5 Steps to Grow Resilience in 2021
RAFT Team, December 28, 2020
You could probably use a shot of resilience about now. Or vaccine to inoculate you against bad times. Don’t you wish resilience were a “have it” or “don’t have it” gene like getting blue eyes or a dimpled chin, and that you were one of the lucky ones? But it’s not. Resilience is born in hard times and grows through them. It’s not always easy to grow resilience, but it is possible.
Resilience might best be described as “elasticity in the face of difficulties.”
Even the implementation of resilience stretches and slides: sometimes you can cope far more easily than others. Some seasons of life you can handle almost anything yet during other seasons the slightest thing sends you to tears and helplessness.
Resilience is more than just surviving or getting through. It’s getting through with a side of growth. Like a flickering candle, the intensity of the light may waver, but unlike a candle, resilience won’t get blown out. You can’t lose it, although you might forget you have it from time to time.
In these dark days of winter in the middle of a global pandemic, even the most resilient are going to struggle. Grieving who and what you’ve lost. Fearing the unknown end. Angry at the inability to escape. Paralyzed at all you’re trying to juggle. Even in all of this — because of all of this — we have the opportunity and capacity to grow. To stretch. To support one another. And to practice that elasticity called resilience.
When you go through a difficult time, it may be natural for you to tell others all about it, sometimes with agonizing detail. You may be tempted to curl up alone in the dark and endure it alone. Whether it’s shame for struggling or fear that others won’t care or understand, whether you have an intense focus on the bad or the propensity for isolation, both are the antithesis to resilience.
Humans are built for community. People thrive in togetherness when there’s a shared workload and shared talent. Community builds empathy and compassion. That’s why when you’re facing difficulty, it’s important to reach out. It may take time to find the right person or group with whom to share, and you may find that some individuals are supportive and helpful in one specific area while others can support you in others. This shared experience can bring hope and give you a sounding board — both which result in a smoother often hastened healing process. Connection can help grow resilience.
In the darkest moment or bleakest season, it’s important to be able to acknowledge that you’re struggling. Name it. Allow it to have shape and space in your life. Own that it’s a real thing. Accept that you may not be able to change everything that you want to change. This realistic viewpoint can stop any paralysis and actually empower you to start focusing on what you can change. Acceptance can free you up to focus your time and energy on moving in a different direction.
Growing resilience is like growing a muscle. A beginning yogi certainly can’t do a tripod headstand with lotus legs. A move like this takes practice, consistency, and determination. The same is true for resilience. Today, you may not feel like you can conquer anything. But maybe you can take one small step in a new direction. Remember, the Couch to 5k running program begins with — you guessed it — the couch. Maybe you take one thing off your to-do list and hand it off to someone else. Or just do away with it all together. Maybe you can try a five minute meditation to help focus your thoughts. Or do a 3-minute stretch. Keep practicing. And your resilience will continue to grow.
You may need to teach yourself a new way of thinking. You don’t have to be all pie-in-the-sky and positive about everything. (This kind of mindset can be exhausting. It’s unrealistic, too!) Instead of saying, “Today is going to be a great day,” try “I can accept today for what it is and acknowledge both the ups and the downs.” Instead of “I love myself,” try “Even when I struggle to love myself, I can pay attention to my needs.” This type of reframing allows you to plant yourself solidly in reality but with a gentle, nurturing approach to yourself in the middle of difficulty.
You will have difficult moments. Difficult days. Difficult seasons. Yet even in the midst of these times, you can still celebrate moments of resilience. Have you paid attention to one need you have today? That’s worth celebrating! When we acknowledge and celebrate our steps forward, we’re more inclined to recognize and appreciate them as we grow resilience. These are bright spots in a darker landscape and help us get through the day-to-day even in the most difficult of times.