Building resilience

September 14, 2022

Do you ever wonder why some people can adapt to whatever life throws at them more easily than others? It's because of resilience.

A concept that has grown out of psychological research over the past 30 years, resilience is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.

Jodie Voth, manager of Manitoba Blue Cross's Employee Assistance Services, explains it this way: “Our resilience is like a rubber band - our ability to stretch with and rebound from life's stressors and setbacks. When we're resilient, we're flexible and we bounce back easily instead of getting stuck in negativity. When we're less resilient, like an old rubber band, our ability to ‘stretch' mentally and emotionally is limited, and we don't bounce back as effectively.”

Common traits that highly resilient people share include:

  • learning from experiences
  • adapting quickly
  • having flexibility in their thinking and feeling
  • having solid self-esteem and self-confidence
  • keeping emotions well regulated
  • expressing themselves honestly
  • treating others with empathy

So, what does this look like in everyday life? Well, imagine you are playing a round of golf and it isn't going your way. Your resilience plays a role in how you react to your performance and how you continue with the game. Do you blame the clubs you used, the weather or even your fellow players? Or do you stop to identify your negative self-talk, change your current mindset, and adapt to your situation with a realistic plan of action? If the former, you may need to work on building your resiliency.

Being resilient really comes down to our mindset. The most effective and science-supported practices to develop resilience are designed to cultivate a compassionate and flexible mental state.

There are simple things we can do to increase our resilience. We can take try to take things less personally, look for ways to reduce our emotional stress and make a point of absorbing wonderful moments in our lives.

Voth offers additional ways you can cultivate a more resilient and healthier mindset:

Keep a gratitude journal

Writing in a journal is a great way to reflect on how you're thinking and feeling at a particular moment. And by focusing your journal entries on what you're thankful for, you can help keep things in perspective and possibly reframe negative events into less damaging ones.

Practice forgiveness toward others and kindness towards yourself

Holding a grudge is seldom productive and often unhealthy. And this is even more pronounced for grudges we hold against ourselves.

Hitting your ball into a bunker is always going to be discouraging, but how you react to a mistake can make a big difference. Try not to beat yourself up with negative statements - either in your head or out loud.

It's better to say, “I just need to adjust my grip,” rather than focusing on the mistake.

This is much easier said than done but trying to forgive others and treating ourselves with kindness will go a long way to building resilience during tough times.

Practice mindfulness or meditation

Incorporating mindfulness or meditation into your daily routine can help you build and maintain resilience. To learn more about mindfulness, read our interview with an expert from our Employee Assistance Program.

Do hard things

This is possibly the most important tip. Face your fears and do things that feel challenging or stressful. Every time you succeed, you affirm your ability to do hard stuff. Avoiding challenges, stress and scary things affirms the belief that it's too much to handle or that you're incapable of doing it, which makes the next challenge you can't avoid even harder to tackle.

The ability to bounce back from life's challenges can have a positive impact on our mental health, Voth says.

“In fact, many say that resilience is the foundation upon which the rest of our mental health is built.”

Counselling support from Manitoba Blue Cross

If you're struggling, reach out for help.

Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance Program or Individual Assistance Program coverage can get counselling support. Begin the process here.

Unsure of your coverage? Confirm your eligibility in your mybluecross® account.

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