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I never used to consider myself a resilient person until I needed brain surgery, which led to a stroke, long-term facial paralysis and a pioneering facial reanimation surgery at the age of 26. In the space of 18 months, I discovered that resilience isn’t something we choose to be, nor is it a conscious decision we make. Instead, it’s the ability to bounce back from a crisis, and is a trait within us all that grows and develops the more that we endure hardships and struggles, and overcome the challenges we face.
Although we can’t always choose the situations we find ourselves in, recognising that change is inevitable. Challenges are unavoidable, and they allow us to focus on reducing the overwhelm that comes with having to process unexpected events. By building resilience and processing events more positively, we can cope with stress and adversity much easier. The key thing I’ve learned is not to strive for an easy life without obstacles, but instead to strive for the strength to overcome them.
Here are 8 ways to become more resilient:
Cultivate a positive self-perception
Remember that life is happening for you, not to you, and believe in your abilities. Approaching your problems and challenges with the confidence to handle them makes it easier to accept responsibility and take action. Think back over all the previous versions of yourself, and the past hardships that you couldn’t imagine ever getting through. Notice how you did make it through all of those things and have so much inner strength that got you to this point today. Stopping to assess what we’re good at can prepare us for situations that are out of our control, reminding us of the strong mindsets and ability we needed to handle them.
Control the controllable and let the rest go
There are many things in life that we have zero control over, but what we can control is our reaction to these events. We worry so much about the things that rarely happen, allowing them to affect our moods and how we feel. Instead, focus on the present moment and what you can do right now to stay positive. While we can’t predict the future, we can choose not to worry about events that are out of our control. Decide to face whatever it may be when it comes and trust that if it does, you will handle it; like you have done with so many things in your life previously.
Reframe your thinking
Life comes in waves and while it may not be easy to understand right now, the reason you’re facing what you are will one day be clear. If we allow ourselves to look back, we can see there were tremendous benefits gained from some of the biggest hardships we endured in the past. As a result, there’s reason to believe we needed to go through everything we went through in order to become the people we are today.
Grow through what you go through
Not every situation will be desirable and some of the challenges we are faced with will require immense strength. But there are lessons to be found in every situation and some of the hardest things we have to go through become the biggest catalysts for change in our lives. No matter how difficult a situation can seem, stop and question ‘What can I learn from this?’ Doing so will encourage you to find acceptance and gain control of your reactions towards an event.
Practise random acts of kindness
Use the pain of your past to help others and do something meaningful. Doing so forces you to become emotionally aware and increases your consideration for others, while also helping you to grow as a person. It could be something as simple as giving a compliment, listening to a friend, or helping someone with their shopping. Whatever it is, giving will lift your mood and support you through traumas, as well as helping the other person.
Discover meaning in your life
Do something that encourages you to view setbacks with a broader perspective. Volunteering for others, taking up a new hobby, or helping a local community encourages us to recharge by doing something that we’re passionate about. Usually, by connecting with people through these events, we’re also encouraged to put our own stresses aside, realise we’re not alone, and learn that others are likely overcoming their own challenges and needing support – just like us.
Seek the positives
Searching for silver linings can seem impossible when you’re in the middle of a really challenging situation. Following my stroke I was left with a permanent visual impairment, affecting almost everything I do by giving me the illusion that the world is constantly spinning. But acknowledging how blessed I am to still read books, watch films, and see loved ones really helped me to find acceptance and adapt to certain physical changes during tough times. Although things are much more difficult as a result of my visual impairment, gratitude for having any sight at all has enabled me to remember the things I can still do within this moment.
Challenge yourself to imagine how your situation could be worse than it is and feel encouraged by the positive you find, allowing you to appreciate where you are right now. Focus on the thing you’re still physically and mentally able to do, then do more of that.
Believe that pain will pass
Just because right now might not fit with the plan you set for yourself, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the possibility to be fulfilled and happy. A different life simply means a different way of living and a chance to appreciate what you truly value. Remind yourself that pain is only ever temporary. You’ve overcome things before and you will overcome things again. Trust that better days are on the way and that this hardship is only strengthening your ability to become resilient and discover the opportunities that come from future challenges.