I’ve always believed that “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger?” Life knocked me down again and again. I lost loved ones, got my heart broken, and got my hopes dashed. How did I overcome life’s challenges? By developing resilience.
Why Being Resilient?
For me resilience is the ability to maintain my emotional balance and physical wellbeing when dealing with stressful life circumstances. In other words, it’s my ability to get back up when I’ve been knocked down.
Being resilient is helping me age better and have an increased sense of wellbeing. Now, we all have to get older, but who doesn’t want to age better and thrive in old age.? I focus on my “healthspan,” how many years I can stay healthy, instead of my lifespan.
I practice reframing
How do I reframe what happens to me? Quite simply, by relabeling my present situation or changing the way I think about any challenge. I ask myself: “Is the glass half full or half empty?” The situation or circumstance is static. However, the way I view and interpret it is dynamic. I can reframe my perspectives at any time point.
I reframe stressful situations or unexplained anxiety. Instead of thinking about its negative effects in my life, I think of it as an opportunity to improve the quality of my life, providing me opportunities to learn and improve.
So, instead of seeing stress and anxiety as overwhelming, I think of it as a valuable lesson in life. First, I find the “why.” By focusing on the why, I take a high-level perspective and become resilient by resisting immediate gratification. Second, I focus on the “how.” How will this stressor help me grow? By imagining a brighter future, I can build my resilience. Lastly, I move from a subjective to an objective view of the stressor to “change my perspective.” In this way I transform my frame of mind and feel an improvement of my mental and emotional state.
I practice visualization
When I identify a situations which may feel overwhelming right now, I put it in perspective and visualize myself as just a tiny element in the universe, realizing how unimportant I really am. If I stop taking myself seriously, my present worries pale in comparison, and I don’t feel like my mess-ups are the end of the world.
I practice mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness meditation or mindful framing lowers my rumination processes. And the good news is that the more I practice, the more my brain circuitry changes. This is called neuroplasticity, anatomically imprinting my resilience into my brain to handle future stressful events. Just 10 minutes dedicated regularly helps me reap strong benefits.
I practice awareness
In today’s pursuit of happiness, we are told to ignore or minimize negative emotions. It’s easy to distract our mind with all kinds of tricks like excessive eating or drinking. However, I have learned that having negative emotions is okay. So, I don’t suppress them or run away from them. Instead I embrace negative emotions as teachable moments.
To handle negative emotions I start by acknowledging my emotional state. Second, I attach a label to the emotion, even if it is an unflattering emotion, for instance envy. Lastly, I establish a positive framework around that emotion. I am specific and take action.
I practice empathy
No man or woman is an island. We all need people to hold us up when we are facing stressful situations. The more deep and meaningful relationships I have at work and home, the more resilient I feel. If I don’t have a good support network, I look for opportunities to expand it by being truly empathetic. I focus on reinforcing relationships with my family, at work and my social network. By aligning myself with others, I will have a tribe that I can rely on to bolster my strength for those difficult times.
We all face tough situations. Whether we rise from the ashes, or burn with the embers, depends on how resilient we are. Build those muscles of resilience so that you are better able to handle what life throws your way.
Oscar Segurado, MD, PhD