As a clinical psychology resident, I often work with people who are struggling with adversity and difficult life experiences. While many of these experiences happen due to causes outside of our control, one of the most important personal qualities that can help us overcome these challenges is resilience.
Resilience is the ability to adapt to and bounce back from stressful situations, setbacks, and hardships. It is not about avoiding or denying difficult emotions or experiences, but rather about learning how to cope with them in a healthy way. Research has shown that individuals higher in resiliency are more likely to experience better mental health outcomes, such as decreased rates of anxiety and depression, and have better physical health outcomes too!
However, it is important to distinguish between healthy resilience and toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the belief that one should only focus on positive emotions and experiences and ignore or suppress negative emotions. This can be harmful as it can lead to the denial of legitimate emotions and experiences, or cause us to feel like there is something wrong with us if we are experiencing negative emotions.
This can lead to further feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation from others. Building resilience does not mean ignoring negative emotions or experiences which inevitably happen in life. Instead, it involves learning how to navigate and process these difficult experiences in a healthy way. Here are some tips on how to build resilience:
- Practice self-care: Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is crucial for building resilience. This can include regular exercise, healthy eating habits, getting enough sleep, mindfulness practices, connecting to your culture, and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment even during the hard times.
- Reframe negative thinking: Reframing negative thinking patterns can help individuals view difficult situations as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than as insurmountable obstacles. Take some time to reflect on or make a list of your strengths, successes, and accomplishments, and what you are grateful for.
- Cultivate a strong support system: Having a strong support system can help individuals feel more connected and less alone during difficult times. This can include family, friends, mentors, elders, and mental health professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support when you need it! Together, we can build resilience and emerge stronger from life's challenges.