Are you a person with a lot of resilience and find it easy to bounce back or do you struggle after a setback with getting back on your feet?
I’ve gone through a challenge recently and could use some words of wisdom and encouragement right now. So I thought that it would be a good topic to explore. Maybe if I did a deep dive on the subject and put on paper my own thoughts, I might be able to come up with a process to follow that will help me get back to life faster and feel more resilient. This will not only serve me now as I’m going through a recovery period but hopefully it can help me in the future. After all, one thing is certain and that is I’m going to get knocked down again.
So here are my thoughts on the topic. I hope they help you get back up and back to your life a little faster and feel a little more resilient.
What is Resilience?
Let’s first talk about what resilience is. What are some of the first words that come to mind when you think of resilience? If someone is resilient we think they are tough, strong, and flexible They are able to cope, manage or move through a difficult and challenging experience and come across as capable of dealing with their pain and suffering. They are battle tested and emerge on the other side stronger than they were before. When they get knocked down they dust themselves off and get back up.
Resilience: Never give up. Fall down seven times, get back up eight.Japanese Proverb
But on the other hand, doesn’t resilience also implies that vulnerability was involved somewhere along the way? You didn’t get knocked down unless you had a weakness that could be exploited. In other words, you can’t experience getting up off the mat unless you got knocked down in the first place. You can’t get well unless you’ve experienced being sick.
Resilience can be felt basically in three ways, physically, mentally, or emotionally. An example of physical resilience is developing a strong immune system that helps you recover quicker from an illness. When we are mentally resilient we don’t let challenges affect our ability to problem solve and we maintain a positive attitude. And when we are emotionally resilient we can quickly get back to feeling centered, balanced, and at peace after an emotionally upsetting experience.
Oftentimes, when life knocks us down we are affected in all three areas but in varying degrees. For instance, when we get injured from a car accident we have to physically recover of course, but we will very likely have to mentally and emotionally recover as well. So when we think of resilience it’s important to think holistically – mind, body, and spirit.
Is There a Process to Feeling More Resilience?
Ok great. Now that we have an understanding of what resilience entails how do we get there? How do we feel like our old self faster and feel like we’re ready to get back in the game? Are there steps to go through or some kind of process to follow? If so, what might that look like?
Come follow me through my train of thought as I map out some steps. You will undoubtedly recognize these steps but maybe you just haven’t thought of them in the context of resiliency before.
I’m going to go through these steps in an order that seems logical to me but the order is not set in stone and not all that important. The order will be unique for each person as everyone’s path to recovery is going to be unique to them. Plus, each challenge we go through in life will challenge us in different ways. For instance, getting over a physical illness is a very different kind of challenge than going through the loss of a loved one. Both knock you down but the process of getting back on your feet and feeling more resilient will be very different. But regardless of the challenge, the steps still apply, just in varying order and degree.
Step #1: Acceptance
One of the first steps you need to take in order to feel more resilience is the step of acceptance. You have to accept what happened, where you are, and above all how you are feeling. You’ve heard of the “power of now.” Accepting the “now” experience you are going through is critical. It’s like looking at a map and seeing a big star that says “You are here.” Now that you know where you are, you can start formulating a plan to get where you want to be. Remember, accepting does not mean liking whatever has happened or validating it, or being ok with it. Accepting just means you acknowledge the “what is” of the moment.
Step #2: Compassion
Once we’ve accepted where we are then we need to show ourselves a little compassion. Compassion means to “suffer together.” There is a part of us, you could call it our higher self, that is impervious to our suffering. This part of us doesn’t suffer from the challenge we are going through. It doesn’t experience fear or pain or loss but it is aware when we are suffering. You could call this the spark of God in each of us. Get in touch with that part of you that says “I understand what you are going through and I’m here to comfort and help you.”
So this is a time for prayer and have a conversation with God as you wrestle with your circumstance. Ask God for wisdom, guidance, love, and support. This will help you feel not so alone as you deal with your challenge.
Step #3: Awareness
Another huge step is awareness. We’ve got to be aware of how each part of us is suffering because of the experience. For instance, when you go through the loss of a loved one, you will probably feel a lack of not only emotional stamina but your physical energy will be affected as well. Grief is a physically debilitating experience and will zap the life force right out of you. Your mental attitude and thoughts you have about the loss also create more emotions to experience. It can be a vicious cycle as our thoughts create an emotion which leads to more thinking. So it’s super important to be aware of your thoughts, notice how they are making you emotionally feel and what those emotions are doing to your body.
For instance, if you have a thought related to the challenge you are going through, and that thought, that memory makes you feel sad or confused or angry, be aware of how that thought is affecting you emotionally. Then find ways to distract yourself. Consciously choose a different thought. Tell yourself, “I don’t need to entertain this thought. I can think “this” instead” and then choose a more positive thought. This takes work and practice but people who are resilient exhibit a certain amount of awareness and discipline when it comes to their thoughts and how those thoughts make them feel. They choose to not go down that rabbit hole of thinking if those thoughts make them feel worse.
Step #4: Forgiveness
Forgiveness is always part of any transformational process. When we fail to forgive ourselves (and others) it holds us back from moving on. It can also hold us back from feeling resilience. An example of this is when we are angry and unforgiving at ourselves for getting sick or failing at a relationship that ended. We then end up hosting a pity party at some point and having a “why me?” attitude. A lack of forgiveness makes us feel weak and vulnerable. Once we catch ourselves (review step #3) in this moment of weakness, we need to forgive ourselves for not only getting knocked down but in wallowing in our own suffering.
It’s hard to stay strong, positive and healthy, and on top of your game 100% of the time. We’re going to get sick or depressed or feel overwhelmed. What we shouldn’t do is add insult to injury and beat ourselves up for the circumstance we find ourselves in. Instead, we need to remember to forgive ourselves for our weakness and let our feelings of vulnerability be part of the resiliency experience.
Step #5: Surrender
This is the step where we surrender to the process of recovery. This is the step where we stop trying to suck it up and pretend we’re ok. We surrender to what has happened and we let go of how we used to feel. Surrender goes hand in hand with acceptance. So if you are going through a challenge, such as an illness, accident, or death in the family, and you want to feel more resilience, surrender to the recovery process. You probably will have to lower your expectations of what you can accomplish right now because you don’t feel like your old self. In fact you might even feel detached or disconnected. Surrender to the love and support others offer you.
This step is about breaking down any resistance you might have to the idea of healing. This is a battle with your ego. Your ego is probably pissed about the situation. Egos don’t like to be wrong or defeated. Challenging times kick our ego in the gut. Our ego can really get in the way of healing if you don’t confront your ego and come to the place of surrender. When you surrender you basically say, “I give up and I’m ready to heal and move on.”
Step #6: Patience
Once you surrender to your situation, you have to have patience that it will take time to recover. There are some things in life that we can’t get over in the snap of a finger and if you’re going through one of those times then be patient with the recovery and healing process. We have been conditioned to expect things instantly or at least in a very short period of time. It’s called instant gratification. Technology, especially how much we use cell phones and computers, has programmed our emotions to expect immediate results. That is not how many things in life work. Recovering from a set back takes time. Becoming more resilient might require us to exercise some patience and to let go of our need for instant gratification.
Step #7: Gratitude
This is not an easy step to take but once you can find a way to be grateful for the experience you’re going through, it can make all the difference in how fast you recover.
Years ago, a friend told me that in any challenging situations I find myself in, she encouraged me to ask these two questions: Where’s the gift? Where’s the lesson? Once you answer those questions it is much easier to be grateful for whatever you are going through. Gratitude is a powerful emotion and can really facilitate the healing process and help you back on your feet. It’s about looking at the glass half full. Seeing the silver lining. It’s about looking for something positive out of a negative situation.
Do not underestimate the power of gratitude. It has the power to completely turn a negative situation into a positive experience.
Step #8: Faith
This is the step where you may have to take a leap – a leap of faith. Have faith that things are happening for a reason. God never gives us anything we can’t handle. He has a plan for our life. We may not understand why we are going through the challenge but if we have faith that it happened to us for a reason then it is easier to be grateful for the experience. Pain is a valuable teacher. Whatever challenge you are going through, it will make you stronger. People that feel resilience are usually people who exhibit a great deal of faith that they will bounce back stronger than they were before.
Step #9: Serve
At some point take what you have learned from the experience and serve others by sharing your experience. For instance, what seemed to help you when you were at the depths of your grief? What actions did you take that helped you heal from an illness? What perspective did you adopt that helped you deal with a challenging situation. When you reach out and share with others your experience you are not only being of service to others but you are also making sure your pain and suffering will not be all in vain.
So what challenge are you going through right now that you’re having a hard time with? Getting knocked down in life is going to happen. But we each get to choose how we learn and grow from the experience. Don’t be afraid of challenges in the future. Resilience is a skill that needs to be practiced. If you apply these 9 steps you can get back up faster and feel more like your old self sooner. Resilience is something we can learn if we choose to take the steps.