Published: 27 November 2019
Every one of us faces difficult times at some point in our lives. For some of us, bouncing back is something that happens relatively quickly and naturally, but for many of us it’s not that easy! Building up your psychological resilience can help you to enhance your ability to bounce back quickly when things are tough.
What are the key ingredients of Psychological Resilience? In asking the question about what helps people bounce back from adversity researchers have identified the following key components; emotional awareness and self-regulation, impulse control, optimism, flexible & accurate thinking, empathy, self-efficacy, and connecting with others.
- Emotional awareness and self-regulation. While resilient people might feel sad or scared, they don’t bottle up their feelings or get bogged down in them. Instead they are able to accept whatever feeling has arisen and to move forward. Tuning into your feelings can be easier said than done -one way of becoming more aware is to keep a feelings journal -writing down each day, without censoring or judging, how you have felt -be careful not to just write down thoughts!
- Impulse control. All of us have impulses to do or say things that may be hurtful to others or that are not in our best interests. Resilient people are no different, however when we act resiliently we are better able to control whether or not we take action on those impulses. A simple but effective strategy for improving your impulse control is to: STOP, delay responding, BREATHE, THINK of three responses, and then finally - respond!
- Thinking optimistically. When we think about a situation, or our future, we have a choice whether to focus on the positive or the negative. Whilst a focus on the positive may not come naturally, it is something that can improve with practice. A fantastic exercise shown to improve mood and outlook on life is the gratitude exercise. It takes less than 5 minutes, and involves writing down 3 things each day that you are grateful for. Training our minds to focus on the positive, even just for a few minutes each day, can have dramatic long term effects.
- Flexible and accurate thinking. Flexible thinking involves being able to take in new information and act upon it in adaptive ways. This necessitates deep listening to others in order to take in what is being said. Considering things from multiple perspectives is also a key component of thinking flexibly—when we are able to view things from different viewpoints we can widen our repertoire of potential responses and deepen our understanding of the situation. Conversely, rigid thinking or plans can open us up to the risk of abandoning our goals as soon as things don’t go exactly the way we hoped. Try coming up with a Plan B and C for each of your major goals.
- Empathy. Practicing acceptance of how you and others feel in both joyful and difficult situations is important in enhancing your capacity to validate and empathise with others. While it might be tempting to think ‘I shouldn’t feel like this’ or ‘He’s over-reacting’ - starting instead with an attitude of acceptance of how one feels, regardless of what sort of evaluation your mind jumps to, is a key element of being able to respond respectfully and compassionately towards yourself and others. Check out this talk on self-compassion for more info: http://www.self-compassion.org/
- Self-efficacy. Enhancing the belief you have in yourself and your ability to bring about change in the desired direction is also fundamental to acting resiliently. When we have faith in our abilities, we are more likely to persist with difficult tasks in the face of obstacles. Contrary to popular belief, this is a capacity which you can increase through practice. Taking just a couple of minutes each day to write down 3 things you have done well that day can increase your feelings of self-efficacy and your belief and appreciation of your own capacity to achieve.
- Connecting with others. When things get tough we often feel like hiding away until things improve, assuming no one would want to be around us. People who are living resiliently actually do the opposite of withdrawing -they approach others, allowing their vulnerable side to be seen and actively seeking help. Instead of getting caught in feelings of shame and embarrassment, they operate on the assumption that we are all human, and chances are others may have been through something similar. For a wonderful talk on this, check out:
Extracts from https://schools.au.reachout.com/resilience