Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. – Haruki Murakami
The death of a loved one, the loss of a treasured job, finding oneself to be extremely sick – these are all a few examples of traumatic experiences. One finds oneself in a pool of emotions and uncertainty at the end of such situations.
However, over time, people do learn how to cope and adapt well to these life-changing situations. How does one do so? It involves resilience.
Adversity is a fact of life. And resilience is that ineffable quality which allows some people to bounce back as strong as before, after being knocked down by an adversity. Rather than letting failures absorb them and their resolve, resilient people choose not be victims or sufferers.
They rise from the ashes.
Resilience has been described in a whole lot of ways but it really boils down to the possession of and access to a set of personal characteristics and external protective factors that an individual can use to survive or even thrive in the face of a difficulty.
Psychologists have identified some of the characteristics that make a person resilient – optimism, intelligence, easy temperament, positive self-view, self efficacy, flexible personality, good regulation of arousal and impulse, a sense of meaning, attractiveness to others and a sense of humour.
External protective factors include authoritative parents (warm and restrictive as per Diana’s model), an organised home with low conflict levels, good schooling and safe welcoming neighbourhoods (with high levels of implicit social control and engagement with prosocial peers).
Personal factors are seen as being helpful in any risk situation whereas external protective factors act as a buffer against high risk situations but have little or no effect otherwise.
It is important to note that what makes one resilient primarily is not the presence of resources but the mind and awareness of how to use them effectively. We all have been there, having met people who have all the luxury in the world but cannot stand on their two legs when faced by some turmoil.
Resilience is not some magical quality that one is blessed with overnight. It takes some serious mental work to survive and thrive in the face of hardships, to be able to keep moving towards one’s goals even after misfortune.
Think of resilience like taking a raft trip down the river. You are likely to encounter rapids, turns, slow water and shallows. Perseverance, trust in your abilities and a plan will allow you to work your way around the obstacles.You can climb out to rest on the banks of the river. But to get to your destination, you will have to step into the waters again. And for that, you’ll have to believe in yourself, in your resilience.
In the end, here are some ways to help build some resilience in you:
1. Take some time out:
Feeling overwhelmed, scared or exhausted? Take a step back and perform some positive actions like having a cup of tea or meditating or going for a walk or listening to music.
2. Visualize the worst:
What’s the worst that can happen? They might laugh at you or make fun of you for a day or two or you won’t score as much as you’d want to. Help yourself visualise it to the extent where you can feel it happening. This will help you desensitize yourself and maybe imagine how people will move on after a day or two and you should too.
3. Expose yourself to the fear:
Afraid of heights? Start by standing in the balcony for just two minutes a day. Eventually raise the benchmark to five. The more you expose yourself to what you fear, the less scary it becomes.
4. Visualize the best:
Imagine yourself overcoming your fear – the joy, the relief, the pride, the happiness! Live it to the fullest. This will help you gauge the direction in which you should be headed. It’ll give you a goal.
And remember, sometimes it is through the darkest skies that the brightest stars reveal themselves!