Resilience can take many forms, and can be found in people from all walks of life. Young children overcoming a difficult home life, adults navigating career setbacks, and seniors surviving personal tragedy may all seem very different at the outset, but they all exhibit one crucial quality: resilience.
For many, the ability to overcome setbacks, face adversity, and recover from trauma or tragedy allows them to thrive—even under difficult circumstances. In addition, research has demonstrated that resilience can be developed over time. Discover how resilience can be built, and how you can help others once you have completed life skills training.
Embracing Optimism and a Growth Mindset With the Help of a Life Skills Counsellor
When faced with difficulty, a person’s perspective can make all the difference. Optimism in particular can have a profound impact on resilience (Smith, 2013). For example, a study of 750 veterans who had been imprisoned and tortured during the Vietnam War found that optimism helped reduce their risk of developing depression and PTSD (Smith, 2013).
Another study asked depressed participants to ruminate over past hurts, and discovered that rather than provide catharsis or clarity, the exercise left them feeling worse (Smith, 2013). Such findings have lead many to conclude that, “Far from being delusional or faith-based, having a positive outlook in difficult circumstances is not only an important predictor of resilience—how quickly people recover from adversity—but it is the most important predictor of it” (Smith, 2013).
Reframing stressful experiences in order to see them as challenges can also be beneficial (Parker-Pope, 2017). According to one study, “people who viewed stress as a way to fuel better performance did better on tests and managed their stress better physiologically than those taught to ignore stress” (Parker-Pope, 2017). Professionals with life skills training can therefore help clients develop resilience by promoting optimism and by encouraging clients to reframe stressful events.
Physical, Spiritual, Mental, and Emotional Wellbeing Are Key to Resilience
While a positive outlook may be important to resilience, there are many other factors that also help improve a person’s ability to overcome adversity. In fact, more and more studies have been uncovering the link between increased resilience and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. According to some recent findings, regular exercise can improve resilience, with researchers noting that “Many of the resilient individuals we interviewed have a regular habit of exercise and believe that staying fit has helped them, both during their traumatic ordeals and during their recovery.” (Barker, 2016)
Researchers have also observed that spirituality and close relationships are common among resilient individuals (Barker, 2016). This support network can “moderate genetic and environmental vulnerabilities and confer resilience to stress” (Ozbay et al., 2007) Even mental wellness can help to improve resilience, as lifelong learners have been shown to be more resilient and adaptable (Barker, 2016).
Resilience Needs to Be Practiced
Above all, any life skills counsellor will emphasize that resilience can be learned and that it should be practiced (Parker-Pope, 2017). Those who do not possess a lot of resilience can learn this life skill, just as they would any other. In addition, even those who are resilient can benefit from practice, which they can accomplish by stepping out of their comfort zone from time to time (Parker-Pope, 2017).
However, just as with any other exercise, it’s also important to take time to recuperate. As one 32-year-long longitudinal study uncovered, even resilient people can reach a breaking point after experiencing a series of very difficult stressors (Konnikova, 2016).
When faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem, sometimes stepping back and focusing on a different activity can be beneficial. “Many people use fantasy or books, or dive into their hobbies, or hang out with their friends to take a mental break from a situation that they cannot solve overnight,” notes clinical psychologist Meg Jay, “You may not be able to fix that problem, but you can protect yourself from feeling overwhelmed by it” (Jay, 2018). By helping clients take a step back and experience some much-needed recuperation time, graduates can promote resilience and help others overcome difficulty.
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Barker, E. (2016) 10 Ways to Boost Your Emotional Resilience, Backed by Research. Time. Retrieved from: http://time.com/4306492/boost-emotional-resilience/
Jay, M. (2018) 8 tips to help you become more resilient. IDEAS.TED.COM. Retrieved from: https://ideas.ted.com/8-tips-to-help-you-become-more-resilient/
Ozbay, F., Johnson, D., Dimoulas, E., Morgan, C., Charney, D., & Southwick, S. (2007) Social Support and Resilience to Stress. Psychiatry. 4(5): 35-40
Parker-Pope, T. (2017) How to Build Resilience in Midlife. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/well/mind/how-to-boost-resilience-in-midlife.html
Smith, E. (2013) The Benefits of Optimism Are Real. The Atlantic. Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/03/the-benefits-of-optimism-are-real/273306/
Konnikova, M. (2016) How People Learn to Become Resilient. The New Yorker. Retrieved from: https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/the-secret-formula-for-resilience