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Resilience. What is it, and Why is it Important?

Updated: Feb 11, 2021


 

The term resilience will have positive connotations for some people, whilst others may feel the term itself is unhelpful.

But what does it actually mean?


Resilience can be defined as knowing how to cope in spite of setbacks, or barriers, or limited resources.

Resilience also has the meaning of the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

When you look at these two definitions and put them together, you can see how resilience can be used to form psychological resilience.

Psychological resilience is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a stressful situation, or crisis and return to your pre-crisis state quickly.

Resilience is an inner strength that we all have that helps us to deal with certain situations, which we will all manage and navigate in different ways. Resilience is something that is personal to you as an individual as we will all approach stressful situations differently. But the commonality that is shared is a person’s ability to bend rather than break, swim rather than sink and bounce back when the going gets tough. Your ability to do this is what makes your resilience personal to you.

Building Resilience

Resilience is something that can be learned and is something that will change over time based on our experiences and how we respond to them. Here are a few simple tips to HELP build resilience: Problem Solving & Perspective

Taking time to assess our situation and take a helicopter view of what is causing us stress. If we are able to step back and see the situation from a distance we are better equipped to problem solve and find a solution that may reduce our stress.

Self-Compassion

Self-compassion involves being thoughtful to ourselves and challenging any suffering we experience with an attitude of warmth and kindness. If this something that feels challenging; try thinking of how you would respond to a friend in the same situation. The response, tone and attitude we give to a friend is often different from how we respond to ourselves….this can be a great exercise in spotting the difference in responses and try adopting a far gentler attitude to how we view and speak to ourselves.

Meditation

When we are stressed we often find ourselves overthinking, ruminating about past events or projecting our thoughts towards the future. Practising meditation brings us into the present moment and allows us to deal with negative emotions as and when they arise.



One particular meditation that may be useful is the body scan. Feelings tend to linger in our bodies and cause us physical tension, especially when unattended to. By completing a body scan – bringing every body part to our attention, we are able to relax the body and recognise where the tension is being held, dislodging the tension as we draw our awareness to particular areas.

Breathing exercises are also beneficial during times of stress and can be a great addition to our resilience tool kit. By focussing on our breath, even for as little as ten breaths we can reduce the physical sensations we may feel in a stressful situation. By bringing attention to the physical sensations of the breath we are also able to focus our mind, reducing the likelihood of our thoughts spiralling and getting stuck in a cycle of rumination.

Develop a Support System

Remember, drawing on the support of those around you; whether it’s family friends, colleagues or tutors can be an extremely valuable resource. We are going to meet challenges along the way and asking for support from someone we trust often goes a long way. The old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ can be useful to bear in mind. Don’t struggle alone!

Find Balance

Our ability to cope in any given situation can often be determined by how healthy a balance we have in our lives. If one area of your life is taking up all of your time, then make some changes and make space for other things. It’s important to give yourself space and to find what brings you satisfaction in life. By engaging in things we enjoy such as a new hobby or interest or spending time in nature, we may be better able to cope with the challenges we face in the rest of our life. Be wise with your time and ensure you’re getting the right balance, finding what works for you.

Cultivate a Belief in your Ability to Cope

Developing a belief in ourselves and our ability to cope with challenges will be crucial to building resilience. Think of how far you have come, the challenges you may have faced in the past and reflect on how you were able to cope with them. It can be useful to take time to reflect on both our achievements and difficulties we’ve faced along the way….with each challenge we face there is learning we can take away from it – this promotes self-awareness and the ability to adopt an informed response to challenges going forward.

These are just a few examples of ways to build resilience. Developing a toolbox that helps you manage adversity will be fundamental to your overall wellbeing and give you the ability to bounce back when you find yourself in times of stress.


Ben Webster

Faculty of Arts & Humanities

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