Do you wonder how other people master resilience? How they can smile as the world crumbles around them? Yet you struggle to survive a new day.
Every day hangs on your shoulders like a dead weight, making you feel tired and lost. Every day feels like you’re pushing against a dam threatening to break and bowl you over. And when people tell you “buck up… give it time … when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” you only feel worse.
But you can bounce back like the best of them when you learn how to master resilience. Because that’s the best thing about resilience—it can be learned.
While you can’t control what life throws at you, you do have the possibility to change the way you respond to the challenges. So if you want to be one of those resilient people who recover well from trauma, stress, and the chaos of life then read on to discover 15 ways to master resilience.
1. Love yourself to master resilience
Resilient people understand the importance of self-care.
While most people pamper themselves with a vacation or shopping spree, they fail to do one important thing: place their health first.
Chronic or prolonged stress throws your adrenaline and cortisol hormones out of whack, creates vitamin deficiencies, and saps your energy. Your stress-induced binge eating, sugar snacking or meal skipping further degenerate the situation.
Instead, these difficult moments call for proper nourishment. Together with a dietitian or nutritionist, personalize a program based on your current needs.
Regular checkups are also a must. Other factors might contribute to stress or weaken your resistance to anxiety. Only a certified health practitioner will know.
Insomnia? Or are you forgoing a few hours of shuteye to keep busy? Instead, schedule 7 to 8 hours of sleep to stabilize hormones, improve your mood, and have greater stamina and mental focus throughout the day.
2. Move that body
Once you have a diet plan and see your doctor, start an exercise regime.
A good workout produces a natural high of dopamine, an automatic mood enhancer. Working out also boosts energy, improves brain function, and provides higher-quality sleep.
Exercise wins over stress, increasing your motivation to keep going despite daunting obstacles.
And consistency is key. Pick something enjoyable and energize for 5 to 10 minutes each day.
3. Go to the beach
You can exercise on the beach. Or do nothing at all and just BE. Connecting with nature calms your nerves, improves your mental health, and offers an introspective break.
Mentally tough folk program outdoor time. They practice mindfulness, a focus on the present moment without judgment, to nurture self-reflection.
In a relaxed setting, you easily spot self-defeating thoughts, discard them, and gain clarity.
Most importantly, spending time in nature reminds you that you are a piece of something bigger, a part of the circle of life.
4. Chant OM
Relaxing spiritual practices bring relief in times of trouble.
Meditation reduces anxiety and stress and enhances self-awareness.
Add yoga to the mix for a greater mind-body connection. It’s also scientifically proven to reduce cortisol, your stress hormone.
And ancient traditions such as qigong and tai-chi regulate mood and sleep patterns.
Or say OM. Really.
Studies show that mantras calm the mind. Find one you feel comfortable with, keep it short, and breathe in rhythm.
Whichever meditative method you choose, practice alone or in a group of like-minded souls.
5. Use your oxytocin
Did you know we’re already hard-wired to seek social support during hardships?
In a TED talk, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal says we release Oxytocin, a stress-induced hormone that “makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family.” Surprisingly, it’s a two-way street. This empathy enhancer drives you to help others and increases your compassion.
Lean on your family and friends, and let them know you support them, too. Contribute to your community. Volunteering is a great way to give to others, and receive immense satisfaction in return.
So, to master resilience, strive for quality social connections, and cultivate meaningful relationships.
6. Call a truce with your worries
McGonigal’s research also discovered that people who are less stressed about stress tend to thrive. Viewing your stress as helpful rather than harmful is a healthier approach, one which leverages your anxiety, turning it into courage.
How do you feel in a competition? The clock ticks, you sweat, and you’re jittery. Yet you finish. The entire time you channeled your fear into energy, and your anxiety into determination.
Facing your anxiousness also means listening to your emotions, which can provide insight. The next time you worry, turn that energy into action.
7. Weigh your options
How do you respond to life’s challenges, with optimism or pessimism?
When you compare optimism vs pessimism, you’ve always been told to see the glass half full. But seeing a glass half empty has its benefits, too. Here’s why you need both outlooks to make it through the challenges, especially when you know exactly how to use them:
Defensive pessimism can help you prepare for downfalls. When you expect or anticipate a crisis, you create a healthy attitude that stimulates foresight and careful planning.
Realistic optimism will keep you grounded as you aspire high. You know life isn’t perfect, but you believe in your capabilities to overcome anything.
Using both styles works best, discerning when to use one or the other. Each is effective as they avoid you mulling over unsolvable problems or concentrating your efforts inside your circle of influence.
Most importantly, both styles can help you take action.
8. Set realistic goals
When overwhelmed with life, rely on realistic intentions.
What if someone tells you to make lemonade when life gives you lemons, and you physically can’t? Like a cancer patient who can’t get out of bed all day?
Instead of feeling helpless, focus on what you can do. Think in micro-steps. Do simple ankle or arm rotations to keep yourself limber. Draw, read, write. Stay active, but do the possible.
High expectations create additional trauma that you can do without if you want to master resilience.
9. Control your need to control
If you want to master resilience, then stop being a control freak–you can’t dominate everything. Busying yourself to the point of exhaustion won’t change matters either. Like doing the possible, you need to know when to let go of the stories fueling your fear.
When you think life “should be” a certain way, you set yourself up for self-deception.
In Indian philosophies, Maya is the concept that life is one big hoax. We believe certain things exist that don’t.
Buying a bigger home won’t make you happy, you don’t need to be perfect, and your boss isn’t making your life miserable.
Question the stories you tell yourself. Are they real or simply your idea of reality?
10. Hit the books to master resilience
Studies reveal that lifelong learners handle stress better.
Not only does continuous learning keep your memory strong and your brain healthier, but it also promotes general well-being, self-fulfillment, and better recuperation after health-related issues.
Learning something new adds to your skillset, keeping you employable. Take an online class or go back to school for another degree. Or just read some of the best books on resilience.
Wise people also apply an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving. For example, your ranting boss suddenly looks like a kid throwing a temper tantrum. If you’re a parent, you don’t take it personally. You know to stay calm, lower your voice, and talk him back to reason. You shift personal knowledge to a new environment.
11. Play a memory game
Lifelong learners also remember past crises and how they dealt with them.
Most likely, this is not your first battle.
Remember the time life gave you lemons? Did you make lemonade? You probably did something entirely different.
Recall previous troubled times. Analyze how you handled the issue. If you had to face it all over again, what would you do differently?
12. Find real superheroes
As you’re walking down memory lane, think of people you’ve met, or currently know, who classify as resilient superheroes.
In the 1950s, psychologists conducted a 40-year study on underprivileged children on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. They found that the ones who grew into resilient adults all had an external role model.
What qualities do your resilience models have? Can’t find one? Then find a negative one to understand how NOT to be.
13. Be a mental contortionist
When life throws you lemons, stay flexible. As Lao Tzu reminds us, “a tree that is unbending is easily broken.”
For some, humor is one way to rebound. Look at the flip-side or the Far Side of a situation.
Contemplating your circumstances from someone else’s point of view is another effective strategy. Talk to yourself as if you were talking to your best friend. What would you say?
Cultivate various coping methods to be as elastic as possible when dealing with life’s difficulties.
14. Walk with purpose
To master resilience, have a calling.
When you have a worthy goal, life is filled with meaning. Your “I give up” attitude wanes and you’ll find it easier to get back up when struggles knock you down.
When I was diagnosed with leukemia and realized I could die, I had only one regret — I never believed I could be a writer. I turned that sorrow into my mission, which helped me grow after trauma.
What’s your purpose? Think of the most significant periods in your life until now. Most likely, they were also the most difficult times. What made them important, what did you learn from them?
It’s natural to stray from the path, but a compelling destination snaps you back.
15. Stay on course
Another characteristic, common in the resilient children of Kauai, is a strong internal locus of control.
The belief that you create your fate strengthens the resiliency muscle. There’s no such thing as luck or destiny, just hard work. Resilient people are determined, self-confident, and strong-willed.
They also have a moral compass. What are your core values? Some examples include commitment, happiness, integrity, compassion, and service. As Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
Identifying your principles and strengths guides you in hard times, steers you through the choices, and holds your sense of responsibility intact.
3 tips to truly master resilience
1. Personalize it
No single way will make you more resilient. And doing all of them won’t make you emotionally stronger — just more stressed out.
Only you know the right combination to unlock your rebound potential. For example, don’t laugh in the face of despair if it doesn’t feel right.
Experiment. Choose the methods that inspired you most, see if they resonate, and make it a simple, daily habit.
2. Take action
As you perfect your resilience blueprint, remember to take small steps through the process.
If you recognized a time when you were resilient, focus on what you did. Can you replicate it, or can you adapt it? Evaluate, decide, act. And sometimes no action at all is the best solution.
Also, realize when something is beyond your sphere of influence. If you can’t control it, control your reaction.
3. Be patient
This takes time. You’re learning something new, so be kind to yourself and don’t rush it. You don’t expect perfect abs after doing a hundred sit-ups in one day, do you?
Take note of small victories day by day. Soon you’ll see bigger and bigger wins.
You can bounce back from anything
Still feeling helpless? Take heart, because you now know 15 ways to master resilience. You have the insight to build a new muscle, one strong enough to push that falling dam back into place.
Remember to personalize your game plan. Once you get started, you will be amazed that little setbacks no longer upset you.
After a while, you know how to bend but not break under pressure. You finally think, “Yes. I can do this.”
Over time you will no longer recognize the person you were before you started to master resilience.
The best thing? Those people who previously chided you for crumbling so quickly? They will come to you for advice on how to stay cool and calm when life gives them lemons. And you will blow them away when you don’t say, “make lemonade.”