Psychological resilience is a powerful tool that can allow individuals to cope with stress, trauma, or anxiety in a safe and effective way. Not only can this create a greater sense of control over one’s situation, but it can also allow a person to avoid potentially disastrous courses of action or coping techniques, ultimately leading to a healthier lifestyle.
Psychological resilience is an important part of learning to cope with a number of stresses that may be present from one’s childhood to midlife and professional spheres. However, it also isn’t something many are born with, and it is important to include certain practices or explore certain mindsets that can help a person learn how to increase resilience on a daily basis, whether they are improving their psychological resilience or teaching children from a young age.
How Does Building Resilience Affect Your Health?
Learning how resilience works and how to develop resilience has many positive health benefits, including learning how to cope with stress, trauma, depression, or anxiety. Employing these techniques can help a person avoid developing a number of mental health conditions revolving around depression or anxiety, and can also allow a person to make more informed, healthier decisions on how they continue to cope with stress.
While intense stressors may cause a person to turn to drugs or alcohol as a result of these intense emotions, those with exceptional psychological resilience can return to a clear-minded state efficiently, and can thus prevent the need or desire for a person to use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Consistent high levels of stress can also cause high blood pressure, insomnia, feelings of isolation, or even a weakened immune system, all of which can be diminished by building strong psychological resilience.
How Do You Build Resilience?
Whether a person is learning how to build resilience in a child, how to build resilience in midlife, or even later as they learn how to build resilience in adults, there is always a place to start. Stress is constant at every stage in life, and while the types of stressors one has to deal with may change, one’s psychological resilience has a role to play at every stage. However, building psychological resilience incorporates both a physical and mental component, and it is important to address both as a person learns to build their level of resilience.
Taking Care of Your Body
Keeping a healthy body has a huge effect on one’s mental and emotional health, and is incredibly important when building psychological resilience. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is important for maintaining one’s mental health, as well as providing a person with the necessary nutrients and energy to tackle any problems in front of them. This sleep schedule can be used to ensure that each individual is getting enough hours of sleep each night, with consistent bedtimes and alarms to structure one’s day.
Proper nutrition is also important, and eating healthy meal alternatives can lead to an overall happier mood. Not only can this lead to a positive body image and an improved sense of self-worth, but it can also help a person feel better about themselves and improve their confidence, even when addressing stressful situations. Proper nutrition means not only that a person is eating healthy foods and a balanced diet, but also that they are eating at normal times, keeping a meal schedule, and avoiding excessive snacking throughout the day.
How To Begin Building Resilience
Building psychological resilience begins with acknowledging that change is a constant part of an individual’s life. Regardless of how hard anyone tries, no person can control every single element in their lives, and there will always be scenarios that can catch them by surprise. Accepting the inevitability of change is the first step towards strengthening one’s psychological resilience. Not only can it be incredibly stressful to try to control every element of one’s life in the first place, but focusing more on control and less on what a person can do after a change can leave a person ill-prepared to cope with the stress of change when it does happen.
Noticing the change, however, can begin on a very small scale. Even the most consistent schedules may have a large degree of variance in them that a person may not notice. Weather can fundamentally change a person’s drive to work, even if they are taking the same route all the time, for example. Even what time the mail arrives can have variance, and can showcase how something is open to change and is outside of a person’s control. To begin building psychological resilience, it is important to first understand and embrace that change needs to be embraced rather than avoided.
Be Mindful and Honest With Your Emotions
Psychological resilience isn’t the same thing as being stoic or unfazed by stress. Rather, it is one’s ability to acknowledge and process stress or trauma quickly and return to a pre-crisis mental and emotional state effectively. A key part of this is practicing mindfulness, or the ability to genuinely acknowledge how one is feeling as a result of stress.
It is okay to be stressed, saddened, fearful, or any other emotion, and acknowledging these emotions and what is causing them is essential for beginning to move past them. Verbalizing one’s emotions, or even writing them down, can allow a person to be more honest with themselves about their emotional state, and thus gain better control over their own emotions and responses.
Prioritize Positive Relationships
Relationships are an important part of coping with any kind of stress or trauma and can be an invaluable resource for learning how to build emotional resilience. Prioritizing these relationships means that a person can identify their own supports and interact in a positive way while in a safe space. Keeping regular contact via text messages or phone calls can help a person consistently feel reinforced and supported through stressful times, and even knowledge of their support can create the feeling of having a safety net. Having regular meeting times on video chat programs like Zoom or Skype can keep relationships close, even over long distances, and sending regular texts or emails just to say hello or share in a moment of one’s day can go a long way in creating this safe, supportive atmosphere.
Joining groups, even online, can also provide a sense of support and belonging, as well as provide a person with a needed outlet to process stressors. Joining groups that share personal interests or support groups intended to help others through stress, can all be incredibly beneficial as a person feels like they have a way to express these stresses safely with others that understand the situation.
Contextualize and Situate
Even during stressful situations, it is important to keep the whole picture in mind. For example, while work stressors may be plaguing a person’s mind and feel overwhelming, it is important to remind oneself of other positives in their lives that may not be affected by these stressors. Looking at the whole picture can take practice, as the nature of stress, anxiety, or depression can make a person’s focus feel narrow and small. However, identifying all of the elements present throughout a stressful situation can not just contextualize one’s experience and how it affects them on a larger scale, but can also allow a person to find all possible solutions to a problem at hand. If a relationship is beginning to deteriorate, it may be important to look at all the different elements at play — from each individual’s stressors, how they impact each other, as well as any other people or things involved, to create a plan that can allow a person to begin to work through recovering the relationship. Being able to see these elements and create a plan can allow a person to quickly regain motivation and keep moving towards a goal, improving psychological resilience and allowing them to take control of a difficult situation.
How To Build Resilience in Children
Knowing how to teach resilience and how kids learn resilience can be an important developmental process and can promote healthy coping strategies from a young age. However, in order to teach psychological resilience to a child, it is best that a person first demonstrates it in their own lives and can personally speak for the process and benefits. Understanding psychological resilience and how it can improve a person’s daily life is paramount for instilling effective strategies in others.
However, when teaching children how to build resilience, it is important to note that children and adults will have different definitions of a “crisis.” While children may not be subject to workplace stresses, losing a toy or feeling left out by a friend can feel incredibly devastating, and it is important to treat these scenarios as important, stressful times in a child’s development.
Introduce Change Early
Change is constant throughout life, and highlighting the good that change can bring from a young age can prompt a child to be better equipped to deal with change in the future. Shaking up daily routines, or introducing surprises at random times can all be ways for children to begin to embrace change, rather than resent it. Going on a trip when it isn’t around a holiday or birthday, or starting new familial traditions or schedules can all help children better adapt to the constant change early in their lives.
It’s Okay To Be Upset
As a child, it is normal to be upset by a number of things. However, it is also important to let these emotions out, uninhibited as they may be. Crying or screaming is sometimes necessary to prevent a buildup of these emotions, and rather than try to get a child to stop crying, instead, adults may learn from being able to express their own emotions in this raw, genuine way. However, this kind of expression is still meant to be built upon, and allowing a child to be upset then paves the way for them to begin learning and practicing other strategies to continue to bolster their psychological resilience.
It is important not to just let them cry, but to also reinforce that crying is an okay, accepted practice when faced with intense stress or anxiety. Not only can this contextualize their emotions, but it also allows them to then understand how to turn their tears into a tangible self-care practice to continue to develop psychological resilience in the future.
Have Them Recall the Entire Event
When helping a child learn how to increase their psychological resilience, it is important to instill the practice of looking for tangible sources of stress. When coping with stress or emotional states, it is important to ask what exactly happened that made them upset in the first place, as well as what else may have been going on at the time. This provides various benefits that can be built upon for future practices that can continue to bolster one’s psychological resilience from childhood into adulthood.
First, it helps a person identify a source of stress, and thus a person can begin to direct their energy and focus. This approach is done in a way that doesn’t deny a person their emotional expression but instead allows them to be upset about a certain event. It also instills sharing and reinforces the idea that finding supports when a person is upset is a positive practice. Furthermore, it helps better prepare an individual for utilizing their relationships in the future.
Recalling the entire event also involves having them address any elements they can remember, regardless of how pertinent they were to the actual event that is causing their anxiety. The weather, if anyone was absent in class today, or even what other kids were wearing. This practice not only helps children begin to learn to look at the big picture, but also identify other elements of change in their lives from a young age. This is the beginning of identifying their environment and seeing the big picture, as well as all of the different elements that the stressful event either did or did not affect.
Recall Something Positive
Reminding oneself of the positives is important at all ages, but can be especially potent during one’s developmental years. Ending each day with finding one thing to be thankful for is a powerful, positive experience. Scaffolding this practice around dinner time is a great way to continue to build relationships while working together to find positives throughout life. Even after a stressful day at work or an exhausting first day of school, identifying positives can contextualize and inform other decisions and actions, and lead to overall strengthened relationships and psychological resilience.