“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.”

― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Do you ever get so overwhelmed by a stressful situation that it seems like your life is spiraling out of control? Like you’re barely hanging on? 

The truth is, no matter who you are, stressful situations are an unavoidable part of life. Walt Disney was fired from his job as a newspaper editor for lacking imagination. J.K. Rowling, was divorced, on welfare, AND got her manuscript rejected by 12 publishers before one finally agreed to publish her first Harry Potter book.

What if, instead of becoming bogged down and overwhelmed by stressful situations, you could embrace those challenges and shift your perspective to see them as ways to develop your mental strength and resilience?

As seen in the case of Disney, Rowling, and countless other successful individuals, stressful situations, challenges, and obstacles can lay the foundation for success.

In fact, research studies prove that high resilience decreases the rates of depression, absence, and productivity loss by 10 to 20 percent. You may still experience difficulties and distress, but your emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and actions will be more aligned with helping you bounce back from setbacks. When you face hardships, rather than allowing your negative emotions to inhibit you, you will perceive each obstacle as a learning opportunity or as a test of the strength of your resilience.

What Is Resilience?

Resilience is the “process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress.” American Psychological Association

When you’re resilient, you can better control your emotions and positively cope, rather than allowing those emotions to overpower you and take you on a downward spiral. You can do so by acknowledging your challenges, making the best of your situations, and seeking solutions. 

Additionally, if you lack mental and emotional resilience, you may dwell on problems and allow negative emotions to control you. You may rely on unhealthy coping techniques. Instead, if you utilize healthy coping strategies and build mental strength, you can maintain wellness as you adapt in the face of challenging circumstances. You will more likely acknowledge your challenges as lessons, learn how to turn a stressor into a positive to make the best of your situation, and seek solutions while practicing healthy coping strategies. 

Traits of Resilient People

Resilient people tend to:

  • Maintain healthy self-esteem and self-confidence;
  • Understand and accept their strengths, abilities, attitudes, and feelings;
  • Self-regulate their thoughts, feelings, and impulses so that they are more aligned with their values;
  • Rationally solve problems, even during stressful times;
  • Identify problems that may not be immediately solvable as it is okay to not always have the answers;
  • Communicate effectively with others;
  • Surround themselves with other mentally and emotionally resilient people;
  • Seek support when necessary;
  • Recognize the difference between wants and needs.
  • Understand how temporary stress or trauma may contribute to ultimate success;
  • Daily practice healthy self-care routine habits, coping strategies, and self-control; and,
  • Realize there may be other ways to perceive the current situation or concern 

Importantly, resilient people are more experienced with channeling distress into eustress. It takes practice to acquire skills, such as negotiating, communicating effectively, managing emotions, accepting your emotions and thoughts, problem-solving, practicing healthy coping techniques, and adapting to experience fewer harmful consequences when stressed. However, if you learn how to do so, then you are able to transform distress into eustress, “a positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being.” Eustress increases healthy outcomes and motivation, facilitates encouraging emotions, and builds self-confidence. 

So how can you embrace resilience and channel distress into eustress?

Build Emotional Strength

The American Psychological Association recommends the following techniques to build robust emotional strength and greater well-being:

  1. Make connections by developing healthy and strong relationships with friends, family, and others. Allow yourself to accept help and support from others who care about you. 
  2. Avoid seeing challenging circumstances as problems that are too difficult to overcome. Remember that there is no mountain too steep for you to climb. Highly stressful events will occur out of your control, but you can control how you respond and perceive the events. 
  3. Be flexible like a rubber band and adaptable to changes that are bound to occur. You may need to pivot your goals, direction, and plan, and that is okay. 
  4. Continue to make progress towards accomplishing your goals and always ensure that your goals are realistic. Instead of focusing on goals that may be a bit too overwhelming, create S.M.A.R.T goals:
  • Specific, direct, detailed, and meaningful as you use actions verbs to state what you will do;
  • Measurable so that you can quantify success and progress;
  • Attainable goal that challenges you but is possible. You are confident with at least a seven on a scale of 1-10 that you have the power to achieve the goal;
  • Relevant as it aligns with your personal mission and vision; and,
  • Timely so that you can assign a due date for accomplishing the goal. 
  1. Take decisive actions and remain confident as you fight in the face of adversities, rather than fleeing and wishing they would disappear.
  2. Search for opportunities to self-discover and perceive each event as a learning opportunity to learn more about yourself. Look for how you can turn even the most devastating circumstances into insightful events that allow you to grow and reap benefits.
  3. Trust your instincts and develop your problem-solving skills.
  4. Maintain perspective of the long-term to avoid blowing even the most devastating smaller scale events out of proportion. Do not allow your stress, anxiety, depression, and worries to linger.
  5. Maintain a hopeful and optimistic outlook by thinking about a glass half-full rather than half-empty. Visualize and focus on your vision, rather than your worries and stressors. 
  6. Take care of yourself. Take time to meditate and care for yourself. Pay attention to your feelings and attitudes. Exercise, relax, sleep, and prioritize your own self-care needs. 

Think Positively

Positive thinking alleviates distress as your brain produces serotonin to arouse feelings of well-being and happiness. Positive thinking involves taking account of your thoughts and emotions and then considering rational alternatives. As a result, you will feel happier, calmer, less anxious, and more focused. 

You can change self-defeating statements into rational coping statements to help you healthily address your emotions. 

  • Rather than saying, “I can’t do this,” remind yourself that you got this and will do the best you can.
  • Instead of worrying that everything is going wrong, say, “I can handle this if I take one step at a time.”
  • Instead of feeling negative emotions and saying, “I hate it when this happens,” uplift yourself and say, “I know how to deal with this; I’ve done it before.”
  • If you feel helpless and alone, then remind yourself that it is okay to reach out for help. 
  • Instead of blaming yourself and feeling frustrated, if you think you may have made an error, remember that you are human and can fix it. There are positive lessons to learn from even the most challenging and seemingly devastating events.

Practice Healthy Coping Techniques

Sometimes you need to accept that you cannot do everything at once. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, prioritize, and break down your tasks into small, manageable bites. Determine what you need to focus on now and what can wait. 

There may also be times when you need to take a break and come back to the concern. The next time you feel overwhelmed, try practicing these coping techniques:

  • Meditate to help you refocus your mind and emotions. Focus on the five senses in the present moment. Accept and become mindful of your feelings, thoughts, and attitudes. Consider if they are helping you think more positively and achieve your goals or if there may be another way to consider the situation that may be healthier. 
  • Take a walk or a jog, bike ride, swim, or another activity that you enjoy to be at one with nature. Enjoy the sounds of nature calming you and bringing you joy as you also improve your physical health. 
  • Celebrate your efforts, even if you do not achieve the result you hoped for at this time. Be proud of yourself for trying as each mistake can result in ultimate success. 
  • Remember the mantra that ‘what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger’? Do not be afraid of failure for failure is inevitable, but how you deal with it can lead to your ultimate success. 
  • Refer to your affirmations. If you do not yet have an affirmation list, then whenever you come across something that helps you feel good, write it down in your journal and carry it around. Whenever you feel depressed, frustrated, or begin to feel negative emotions, refer to your affirmations. 
  • You may need some time to rest and perhaps even to dream about a strategy to resolve your problem. Rapid eye movement sleep can help you improve your ability to problem-solve creatively. Multiple research studies have also indicated that sleep allows your brain to seek associations to consider the vast amount of knowledge your brain processes, which may not immediately come to mind when you feel stressed. 

Now It’s Your Turn

Although you may continue to face adversities and feel stressed, what matters most is how you quickly pick yourself back up. Nobody becomes resilient overnight. Resilience is a process that’s developed through practice. Which of the techniques described in the article above will you add to your skillset so you can better embrace resilience and develop greater mental strength?

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