How To Become More Resilient
Have you ever felt like the people around you seem to bounce back from setbacks unscathed, while you feel easily defeated, despite putting on a good face? For a long time, I assumed that the quality of resilience was primarily biological or genetic, and that some people were simply born with it. This isn't entirely untrue — some of us are predisposed to conditions like depression and anxiety, which leave us more emotionally vulnerable and make it more difficult to deal with major challenges, traumatic experiences and unexpected setbacks. So we should certainly always be gentle with ourselves. But we do have more control over our own resilience than I once believed. There are certain habits of resilient people that set the tone for their attitudes and lifestyles, and leave them better equipped to handle the struggles life throws at them. And these habits aren't only helpful during troubled times — many of them can improve your overall quality of life, too.
Since life often throws totally unexpected hurdles at us, it's key to make the following habits part of your lifestyle. Don't wait for a full-on crisis to start before you begin getting enough sleep, reflecting on your own strengths and weaknesses or finding healthy hobbies and coping skills — the time to begin developing these habits is now, before you really need them. Plus, we shouldn't think of resilience as solely the ability to overcome major setbacks — we can practice it in everyday life by not letting little things get us down.
Here are seven habits that will make you more resilient when it comes to dealing with everything from minor setbacks to major crises.
1. Maintain Healthy Sleeping & Eating Patterns
In our busy and often competitive world, many people brag about how little sleep they've gotten because we're all supposed to be accomplishing things at all hours of the day and night. But just because we can function professionally and socially on five hours of sleep and 1,000 calories a day, doesn't mean it's sustainable or healthy.
This lifestyle is detrimental to our long-term physical and emotional health. Five hours of sleep may be enough to prevent you from falling over asleep at your desk at work, but when you have a major, unexpected hurdle to deal with, you'll suddenly realize that you're physically and mentally spent. Being well-rested is essential to your overall mental health and resilience. Plus, pretty much everyone becomes more emotionally vulnerable if they're running on two hours of sleep and haven't eaten. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who has burst into tears due to a subway delay after a sleepless night.) Get enough sleep and food, and you'll give yourself a better chance of feeling able to cope with what life throws at you.
2. Form A Strong Support Network
Surrounding yourself with reliable, supportive friends and family members is invaluable. When a tough situation arises, they can offer support and advice — and they help us keep things in perspective. Plus, since all healthy relationships involve a fair amount of "give and take", we also have our turn to help out a loved one who is going through a rough time. And this may sound cheesy, but it's also true — it feels really good to offer a shoulder to cry on and some solid advice when someone we care about is struggling.
3. Be Aware Of Your Strengths & Weaknesses
Being cognizant of your own strengths and weaknesses is a valuable skill when you're dealing with any sort of adversity. Although we should always feel able to work on our weaknesses, it's also good to acknowledge them — and recognize that when a situation comes up that engages one of our weaknesses, sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is seek help before it escalates and we're left feeling overwhelmed.
Additionally, be aware of your triggers — we all have them and sometimes they seem totally random and quirky to others, but that's OK. The more self-aware you are, the better equipped you'll be to manage a crisis. You'll find that you're able to draw from your existing strengths to get through it, and seek support in the areas that aren't your forte.
4. Don't Relentlessly Beat Yourself Up Over Mistakes
Sometimes we're partially or fully responsible for something that goes wrong in our life — and to say that's not a great feeling would be an understatement. Most of us have learned that when we make mistakes, we should always try to take responsibility for them and learn from them, and that's true — but it's just as important to forgive ourselves and move on. Harping on what we "could have done" or "should have done" does absolutely nothing except keep us living in the past, which prevents us from focusing on moving forward. And mistakes are often a crucial way to grow and learn more about ourselves. Rather than beat yourself up, focus on what you learned and what you'll do differently next time.
5. Find Things To Be Grateful For
Whether you've just had a major crisis or are just feeling like every little thing in your life is going wrong at once, it's easy to get bogged down in negative thinking. That's why it's always helpful to take a few minutes to be grateful for what you do have, especially when you're feeling down — make a gratitude list, thank your best friend for being amazing, and remember to give yourself a pat on the back for doing your best. It won't just boost your mood — studies have shown that consistently maintaining a gratitude list can lead to health benefits like improved sleep patterns and fewer symptoms of illness.
It also never hurts to remind yourself that you've gone through super rough patches before, and you'll get through this challenge, too. So be grateful for yourself and your own strength — you may not always see it or feel it, but it's there!
6. Develop Healthy Hobbies & Coping Mechanisms
No matter what kind of crisis you're dealing with — going through a rough breakup, coping with job loss or dealing with family drama — you're probably feeling exhausted, miserable and defeated. It's definitely tempting to hole up in your room to watch Netflix and stay clad in sweatpants until some sort of obligation necessitates that you emerge from your lair and rejoin the human race. And that's fine. When you're overtired and overwhelmed, it's OK to have a little wallowing time — but don't let it become your habitual coping mechanism.
When everything feels like it's falling apart, remember that you still have hobbies that make you happy — and being distracted for an hour or two can really help keep things in perspective. So be proactive and make plans to volunteer, take a yoga class, cook a nice meal or go to a museum. Most importantly, try not to engage in behaviors that you know will lead to obsessing, wallowing and overthinking. When healthy hobbies are part of your daily and weekly routine, it'll be easier to engage in them when you're going through a rough patch.
7. Be Proactive
Resilient people are lifelong learners and aren't content to rest on their laurels — learning new things helps them be better prepared for unexpected problems that life may throw at them. So if a learning experience presents itself, seize it — even if you don't see an immediate opportunity to put the specific skills to use. If there's someone in your life who you look up to, don't be afraid to seek their advice. Our professional and personal circumstances can change in the blink of an eye, and you never know when certain skills will come in handy.
Plus, there are some abilities like self-reliance, decision-making, and overall confidence that are basically useful in any situation, no matter how big or small — and those are habits that take lots of practice. What better way to prepare yourself to handle a serious setback than to practice those skills in everyday situations where the stakes aren't super high?