build resilience muscle

Have you noticed that some people fare better in difficult situations?  I was curious about resilience – that trait of being able to bounce back, to bend without breaking.  Is it something I could learn to be better at?  Yes, in fact, there are ways in which we can strengthen our resilience muscles, through practice and intention.

Our powerful brains are wired.  Through evolution we’ve learned to protect ourselves, mostly from life-threatening physical harm.  Flight-Fight-Freeze. When we perceive danger, we generally do anything we can to get ourselves out of the situation.

Most scary situations we face in our lives today however aren’t related to the immediate threat of a hungry wild animal. The situations we face may be significantly stressful ones, like a job loss or a serious illness, that will have serious consequences for us and others. Or, it might be something that has seemingly less serious consequences but feels extremely significant and scary to you – like public speaking.

Our brains have the capacity to rewire. What we practice, we become. How do we build our resilience muscle memory, so that it’s there when we face a stressful situation?  Although we’re all biologically different, many of the characteristics of resilience can be practiced and therefore strengthened.  The American Psychological Association provides tips to strengthen our capacity to bend without breaking:

  • Try to change how you view problems as they arise; see beyond the present to how the future can be better
  • Accept that change is a fact of life; accept what you cannot change and focus on things you can change
  • Expect that good things will happen in your life; visualize what you want
  • When a difficult situation arises, act on what you can; try not to detach completely
  • Make connections and foster good relationships; be there for others
  • Move toward your goals each day; break down big goals into manageable tasks
  • Reflect on how you respond to situations; acknowledge what you did well
  • Take on new challenges and inevitably make mistakes – it will help you be a better problem solver and to trust your instincts
  • Take care of your mind, body and spirit to be ready to face what comes your way

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