Lance Armstrong faced a devastating diagnosis that changed his life. He battled cancer and survived – and came back to cycling and life physically and emotionally stronger. He was resilient. What does resiliency mean to you? Your health could depend on your resiliency. Here’s how to embrace it.
Resiliency can improve the quality of your life
Resiliency is the ability to use skills and resources to adapt to stressful situations or crises, such as a medical diagnosis or injury. It can help individuals who are diagnosed with a chronic disease, such as arthritis, cancer or heart disease, better manage their symptoms. Resiliency can reduce the flare-ups and complications of chronic disease by helping you control your heart rate and blood pressure, increase your immune response, bolster your pain tolerance and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
Resiliency can help you cope with injury
Acute injuries such as broken bones, sprains and surgery can be devastating to sedentary people, even more so to athletes, who rely on their body through every practice and sports event. When athletes get hurt, they risk an identity crisis, loss of self-esteem and even a loss of social connections from being sidelined. Resiliency can help athletes as well as non-athletes cope with the changes in their lives caused by injuries and set them up to successfully bounce back.
Ways to become more resilient
According to Dr. Stephanie Vogel, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, the most important skills to have in your mental health arsenal:
Give yourself positive self-talk
View stressors as challenges with solutions. Unfortunately, many individuals are unaware of the critic that resides in their own minds. When they are faced with a challenging situation, that critic is the first to respond with thoughts that are hurtful, not helpful. These thoughts often arise without effort and automatically. One way to fight back is to create a personal mantra of positive thoughts: “I can get through this,” “I’m strong and capable” or “This is a temporary setback, not a permanent one.” Repeating these thoughts to yourself at every opportunity or having a daily reminder (e.g., a special key ring or a note on your computer) that prompts you to say your mantra will encourage the negative part of you to pipe down.
Be more self-aware
To be self-aware means you recognize and identify the emotions you are feeling but are not immobilized or overwhelmed by fear or anxiety. To develop self-awareness, a good tool is journaling. Journaling encourages a person to confront the emotions they are experiencing in a non-threatening way and allows him/her to focus and reflect on the emotions they are having. Becoming aware of your emotional response to life’s disappointments is often the first step in overcoming obstacles you face.
Take control (of what you can!)
Distinguish between the factors under your control and those beyond your control – and focus on addressing the factors within your control. If you try to change something that is not changeable, you will only feel like you are banging your head against the wall.
More important, you have control over your reactions to life – whether you have control of the actual situation or not. You can control your reactions by controlling how you think. Again, talk back to that internal critic that wants to be negative about everything! Find the opportunity that exists within the obstacle. And remember, learning to control your reactions takes time and practice, so be patient with yourself.
Lean on your social support
Healthy friendships and social networks provide feedback, solutions and emotional support to lift you up during those hard times. Research has shown that having a social support network is crucial for not only facing and overcoming the obstacles that we encounter but for being happier in general.
Strengthen your spirituality
Spirituality includes religious and non-religious practices, from worship of a higher power to having a sense of purpose in life. Spiritual practices help increase your ability to cope with stress and can provide a community of people who care about you.
Learn from the present
Individuals who are resilient are not just good at coping with the present but learning from their experience (however painful) to shape their future. Even if you can’t think about the future at this moment, taking the time later to think about what you can learn from what you’ve overcome can be valuable for the next obstacle and make you more resilient.
Individuals who can cope with adversity bounce back – no matter what they face. You, too, can become more resilient to face the many challenges life throws your way.
More ways to improve your mental health
Yes, you can get over childhood trauma
Overcome toxic emotions that hurt your relationships
Mindful moments improve your health