The road to resilience

Resilience can be described as the person’s capacity to overcome adversity or how well somebody can ‘bounce back’ from some form of knock, be it a traumatic event like the loss of a loved one or even a pet. The experience of loss can shape us as we grow as individual people, take for example a small child, maybe three or four years old that is oblivious to the harsh realities of life. He or she, in general, lives in a world of Peppa Pig, laughter with minor cuts and scrapes, and above all else childish innocence. Wouldn’t it be great to be like that all the time? Of course, it would, but that’s not life. As we grow, develop and mature we experience a wide range of challenges from untold heartbreak and unbridled joy, it’s a case of how we react and move on from the hardships that can define our own resilience.

So what influences resilience?
The main thing is simply down to the relationships we have inside and outside of the family, if these relationships are strong, bonded and loving, then resilience is much higher for the person. Along with strong support and love from others, it is also key to have a positive opinion of yourself and belief in your own strengths and abilities. That isn’t always an easy thing to master, self-confidence, and self-belief because for whatever reason in our heads we tend to veer towards the unhelpful ideas in our own heads most often than the more helpful ones. Let’s go back to our three or four-year-old, he doesn’t go around thinking “I’m not good enough”, that lack of self-belief comes from incidents in our lifetime, for instance maybe we didn’t get the praise we wanted or weren’t shown as much care as was necessary, maybe you were bullied by other kids for being too skinny, too fat, too small, too tall. The old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”, could not be further from the truth. It stays with you and if you’re told you’re a failure from the start you begin to believe it, and after a while, you may believe nothing else. This has a massive effect on your own ability to bounce back from things, i.e. your resilience.
Noted psychologist Susan Kobasa tells us that you can develop resilience in several ways. First, take care to exercise regularly and get enough sleep, so that you can control stress more easily. The stronger you feel physically and emotionally, the easier it is for you to overcome challenges. Focus on thinking positively, and try to learn from the mistakes you make. Build strong relationships with colleagues and friends, so that you have a support network to fall back on. Also, set specific and achievable personal goals that match your values, and work on building your self-confidence.
And don’t forget the kids! Like we have seen, a lot of our resilience comes from our earlier life experiences. Being realistic we cannot always stop bad or traumatic events from happening, we’ve no super power, nor can we see into the future and stop things from happening but like so many things, early intervention is crucial. So how can we make the kids more resilient? According to the American Psychological Association, the following should be a good practical guide to follow.

Keep things in perspective
When a child is forced to deal with a stressful or unpleasant event, it’s helpful to point out that there is a future filled with positivity beyond the current obstacle. Encourage the child to keep their head up and be positive. This is a skill that will serve them throughout their lives.

Encourage children to learn more about themselves
Facing a difficult situation head on can be an exercise in self-discovery, especially for young children. Encourage children to talk openly about their experience, particularly what it is they learned about their ability to cope with the situation.

Teach children about self-care
Lead by example when teaching children about the benefits of taking care of yourself. This includes eating properly, being active, and taking time to rest. Try give them a balanced schedule of work, fun, and rest.

Teach children about the inevitability of change
Change can be a daunting reality for children and adults alike. Teaching children from an early age about life’s uncertainties will enable them to roll with the punches a little easier. Change, too, is a great opportunity to sit down with children and set some new, realistic goals.

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