Resilience: How to Bounce Back from Life’s Challenges

“The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.” – Japanese Proverb

When the going gets tough, the tough get going – but how do they do it? Resilience is the ability to bounce back and cope with stressful situations. It means that we flexibly adapt to challenges, without compromising our own well-being.

Developing your resilience won’t stop stressful things from happening. But it can reduce their impact and the time it takes to recover from them. That includes everything from minor daily irritations to major stressors like illness, loss, and relationship problems.

Resilient people share certain traits that may be both causes and effects of their flexible approach: good health, good social support, a sense of control over their own lives, an ability to manage their emotional reactions, and constructive problem-solving.

How to Improve Your Resilience

Accept the things you can’t change: Challenges are inevitable – don’t fight the ones that you don’t have the power to change.

Nurture supportive relationships: A good support network can actually help you to live both longer and more happily. 

Set realistic goals and put energy into achieving them: This will reinforce your sense of accomplishment and control over your own life.

Be active, eat well, and rest: Taking care of your body will help you to feel better emotionally — in fact, it’s a pre-requisiste.

Stress: When Should I Get a Grip, and When Should I Let Go?

People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln

 If I had to name the single most important key to happiness, it would be this: take control of what you have control over, and let go of what you don’t.

What happens when you focus on things that you have no control over? When you dwell on traffic jams, bad luck, and other people’s irresponsibility, you have a recipe for anger and resentment – which hurts only you.

When you focus on the possibility of future calamities that may or may not actually happen, you’re inviting anxiety.

When you take responsibility for solving problems that do not belong to you, such as those of a loved one, you’re asking for frustration – for both of you.

And what happens when you fail to take control of the things that are under your control? When you focus on your dissatisfaction with your job, your social life, or your accomplishments, without doing anything about it, you’re setting yourself up for depression and feeling like a victim.

If this is a problem for you, try this: when you find yourself expending mental or physical energy on a problem – either by trying to solve it or just by feeling bad about it – ask yourself a question: “Do I own this problem? Could I change it if I wanted to or knew how to?”

If the answer is no, don’t waste too much time or energy on it. Either let it go, or, if it’s a problem that belongs to someone else, just support that person as they struggle with their problem as best they can. After all, even if you came up with the perfect solution, you don’t have the power to implement it.

If the answer to the question is that you do own the problem, acknowledge that. Even if you don’t know how to fix it, acknowledging that you are not truly powerless is a helpful start. It tells you that you have choices – including asking others for help or advice.