Learning to Become Resilient
Many of us can name someone who is extraordinarily generous, kind-hearted and selfless, even when experiencing hardships of their own. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an excellent example. To emerge from adversity as an optimistic, pro-social person is a skill called resilience.
In an article in The New Yorker, Maria Konnikova documents the incredible study of children who “made it” in school despite their disturbing family backgrounds.
What is resilience?
A person’s resilience is measured by their response to challenges, obstacles or stress. Some people may succumb to the stressful situation before them; others will rise to the challenge. Situations that can induce stress included environmental factors like low socioeconomic status, challenging home conditions, or individual events such as being in an accident. The difference between the two is their outlook on life and situational challenges. Resilient people seek out new experiences, and a high level of agency. This means that they exert control over their life and believe that they can change their circumstances.
How can resilience be learned?
Because resilience is a psychological process, it can be trained just like we can train our memories. By teaching emotional resilience, we can learn to regulate our emotional responses. It means developing coping strategies that reframe frightening events so that we can process them better. Some of these coping strategies include: changing thought processes from internal to external (“bad events aren’t my fault”); seeing events as specific rather than global (“this is just one thing gone wrong, it doesn’t mean everything is wrong”); and recognising that bad times are impermanent (“I can change this”). Much like learning to recite the alphabet when we were young, we practice resilient thought processes until they become second nature.
Resilience is a skill that requires practice
Much like other skills, resilience needs to be practiced in order to be maintained. If we aren’t experiencing many life challenges, it can be easy to get out of practice in our resilient thinking. Resilience is closely related to a growth mindset, which is the belief that our skills and knowledge can grow. Having a growth mindset means developing strategies to improve and develop, much like resilient thinking necessitates coping strategies.
Another important aspect of resilience is self care, which is knowing when to step back and look after yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed. Everyone has their own self care strategies that work for them, and we’ve put together a list of some suggestions in case you are feeling stuck. The most important thing to remember is that all great superheroes fall down sometimes – what matters is that you get back up.