Feel like you're drowning?
The 4 secrets of psychological resilience will help you surf life's choppy ocean.
Photo courtesy of thelastminute
How is it that some people appear crushed by the stresses and strains of everyday disappointments, while others merrily sail along, taking life's failures and setbacks squarely on the chin?
And how can others use these same failures and setbacks as a spur and catalyst to greater effort?
The answer is resilience.
To describe how psychological resilience works, clinical psychologist Lyn Worsley, author of The Resilience Doughnut: The Secret of Strong Kids says, "Resilience is the ability to find solutions in a crisis; it's the gift of coping with life events, like losing a job or facing changes in family structure, and seeing them as opportunities and not disasters."
This positive mindset is something we would all like, especially during those challenging times when things gets tough in the gym.
However, there is good news... In the same way you can train and develop your body, many psychologists believe we can develop a positive mindset too.
This means our psychological resilience isn't solely determined by nature, but can be actively encouraged. The benefits? We get to choose how we lead our lives. Sink or swim? You decide.
So just how does the ordinary person go about building this crucial life skill?
Your ability to keep going when all those around you have given up is severely curtailed if you feel constantly jaded, tired or ill. How can you give your all if you are suffering from poor health? "Get the basics right," says Dr Frank Lipman, founder of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Centre in New York. "Eat well, exercise regularly, learn some relaxation techniques, and get sufficient sunlight. Then you will have the health, balance and vitality to take life's stresses in your stride."
When the going gets tough, the tough get...a support network. "Contrary to the myth, resilient people don't go it alone," says Dr Karen Reivich, co-author of The Resilience Factor. "They use their support network to get through." Here is where we can all strengthen our defenses against life's bombardment.
The importance of a social network was most clearly demonstrated in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers which told the story of Roseto, an Italian immigrant town. "In transplanting the paesani culture of southern Italy to the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, the Rosetans had created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world."
The resilient person builds and strengthens relationships with friends and family.
Resilient people can suffer one setback after another without ever thinking, "That's just my luck," or worse yet, "I deserve it". Instead, a healthy sense of their own skills and self-worth saves them from psychological burnout.
Dr Reivich refers to this as "a mastery-based notion of coping" and this skill, too, can be learned. Since self-esteem grows with self-confidence, you should dismiss the notion that you have to be a champion at a whole range of skills - no one is - instead, select a couple of things that you're quite good at, and learn to do them better. Practice builds confidence, and confidence builds self-esteem. This is a key skill in the resilient person's armory.
4. Fear of Failure.
People who lack resilience are haunted by the fear of failure, seeing it at every turn in their lives. In contrast, resilient people don't think about failure at all. Psychiatrist Dr Kam Wong states, "A resilient person is not easily thwarted, but works on something until its completion. Failure is not seen as final." In other words, don't believe you can succeed at everything you attempt first time; sometimes the really worthwhile achievements take many attempts.
Napolean Hill in his bestselling Think and Grow Rich says, "Thomas Edison dreamed of a lamp that could be operated by electricity, and despite more than 10,000 failures, he stood by that dream until he made it a physical reality. Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success."
In view of this, failure should be seen as temporary, and a staging post to greater things. Every experience - good or bad - confers knowledge and skill. You can only truly fail if you never try.
Many psychologists believe our psychological resilience isn't solely determined by nature, but can be actively developed.
The benefits? Say goodbye to that sinking feeling, as you choose how you lead your life.
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