Resilience – It’s a word we hear a lot about these days. How can we develop more resilience to help us through challenging circumstances?
The world outside is getting colder and greyer. It’s easy to see how we might feel helpless in the face of overwhelmingly negative news and outside pressures.
So what can help us in these times? There are people who have lived through bad times and survived, and even come through with a positive attitude. While others might feel worn down and discouraged by their experiences.
By increasing our resilience we can learn to experience less stress and feel more confident and positive about life.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is often defined as the ability to bounce back. It comes from the field of engineering and materials science. A resilient material is one that has enough elasticity to bend when pressure is applied to it, rather than snap. So its strength does not lie in the sense that it can withstand any attack. It can be flattened, but it will eventually rebound.
There is both physical and mental resilience. Just as physical resilience might be represented by a material that can bend and not break, so mental resilience implies the ability to bounce back from challenging circumstances.
The concept of resilience has been popularised by positive psychology. It involves flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and external demands. Psychological or mental resilience acknowledges that there are difficult times but once you come through them you will be stronger as a result.
Who has resilience?
Researchers found that many people who survived the concentration camps had resilience. Among them was the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl who developed his own therapy of logotherapy, which is concerned with a search for meaning. He advocated acceptance of the world you find yourself in – accepting the things you cannot change, but having the flexibility to choose a new attitude towards them.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
― Viktor E. Frankl
Viktor Frankl understood the importance of setting goals. While in Auschwitz, surrounded by suffering and death and consumed by the daily task of survival, he imagined himself when the war was over, giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp, so that others would understand what he had been through. He set himself goals even though he had no idea if he would survive. Setting goals is important because it gives us purpose and something to look forward to in the future.
What qualities are important?
An attitude that’s closely linked to resilience is optimism. No matter how bad things are now, there’s a chance they’ll get better.
Are you a glass half full or half empty type of person? – some people will instinctively focus of the negative and others will look for a positive. But although we may have ingrained these tendencies through habit to a certain extent, that is not to say we can’t change them.
Optimism is a quality that we can nurture and develop. And yet the type of optimism linked to resilience is not the rose-tinted Pollyanna variety. It is totally realistic and accepting of the current situation, yet looks towards the possibilities of how things can improve.
Adaptability is another quality that makes you more resilient. It is helpful to be able to let go of pre-conceptions or limiting beliefs and be sufficiently flexible to bend to the shape most needed in the situation.
How do you develop resilience?
Just as a muscle grows stronger through use, any problem that you’ve solved can increase the strength of your ‘success mechanism’. So problems or challenging times lived through can make us stronger.
Problem solving is a skill that makes us more resilient. You might see a new solution more easily, but also the past success increases our sense of confidence in a future success.
Something that can help is knowing your strengths. You may feel that you lack confidence in a particular area but for sure there will be other areas where you have complete confidence. A hypnotherapist can help you to identify those areas of confidence and apply the same feeling to other situations.
Specifically you might think about the problems that you’ve had in your life and how you have come through them. You might acknowledge tough challenges that you’ve overcome. Each one of these is a part of your ‘resource bank’ that you can draw on in the future.
You can remind yourself of your strengths and the things you are good at and have done well. All your accomplishments are also a part of your resource bank.
When faced with something new that you haven’t met before it’s natural to feel some apprehension. And when you’ve had bad news or a bad outcome you may find yourself drawn into a negative spiral of thoughts.
But it is usually possible to take another attitude. Perhaps curiosity about the situation can help. Rather than feeling upset or disappointed you can choose to feel curious, to try to understand the reasons behind what has happened. So even a negative experience can help to point the way towards a positive future attitude.
Self help with meditation
Something that can help is a change in perspective so you see the problem you are facing as less significant and more surmountable. You can mentally detach from the problem in many different ways, including by meditating.
Mindfulness meditation can help because it encourages you to focus on the here and now and ultimately on your breathing.. By focusing on the present moment, you gain a space in which to distance yourself from the concerns of what’s going on in your world. The meditation for focusing on difficulty is especially helpful in gaining a new perspective about a particular difficulty in your life and can often help to generate some alternative ideas for resolving it.
Studies have shown that people who meditate seem to experience less stress and have more resilient thinking. They can cope better with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed.
How can hypnotherapy help?
Perhaps you have a particular concern and feel that you lack resilience and are unable to get on top of a certain problems by yourself.
Hypnotherapy can help you to explore what’s going on for you and may point you towards a positive way forward. It can help you to get in touch with your unique strengths and boost feelings of confidence. At the same time it can increase your belief that you can overcome the problems you are facing.
Sometimes we don’t recognise or appreciate our own strengths or the experiences we’ve had that help us to solve problems. Hypnotherapy can help you to gain perspective on the difficulties you are finding and help to increase your own confidence in your resources and your ability to bounce back with resilience.
For help with increasing your own personal resilience or to resolve specific problems, please have a look at my profile and contact me to learn more.
This article was first published in Hypnotherapy Directory.