New Year’s Priceless Gifts (1): A Year of Resilience

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The past two years were never to be expected and very hard as we faced unprecedent difficulties and challenges. In those years, many suffered and succumbed to adversity, while others strived to surmount and find opportunities amidst hardship. As the pandemic continues, we needed coping mechanisms that could help. There was no way to get out of this dilemma but to sit still, take a deep breath, relax, and reflect on what has been happening.

Through such difficult times and situations, our responses vary greatly, which is normal since each one of us has their own experiences, personality traits, fears, and viewpoints that make them the person they are. Yet, the past few years have brought an extremely important principle to center-stage that helps us overcome adversities and carry on: Resilience.

Psychologists define resilience as the process of facing life challenges—trauma, adversity, threats, and other stressors—bouncing back and recovering, becoming even stronger than before. This process involves a hidden personal growth. Although these events and stressors might have a strong impact on your life, they do not have to determine the outcome of it; they do not define your life.

Psychologists indicate the personality traits of a resilient person as being open to new experiences and challenges, socially integrated, adaptable, and optimistic. They stress that resilient people have some traits in common, such as holding positive views of themselves and their abilities, having self-control, viewing themselves as fighters rather than victims, scoring high on the emotional intelligence scale, and managing emotions.

Succumb or Surmount?

In the face of disasters or hardships, people are divided into two categories. On the one hand, there are those who become unable to handle it and succumb under the heavy emotional load by viewing them as obstacles. On the other hand, there are those who succeed in this hard process; they have the ability to overcome hardships, becoming even stronger, and consider them as opportunities to grow. However, what determines that? It is resilience.

Resilient people have the ability to cope and recover from problems; whether it is related to relationships, work, or global adversities such as COVID-19, for example. Rather than falling into despair, they use coping strategies that help them overcome and face such problems. This does not mean that they do not feel the stress or anxiety resulting from these situations; it means that they can handle that and emerge stronger than before, as their mental outlook allows them to work through such heavy feelings and recover.

On the other hand, people who lack resilience become easily overwhelmed by heavy challenges by using unhealthy coping mechanisms. They become disappointed and unable to move on from these setbacks; as a result, they experience more psychological distress.

Am I Resilient?

To know if you have this personality trait or not, you can go through your journal of last year for example and reflect on hard situations you went through and how you responded to them. Do you find that resilience has defined your actions and reactions, or not?

If “Yes”, good for you; if “No”, no problem! Experts indicate that you can develop resilience any time in your life, because it is a personality trait that involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions. The most important point to keep in mind is that it takes time and intention; it does not happen overnight or out of the blue.

The Resilience Manifesto

To cultivate the good outcome of resilience, you should exert effort in building it through the following seven extremely important steps:

  1. Connect with trustworthy and compassionate people who would help and support you and validate your feelings.
  2. Take care of your mental and physical health, as this healthy lifestyle would help you adapt to stressors and reduce the toll of mental turmoil during hard times.
  3. Find purpose in your life, which can be achieved by moving towards your goals, which should be realistic and divided into achievable small accomplishments. It can also be by helping others, which would foster self-worth and empower you to mature your resilience.
  4. Look for opportunities of self-discovery and appreciate the growth in your personality that occurs because of overcoming struggles and hardships. This does not mean eliminating vulnerabilities you experienced; you should acknowledge them and notice the increase in the sense of self-growth.
  5. Embrace healthy thoughts and do not exaggerate obstacles; keeping things in perspective and not catastrophizing difficulties is a very essential part of building resilience.
  6. Focus on what you can do, and eliminate things far from your control; this will help improve your sense of control and resilience.
  7. Finally, learn from your past and highlight the moments in which you could effectively respond to hard situations to discover your strengths. 
Now, is not this a good time to embrace the precious gifts, which the past few years have brought to us?

References

Raphael Rose “From stress to resilience”, TEDx Talks (Youtube)
apa.org
developingchild.harvard.edu
verywellmind.com

Credits: Banner Image/Freepik

*The article was published in SCIplanet, Winter and Spring 2021 issue.

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