The Road to Resilience

Do you ever get stuck in a funk?  

You feel miserable. The unexpected has happened. Too much is expected of you. You can’t keep up. So what do you do? You crawl back into bed (either literally or figuratively), telling yourself, “I can never keep up; I’ll always be stuck in this misery.”  Not only do you feel miserable; you keep obsessing about the “fact” that you feel miserable.”

If you have ever felt like this, I want to tell you that the first thing you need to do to feel better is to get rid of the words “ALWAYS” and “NEVER.”  Throw them in the junk pile. Kick them in the trash. Delete them from your vocabulary.

Then, substitute the words “right now.” “Right now, I feel miserable. Right now too much is expected of me. Right now I can’t keep up.”

Go ahead, say those sentences out loud. Notice the difference in how you feel compared to when you use the words “always” and “never.” No, changing your words won’t solve all your problems, but they do set you firmly on the road to resilience.

Resilience — it’s a familiar word. But what exactly is it?

It’s your ability to bounce back from distressful, even traumatic events. Being resilient doesn’t mean you don’t have difficult, painful, stressful moments. It doesn’t mean that you don’t feel sad, mad, scared. It does mean, however, that in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, relationship, workplace or financial stress, you’re able to surmount your difficulties and get back to normal — though normal may be somewhat different from the way it was.

Can you do anything else to build resilience besides changing your choice of words? Certainly! Here are a few guidelines for you:

  1. Seek out people who are good for youSurround yourself with people who are supportive and knowledgeable about the difficulties you are facing. Share your concerns with those who will listen with understanding. Though there is a time to be alone, be sure you don’t isolate yourself with your troubles.
  2. Normalize your life as soon as you can. Returning to your daily activities (though not necessarily all of them) is an indicator that you’re  reclaiming your life. Control what you can. There are routines in your life that you can continue to do, no matter how you are feeling.
  3. Do what you can to make yourself feel empowered. Often this takes the form of doing simple things like caring for your body, taking care of your home, caring for the important people and pets in your life. Once you accomplish the simple tasks, you’ll feel more empowered to take on complex chores and reclaim an optimistic outlook.
  4. Monitor your exposure to the media. It’s harder to bounce back to normalcy if what you see on TV and what you read in the paper throws gasoline on the fire. Hence, use the media for entertainment, not to depress or upset you.
  5. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. As you emerge from tough times, you might recognize for the first time how strong you really are. I wouldn’t be surprised if you develop a greater sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality, more loving relationships and a heightened appreciation for life.

Sooner or later, life will burst your bubble. Hopefully, it won’t be too bad but it may clobber you with unexpected blows. At these times, it’s essential to be resilient, to bend — but not break.  To be your own best friend. To relinquish blame. To put things in perspective. To remember your resources. To hone in on what works. And give yourself time to emerge as a stronger, wiser, more resilient human being.

©2018 Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. 

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