Life can be beautiful, but occasionally it can also kick us in the teeth. We can experience loss, disappointment, adversity. Eventually, everyone has to face their fair share of pain. What makes the difference between someone who barely survives these challenges in life, and someone who meets these challenges head-on and thrives? It's the presence of resilience.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resilience as "an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change," or "the ability to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens."
If we're going to get through the inevitable moments of difficulty in our lives, we need to learn how to recover, or bounce back; that is, become more resilient. Even if we never learned how to do it before, it's not to late to develop resilience, today.
There are 10 steps for becoming resilient that will enable us to bounce back from adversity, every time:
1. Give up victim-mentality. We need to stop taking it personally when bad things happen. Instead of asking, "Why is this happening to me?" we should ask if there's any way that we might have contributed to this trouble, and what we can do to avoid the same sort of problem, down the road. That's how we become empowered.
2. Stop blaming other people. Whatever our circumstances, the more responsibility we take for the problems that we face, the more we can prevent what's preventable and effectively deal with the rest.
3. Learn to let go. In life, there will be things we want that we won't get, and things we don't want that will happen anyway. We need to let go of how we wish things would be, and accept the way they are. Without that self-defeating expectation, we'll be able to cope more effectively with the challenges of life.
4. Do what is possible, when it's possible. Instead of feeling oppressed by the difficulties we face, we can look at what we're able to do in each situation. We can't necessarily choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we respond to life's challenges.
5. Lean on loved ones. When we're facing a difficult time, loved ones provide us with affection, affirmation, support and valuable feedback that can help us emerge from the rocky patches intact.
6. Feel the burn. Vigorous exercise is a great way to burn off tension and release endorphins- the body's own "feel-good chemicals." Stress builds up toxins in the body and exercise helps to flush them out, while improving our strength, confidence and overall sense of well-being.
7. Cry it out. Crying releases numerous hormones, chemicals and other substances through our tears, resulting in a greater state of health and wellness. Emotionally, it helps us acknowledge the truth of our experience, honour our losses and more easily let go of our pain.
8. Create! Meeting a challenge, stretching our creative muscles, working full-out and accomplishing an important goal will bring us greater feelings of power, fulfillment and joy, which are often exactly the things that adversity takes away from us.
9. Meditate! Turning inward in quiet contemplation or reaching out toward God, a higher power or the Universe can be of great comfort in dark times. Spirituality, meditation or prayer can help us find our strength and purpose when we feel lost, vulnerable and alone in the midst of our crisis.
10. Turn the manure into fuel. We all have the power to transform even the harshest of adversity into an opportunity for growth and learning. We can use the difficulties we encounter in life to become more compassionate, deepen our wisdom and experience more freedom. When we do this, we create the possibility for an experience of transcendence.
Bouncing back from adversity isn't about the severity of the problem we're facing, or even about how many problems have piled up on top of us; it's about accepting the reality of what's happening right now, seeing ourselves not as passive victims but as active agents with choice, and taking responsibility for turning the darkest of times into opportunities for positive change and growth.
Everyone will face adversity in their lifetime, and everyone can become more resilient. Being resilient won't take away our pain, but it will weave our hurts and losses into the fabric of a rich, fulfilling and far more meaningful existence.
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And check out my new podcast series. In episode three I talk with physiotherapist, ex-marine and bulimia survivor Dr. Theresa Larson about letting go of perfection and coming to self-acceptance.
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