

  1. Connection

Connection with other people gives you a sense of security and belonging, which can act as a safety blanket whenever you face adversity. If you have a good support network, you’re more likely to deal with challenges.  

  1. Character
    Having a good character equals a strong sense of self-worth and a caring attitude. People who are resilient know failure doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough and move on fast. This is how they build resilience in the face of adversity. 
  1. Contribution

Being appreciated and having a sense of contributing to the world can be a great motivator. If you feel like your goals are valuable and attainable, you’ll keep going despite obstacles. 

  1. Coping

This component refers to social skills and stress management skills that can both contribute to showing resilience in the face of adversity. People who aren’t resilient tend to have difficulties making friends and are more prone to stress.

  1. Control 

Realizing that you’re in control of your choices can help you make better decisions that will allow you to bounce back if something goes wrong.  

All these components relate to one another. For example, feeling in control builds confidence, while confidence contributes to self-worth and translates into better social skills. In the next sections, we’ll look at how to improve all of them. 

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How To Become Resilient? How Can You Become Successful in Developing Resilience in the Face of Adversity?

Contrary to what you might think, resilience isn’t necessarily a quality people are born with. As much as it’s a personality trait, it’s also a skill that you’re capable of learning. It’s never too late to grow. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to develop resilience. Here are steps that will help you start and better understand how to be more resilient:  

  1. Consider what challenges you’re struggling with the most. This will help improve your resilience and mental health.

Challenges can be usually divided into everyday challenges and more severe challenges such as unexpected illness or losing a family member. Let’s focus on the first group. 

Everyday challenges include situations that are a part of everyone’s life. These might be a breakup or relationship problems, failing an exam, not getting a dream job, making a mistake at work, etc. 

If you know what kind of problems affect you the most, you might be able to tell what stands in the way of building your resilience. For example, if rejection affects you the most, you might want to work on your self-esteem. If you’re afraid of making mistakes, you should increase your confidence and learn to have faith in your abilities.  

  1. Consider how you react to a challenge or an obstacle. This will help you see the obstacle on a larger scale to help you see resilience in the face of adversity. 

Most people respond to obstacles with negative self-talk or motivation loss. However, letting yourself become too affected by setbacks can put you at risk of dealing with even more adversities. For example, if you overthink a breakup, you might struggle to maintain focus and start making mistakes at work. The first step is to understand that challenges are a part of life; there’s no way around them and not everything will work out in your favor. All you can do is learn how to face them and move on with a better outlook. 

So, how does a person overcome adversity in personal life and at work? 

How To Overcome Adversity In Your Personal Life and Become Resilient 

What’s the first thing you do when you’re feeling down? What’s the first thing you can do to build resilience in the face of adversity? 

Most of us reach out to a trusted friend who can comfort us and offer a positive perspective. Receiving support allows us to bounce back from a challenge and emerge with a more resilient mindset. When you’re around people who care about you, there’s no obstacle you can’t overcome. Therefore, the key to overcoming adversity in your personal life is building a good support network.  

  1. Build a relationship with yourself first to become self-confident and build your self-esteem. This will help you improve your resilience and mental health. 

While this advice might sound counterproductive, the foundation of every high-quality relationship is connection, and you can’t connect with others if you can’t connect with yourself first. While the phrase “You can’t be loved until you love yourself” is generally harmful, it also makes a good point: start from with self-love and build upon it.  

Connecting with yourself means understanding your wants and needs. Without that understanding, you might pursue superficial relationships that are unfulfilling and serve as a distraction but don’t give you a sense of security needed to develop resilience.  

One way to improve your mental health and mental flexibility is by learning more about yourself. For example, you can keep a journal where you write down your feelings and worries. The goal is to identify situations that put you under a lot of stress. Pay attention to what emotions you were experiencing in each situation and what you can do to help you connect with your needs more. For example, work stress might have made you feel overwhelmed but partly because you were procrastinating, and you might have to allocate more time to plan your work. 

Another way to cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself is to include self-care in your routine. While a lot of people might think that resilience is developed by constantly putting yourself through challenges, understanding that you need to protect your health is as important. Make sure you find time to do something relaxing every day; read your favorite book, do yoga, have a hot bath, pamper yourself with a nice lotion… it could be anything as long as it’s enjoyable. Self-care will help you connect with your needs further. 

For example, you might find that having a bath once a week keeps your stress at bay or you might realize that you need a bath every day to feel ready to face the following day.   

  1. Learn how to be on your own and be independent. This will help improve your resilience and mental health. 

Sometimes we tend to overlook the most important needs and focus on needs that might give us a feeling of gratification but don’t do us any favor in the long run. For example, a lot of people might build relationships just to receive validation or to distract themselves from the feeling of loneliness. These people struggle to be on their own but don’t reap the benefits of close relationships because they fail to establish a genuine connection. You should learn to appreciate your own company to be able to build that bond with someone else. 

Firstly, consider what scares you about being alone; is it the inability to be with your thoughts or that you just don’t like your company? If you think it might be the former, keeping a journal can help with that too. Writing down your worries will empty your mind and put you more at ease. It’s also easier to find a solution if the problem is outlined right in front of you.  

If it’s the latter, chances are your self-esteem isn’t high and you should familiarize yourself with positive affirmations to improve it. Positive affirmations are positive statements that aim to help you develop a positive outlook and boost your confidence. Once you see the value in yourself, you’ll learn not to settle and only devote time only to people who truly care about you. 

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To incorporate affirmations into your daily routine to help improve your mindset, stand in front of the mirror, and tell yourself something uplifting. You can use simple statements such as, “I’m beautiful’, “I’m good enough” or “Failure doesn’t define me”. Another good method is looking up guided meditation online that you can listen to every day. Find what works best for you and start your self-love journey today.  

  1. Improve your communication skills to become more articulate. Knowing how to communicate effectively will enhance your resilience and mental health. 

Once you’ve learned how to enjoy your own company, it’s time to build high-quality relationships, which you can achieve by becoming a good listener. Even though it might seem that listening is a skill everyone has, not everyone can do it well. 

Firstly, make sure you really focus on what the other person is saying. You can visualize their words if it’s easier, and make sure to put your phone away. Don’t get distracted – be fully present. 

Secondly, be an active listener. Keep eye contact, use nonverbal cues such as nodding, and avoid interrupting the other person until they’re done. When the timing is right, you can show them you’re paying attention by asking to follow up questions.  

The next step is learning how to express your emotions, which doesn’t come easy to most people. You can improve this by writing down how you feel every time you experience a strong emotion. Be as specific as possible. 

For example, instead of describing yourself as being upset, choose a more accurate adjective such as angry, frustrated, hurt, disappointed and so on. It also helps to follow this structure: ‘It makes me angry when…’ or ‘This makes me sad because….’ 

Once you’ve gotten used to bringing awareness to your emotions, you can start expressing them with other people. When you next have an argument with someone, avoid using accusatory statements (‘You make me feel upset’) and focus on making the other person understand how their behavior affects you (‘When you act like this, I feel pushed away’). 

And remember to express positive emotions too. People tend to focus on negative things that happen to them and very often don’t realize when they’re feeling content, which emotional awareness can help you with. Essentially, by knowing how you feel and why you’ll be able to recognize your needs even better.  

  1. Develop empathy to become more resilient. Empathy can help us build resilience in the face of adversity. 

Receiving mental support from your friends and family is what can help you better cope with life challenges. But before you can expect your friends and family to help, you should learn how to do the same for them.  

If your friend is going through a difficult time, you’ll need more than a few supportive sentences to be their rock. You must be able to understand what they’re going through. That understanding is called empathy. 

To develop empathy, you must start by becoming self-compassionate. If you tend to be your worst critics, you might adopt the same habits in relationships and rely on judgements instead of empathy when listening to your friends’ problems. 

Ask yourself, what’s the dialogue that goes on in your mind when you fail? Do you tend to call yourself names and blame yourself for not meeting your expectations? If this sounds like you, it’s time to turn your mindset into a more positive one. 

Every time you catch yourself engaging in self-deprecation, try to challenge these thoughts. Instead of thinking, ‘I failed an exam because I’m dumb’, tell yourself, ‘I did my best and I can’t be perfect all the time.’ Another method is keeping a gratitude diary where you list all the things, you’re grateful for. Over time, it should allow you to see the good in bad and become more welcoming towards other people.  

  1. Learn to relax and decompress to manage stress. When you manage stress, you improve your resilience and mental health. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or if you’re under a lot of stress, even the smallest problem can seem like the end of the world. But if you have good coping skills, you can manage your emotions and approach a challenge with a clear head. The first step is learning how to relax.

One of the easiest and most popular relaxation techniques is controlled breathing. You can find various variations of this method, but the general rule is to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.  

Lastly, you can’t go wrong with meditation. These days you can access a guided meditation dedicated to all sorts of problems online. Whether you struggle with low self-esteem and need a confidence boost or you’re low on motivation, you can easily find something that suits your needs.  

  1. Learn how to ask for help when you need it. We all need support systems in order for us to manage stress. 

Even though people who care about you are generally attuned to your emotions, they aren’t mind readers and you can’t expect them to prioritize your mental health over their own. Whenever you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them for help. Even just admitting you’re having a difficult time can put some weight off your shoulders and already make you feel supported. Remember, experiencing negative emotions isn’t a sign of weakness, it just means you’re human.  

  1. Identify your strengths and write them down. This will help you pinpoint the areas that will help you build self-confidence and improve your resilience and mental health. 

Everyone has strengths and so do you. Prepare pen and paper and try to list all your positive qualities. Think back on tasks that you did well in the past or challenges that you overcame. Think of why you’re proud of yourself. When you’re done, make sure you keep this list in a visible place that you can glance at every day. This will serve as a reminder that you’re a valuable person and capable of overcoming life’s adversities.  

  1. Accept change because life is not linear and nor is it static. The sooner you know that life is constantly changing, you will enhance your resilience and mental health. 

A lot of people struggle to be resilient because whenever they’re forced to change their direction. They fight back. They might tend to see the world as unfair and refuse to accept that they must adjust to its challenges. If this sounds like you, it’s time to practice radical acceptance. 

Radical acceptance is one of the skills used in mindfulness, which is a practice derived from Buddhism. The goal of mindfulness is to learn how to live in the present and navigate your emotions without judgement. Radical acceptance can help you avoid suffering and move on effectively as it teaches you how to acknowledge the way things are. 

To do that, pay attention to your thoughts and notice when you’re trying to fight reality. For example, if catch yourself thinking that ‘Things shouldn’t be this way’ or ‘I don’t deserve it’, you should imagine what you’d do if you’d accepted things for what they are – make a list and then try to engage in those activities as if you’ve already accepted them. 

  1. Identify your values and be consistent with your behavior. This will help build resilience in the face of adversity.

Values are what should guide your life choices and motivate you to keep going. If you know what you want from life, you’re better able to refocus after failure. To identify what matters to you the most, try the obituary exercise. Imagine that you died, and nobody can see what’s written on your gravestone.

Consider what your obituary would say and how would people remember you. Sometimes we fail to connect with our true values because we’re afraid of being judged by others. However, if you fail to connect with the true meaning of your life, you might end up being unhappy in the long run.  

How To Overcome Challenges, Build Resilience in The Face Of Adversity, and How to Build Resilience At Work

Who doesn’t want to be successful? Who doesn’t want to have a satisfying career?

Success the key to happiness, after all, or at least that’s what influencers want you to think. But even if you don’t follow any influencers, the cult of success is hard to escape – social media is filled with people talking about their achievements and rarely mentioning any setbacks. You might even start to believe that constant success is possible and beat yourself up for any difficulties at work. The problem with this approach is that it’s impossible to be at your best and never come across any obstacles. Life is far from a smooth sail, and you won’t stay in the game unless you learn how to be persistent. 

Persistence allows you to stay focused on your goals, even though it might seem like you’re nowhere near achieving them. It gives you confidence in your abilities and supports resilience. It allows you to deal with challenges and then keep going. 

So, here’s how to build both persistence and resilience at work: 

  1. Adopt a growth mindset to build resilience and mental health.

When we’re growing up, we’re often told that we should find a job that matches our qualities. If you’re sociable, you should work with people and if you pay attention to details, you should work in a profession that requires a lot of focus, such as finance. However, this approach might be in the way of developing a growth mindset that assumes our learning potential is unknown. While having characteristics that match a job helps, you can also cultivate them through hard work. A growth mindset allows us to see failure as an opportunity to improve, not a confirmation that we’re failing. 

One of the most effective methods to develop a growth mindset is practicing the cognitive restructuring technique. Imagine that you make a mistake at work and even worse, it’s your first week. You might start wondering, what if I’m not good enough? You might even take it as a certainty you aren’t suited for the job and beat yourself up for not trying harder. Ironically, worrying about rising to the challenge might only lead to less focus and more mistakes.

But here’s how to learn to see things in a more realistic way; instead of telling yourself that you’re worthless because you failed, remember that if you’ve just started, it’s normal to make mistakes because you’re still learning. And if you make a mistake even though you’ve worked for your company for years, remember that no one is perfect.

It’s all about perspective. You can also pair this technique up with positive affirmations and come up with motivating statements. This should hopefully boost your confidence and help you turn challenges into lessons. 

  1. Track your progress and don’t forget to reward yourself. Rewarding yourself can improve your resilience and mental health.

Success is the best motivator. Even a small step towards improvement is a plus and something that should be celebrated. Keep a diary where you write down your weekly achievements. If you struggle to come up with achievements to begin with, you can make it your goal to include at least five per week and then slowly increase the number.

They don’t have to be anything special. It can be finishing your tasks 10 minutes earlier than usual or showing up for work with a more positive mindset. This will help you appreciate the process of learning and keep you motivated enough to beat any adversity that comes your way. Lastly, don’t forget to reward yourself. Treat yourself to your favorite food or a relaxing evening with a loved one. 

  1. Establish a better routine to improve your resilience and mental health.

Work smart, not hard. It’s really that simple. Depending on how flexible your work is, you should adjust your routine so that you can be more productive and hit more targets. You can start listing goals for each day and break them down into smaller segments.

At the same time, remember it’s important to be flexible. Your goals might change depending on your company’s requirements or current projects, which is something you should be prepared for. 

  1. Take care of your mental health and overall wellness to feel good as well as improve your resilience and mental health.

Being productive is impossible if you don’t give yourself enough time to recover. Additionally, being under a lot of stress can impair your memory and cause concentration problems, which can make you even more stressed and essentially make it difficult to cope with challenges. 

To manage stress at work, make sure you take frequent breaks and ideally, go outside or have a walk around the office. Keep yourself hydrated and avoid looking at the screen for too long. 

You should also find a stress management technique that works best for you to help you build resilience in the face of adversity. While most professions don’t allow you to do yoga on your lunch breaks, you can always find a strategy that fits into your lifestyle. For example, you could listen to a guided meditation that puts you at ease or practice a breathing technique. Or simply play your favorite song that motivates you and gives you confidence. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you need it. We can’t do everything ourselves. It’s that simple.

Not being perfect doesn’t make you any less competent. We all make mistakes. And while your colleagues might not be your best friends, it’s important to build positive relationships at work too. Next time you’re struggling with some aspects of your work, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being a part of a supportive team can help you develop a more positive work attitude and reach more goals. 

  1. Take care of your physical health and engage in self-care. Taking care of yourself can help improve your resilience and mental health.

Watch your stress levels and don’t be afraid to take a break when you need it. Overworking yourself and pushing hard is very different from resilience; it will only put you through chronic stress and make you less equipped to deal with obstacles because you’ll burn out. Remember, stepping back isn’t a failure. It’s a sign that you’re attuned to your needs and take care of your health. 

Make sure you eat balanced meals that reduce inflammation in your body and keep your stress at bay to improve your resilience and mental health. Allow yourself for a restful sleep to keep you energized and ready to face challenges. Lastly, remember to include an exercise in your routine as it increases the production of feel-good hormones and puts you in a good mood. Light activities such as yoga, walks, or swimming do wonders for your mental and physical health. 

References:
[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886914006710

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