Can we foster resilience?

resilience Mandella

I don’t know about you, but I have in the past often felt trodden on by others and have had to encourage/force myself to get back up.  Like a plant or grass getting stepped on I spring back (slowly sometimes)…perhaps I look a little different but nevertheless there I am back up again.  And it can feel exhausting and never ending and yet there is something in me that keeps driving me to get back up.  The ability to bounce back is termed resilience and we looked at that concept in the last blog post.  This time I shall be exploring if resilience is something we can cultivate.  And it does seem to be the case.  So how can we grow it?

Resilience is a bit like a forcefield around you…we can’t stop the “big things” hitting us but we can be protected for when they do.

Studies have looked at what factors are involved in those deemed to be resilient and social bonds is perhaps the biggest factor (outside of personality).  Talking to others about our difficulties to gain perspective, to bounce ideas off and to ask for help all influence resilience.

Setting boundaries around what is and is not acceptable for ourselves in our dealings with others.  For example if you have a friend who only ever gets in contact to dump their worries onto you and doesn’t ask about your world, you may feel resentful and hurt that he/she doesn’t show any consideration for you and what’s happening in your life, and it may be very tiring. A boundary might be about not listening to him/her on the phone for two hours when they call: it could entail stating from the outset that you have 30 mins to spare as you are tired/have another engagement/feel that you are being taken advantage of and sticking to that 30  minutes.

Boundaries are really important to our health and wellbeing and this comes up a lot in my counselling and mindfulness work.  Often we have a difficulty around saying “no” to things we don’t want to do, and so we say “yes” and then feel really critical about ourselves.  It is perfectly reasonable to not give an answer straight away and to say you need time to think about it first before committing one way or another.

Resilience is about taking control of your life, and acknowledging that your wants and needs are just as valid as the next persons.  It is about self-respect. 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and then worried that you said was ridiculous/stupid/wrong?  It’s very easy to mull it over and beat ourselves up with it.  What I have learnt is that if I ask someone else about it (“is it just me or is….?”) it often contains and limits my self-judgements and criticism and allays my fears.  Alternatively, when I have asked the person themselves if I made a fool of myself in front of them, them usually report that they can’t remember the event in question.  So it was a massive thing in my head and my world and was insignificant in their world (because their world and their head is all caught up in that thing they said to someone else, probably!).  Those thoughts can feel like truths so when you hear something which feels to you like a criticism rather than allowing it to grow in your head, just check it out with them instead.  Be open to the idea that you are NOT at fault (sometimes) and there is no such thing as failure.  Without making mistakes how can we grow and develop?