Everyone experiences challenges and setbacks, but some people can recover more easily than others due to their resilience. Resilience is the capacity to bounce back quickly from difficulties. Some people are just naturally more resilient than others and can let things easily roll off their backs. Likewise, other people tend to be more emotionally fragile and are inclined to hold onto negative feelings and let difficulties interfere with their lives. But even those who are not born resilient can take steps to increase their level of resiliency.
Learning to become more resilient is especially important for emerging adults between the ages of 16 and 24. People in this age group are transitioning into adulthood and still learning to navigate the adult world. They generally do not yet have the life experience or coping skills to manage everything life throws at them. And much has been written about how growing up with “helicopter parents” has had a detrimental effect on some young people. Their parents often handled things, micromanaged their lives and jumped in to rescue them when anything went wrong. Many were not given the opportunity to fail and learn from their mistakes. Growing up with email and cell phones has conditioned many young adults to expect instant information and results so they may lack patience and tend to act impulsively. Time spent communicating through social media has left some young adults with limited skills for communicating “in real life.” As a result some emerging adults didn’t get a chance to fully develop the skills needed to deal with life on life’s terms.
One important way to develop resiliency is to recognize that you are not alone and reach out to others for support, advice and encouragement. Talk regularly to a parent or other supportive family member. Don’t be put off by the fact that they may be from a different generation and don’t understand exactly how things are for young people today. You can learn and benefit from their life experience and support. If you don’t have a supportive family member and even if you do, build and utilize a support network outside your family. Identify friends who are positive and supportive and communicate with them regularly. Be open to the suggestions others may give you. If you don’t have folks like this in your friend group, get involved in activities where you can meet them, such as by joining a group at your house of worship, doing volunteer work, reconnecting with old friends on social media or joining an alumni club from your college. If drugs or alcohol is a problem for you, find support at a 12-step meeting. Get in the habit of talking regularly with people in your support system so that when things get tough and you need someone to talk to it doesn’t feel so awkward. A hotline number can also be a good source of support while you are building your support network or if you need to talk to someone after hours. See pleaselive.org for a list of various hotlines that can meet your needs.
Self-care and a healthy lifestyle are other important components of resiliency. Try to avoid staying out too late and be sure to get enough sleep. No one is at their best when they’re overtired. If you are having difficulty getting enough sleep, try these healthy sleep tips from sleep.hms.harvard.edu. If sleep problems persist, see your primary care physician. Eat regular nutritious meals. Take the extra time to shop for healthy food, pack a healthy lunch, get up early enough for a healthy breakfast, and avoid fast food and take out meals. Regular exercise is also important. Go for regular runs or walks, join the Y or if your funds allow for it, join a gym or take an exercise class. Spirituality, however you may define it, makes some people more resilient. Prayer, attending a service at a house of worship or meditating can help build up your inner strength. Expressive activities such as mindful writing, art and music can be helpful.
When problems come along, don’t let them derail or overwhelm you. First try to avoid “catastrophizing” or viewing every problem as an unsolvable crisis or a complete disaster. Take time to brainstorm ways to address your problem. Break these ideas down into manageable action steps and then proceed with your plan. Not all problems can be solved and if this is one of them, learn to let it go. Sometimes a shift in attitude helps. Instead of bemoaning the fact that you didn’t get a job you wanted, be open to the possibility of other jobs. Being flexible and open to change also goes a long way in making a person more resilient. Trying to see the silver lining in every cloud can give you a more positive outlook.
Developing a routine can contribute to resiliency. Try to wake up and go to sleep at around the same time each day. Develop morning and evening rituals. For example, you might start the day with some stretching exercises or meditation and end your day by reading, walking your dog or calling a friend. The constant onslaught of 24-hour-a-day news coverage can be stressful and overwhelming. Likewise, social media can also negatively impact mood and cause stress. It’s easy to view all the unrealistic, carefully edited, selectively presented profiles and feel like you are somehow not measuring up. Try to limit your exposure to TV and social media, or better yet, take a break from them all together. Turning off your cell phone for a while in the evening and on weekends can also contribute to your mental well-being.
Learning to focus on the positive can also contribute to resiliency. Many of us tend to take the good things in our lives for granted. One way to reverse this habit is to train your brain to focus on the positive and come up with a list of three things each day that you feel grateful for. Take time to think about your strengths and accomplishments. Try to find something in your work or personal life which contributes to a sense of purpose and if you don’t have that right now, work on identifying it. It can also help to get out of your own head and gain some perspective by doing volunteer work. Remember tough circumstances you have gotten through in the past and try to recall how you were able to overcome them. Develop a toolbox of coping skills and strategies to draw upon during tough times.
Give yourself a break. It’s OK to mess up sometimes and often this is how we learn some of our most important lessons. It’s not necessary to be perfect. It may sound cliché but the old saying that when one door closes, another opens, often holds true. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react. Use what you’ve learned to do better next time. With some effort along with the passage of time, you can become more resilient and become better able to bounce back from life’s inevitable challenges.
Author Bio: Debbie Shepard JD, LCSW, RDDP is Director of Outpatient Programs at the Women’s Treatment Center in Chicago, www.womenstreatmentcenter.org (312) 850- 0050. She was previously the Program Director of Catholic Charities’ addiction program and outpatient manager at the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center. She also has experience working on psychiatric units and an emergency department and was an attorney in her previous career.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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