If you are alive and human, you’ve experienced some form of adversity at one time or another. Everyone goes through tough times—some just handle it better than others. While resilience does have a certain genetic component, resilience can also be learned. In fact, research studies show that resilient people share some common traits—ones you can nurture to master any crisis. “Resilient people are like trees bending in the wind,” says Steven M. Southwick, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. “They bounce back.” With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, you may be experiencing tough times, whether it be physically, emotionally, or financially (or all the above). By employing these habits of resilient people, you’ll be better prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead.
The first step in dealing with adversity is acceptance. Resilient people accept that suffering is part of life, and adversity doesn’t discriminate. They understand that those perfect lives portrayed on Instagram aren’t reality. Acceptance isn’t about giving up and letting our suffering take over. It’s about confronting the full range of our emotions and trusting that we will bounce back.
Resilient people can look at a situation in a new way, giving it a more positive spin. Lee G. Bolman, author of How Great Leaders Think: The Art of Reframing, says, “At the simplest level, it’s changing perspectives–changing the way you look at something or trying to understand whatever you’re seeing or involved in. I’ve been seeing this one way; let me change to a different way of thinking about it.” Look at change as an opportunity rather than something to fear. For example, if you’ve just lost your job, now may be the perfect time to consider a career change.
Being able to switch the focus of your attention to not just focus on the bad but also acknowledge the good is crucial. When you focus too much on the most stressful areas of your life, you forget to recognize what’s going right. It’s about breaking the cycle of negativity so you can be grateful for the positive things in your life.
Truly resilient people are able to focus on what they can change and ignore what they can’t. Attempt to evaluate your level of control over a situation. Ask yourself, “What can I take responsibility for?” Accepting circumstances that can’t be changed can help you focus on conditions that you can alter. When you look for opportunities to empower yourself, you’re less likely to feel stuck and helpless.
In Lucy Hone’s impactful Tedx talk, “The Three Secrets of Resilient People,” she describes a powerful strategy for dealing with adversity. Ask yourself this question, “Is what I’m doing helping or harming me?” Personally, I’ve found this to be a life-changing exercise. When you’re about to reach for that extra glass of wine or realize your exercise routine is virtually non-existent, ask yourself, “Is this helping or harming me?” You will inevitably get an answer that will benefit you in the long run. This practice puts you back in control over your decision making—turning you into a survivor rather than a victim.
As Dean Becker, the president and CEO of Adaptiv Learning Systems, a company that develops and delivers programs about resilience training, puts it, “More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.” Life is unpredictable, and the journey often takes us in unexpected directions. By practicing these habits of resilient people, you’ll be able to adapt to any life-changing situation and emerge stronger than before.