How Do You Build Resiliency? 8 Powerful Tools to Help
Resilience is a skill we can sharpen, not a God-given talent.
Resilience is a skill we can sharpen, not a God-given talent.
I mean, Disney has made at least a gazillion dollars of come-back stories…
So, how can we build resilience in our lives, to spring back from the challenges we face?
It starts by internalizing a powerful fact: Resiliency is a skill.
That may not blow your eyebrows off on first read, but if you want to become a more resilient person, recognizing its skillness is a critical first step. And forgetting that I used the term “skillness” is a critical second…
See, many people out there believe resilience is biological — like the big man upstairs threaded rubber into a lucky few’s DNA. But once we’ve accepted that resilience is as much of a skill as playing the guitar or practicing a language, we realize it’s something we can learn.
Which is a really big deal, since research finds resilience affects many aspects of our lives, including childhood development, entrepreneurial success, and even retirement satisfaction. Which means for the Warren Buffets out there — and the rest of us too — improving our resilience could have cradle-to-grave ROI (see what I did there?).
Do you believe me that resiliency is a skill that you can learn? Good! Then let’s move on:
Here are 8 powerful exercises you can incorporate into your daily life to help you build resiliency.
In times of trouble, do you give conscious awareness to your breath, or do you take it for granted like last year’s holiday gift from grandma? (she’d love a call by the way)
If you fall into the ladder category, know that improving the relationship between us and our breath has been proven to curb anxiety, improve sleep, and even avoid hypothermia. Heck, who knew breath could be such an asset in building resilience for emotions and harsh winters?! Quick, get Minnesota on the phone!
There are loads of breathing exercises you can try, but if you’re looking for a place to start, look no further than “box breathing.” It’s simple:
4 seconds in through the nose… hold for 4 seconds… 4 seconds out through the mouth.
This alone can help you relieve anxiety during and after challenging situations, so you can bounce back quicker. Quick disclaimer: Please don’t test it out on hypothermia. That requires years of dedicated practice.
Ever scold yourself after a challenging performance or event, running through everything you should have done better? Blame evolution, which built us to remember the negatives more than the positives, so threats would stick in our heads.
Which is great for sabre tooth tigers. But it’s not so great for self-improvement and resilience. In the long run, being overly critical only holds us back.
When we’re resilient, we have a way of viewing ourselves as ongoing experiments. We’re able to step outside of ourselves, assess our actions, and make changes where necessary. And exactly what “balanced critique” reflection allows us to do.
Balanced critique is a reflection technique that forces us to analyze ourselves objectively, and send our inner-critics packing. Rather than reflecting on the things we did “good” or “bad,” we simply ask two questions:
1) What’s one thing I did, that I want to keep doing?
2) What’s one thing I want to do differently?
Then, we do both of those things next time around! So we stop viewing “failing” as something worthy of self-punishment. Instead, we view it through a prism of learning and objectivity, which feeds continuous growth and resiliency.
I know “giving gratitude” can sound a little corny. But there’s some serious science behind it:
In a 2016 study on the impact of gratitude on mental health, researchers at Berkeley divided 293 students seeking various mental health interventions into three groups:
‣ The first group received standard therapy only.
‣ The second group was also assigned an expressive writing activity to explore their emotions
‣ The third group was asked to write one “letter of gratitude” to someone every week for three weeks
The group that wrote the gratitude letters reported significantly higher mental health than the other two groups for several weeks after the exercise.
PLUS — incredibly — follow up fMRI’s on the participants showed that the gratitude writers displayed beneficial processing in their prefrontal cortexes months after the activity. This suggests that present-day expressions of gratitude can have lasting impacts on our lives.
All of which makes us more resilient in the long run. So are some daily practices you can try:
This practice helps us appreciate the good things we have, through thick and thin, which build our resilience over time.
Suzy Welch’s “10-10-10” rule has been popularized by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffet for one shining reason: It really does work.
The rule is simple — when making a decision, or reflecting on an outcome, think:
1. Will I be thinking about this in 10 minutes?
2. Will I be thinking about this in 10 months?
3. Will I be thinking about this in 10 years?
Most things won’t pass number one. Immediacy compresses pressure; time relieves it. This reframing strategy helps us see that some of the things we’re stewing over really aren’t that big of a deal in the long run. So we stop viewing set-backs and obstacles as the end of the world, and bounce back with a healthy perspective.
Ever come away from a stressful or frustrated situation, and let the generalizations fly? Saying things like:
“I ALWAYS screw this up!”….
“This NEVER works out for me.”…
“My life will ALWAYS BE THIS WAY”…
This “global” way of thinking is toxic and demoralizing because it tattoo’s a sense of permanence onto negative events, lowering our motivation to change.
The healthier, more resilient approach is to process adversity as “specific,” meaning specific to the here and now and therefore surmountable in the here and now:
“We screwed it up THIS TIME.” (It happens! But we have the tools to fix it!)
“It didn’t go perfectly THIS TIME.” (Let’s take a tiny step to make it better!)
Martin Seligman, a legend of positive psychology research, found that when we use adaptive explanatory styles (using specific instead of global descriptors), we’re less likely to struggle with mental health issues and far more likely to demonstrate resilience.
Extensive research points to the positive role our communities have on our resilience. When we spend quality time with a friend or family member, our bodies release oxytocin; a powerful hormone that promotes happiness and defends against stress.
In addition, studies have shown that community engagement fosters more robust recovery from illness and trauma. As the American Psychological Association writes:
“Connecting with empathetic and understanding people can remind you that you’re not alone in the midst of difficulties. Focus on finding trustworthy and compassionate individuals who validate your feelings, which will support the skill of resilience.”
So keep your friends and family near. Hey, maybe give a shout to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while right after you’re finished reading this!
I’ve touched on giving gratitude and reframing our outcomes and the power of community. Now, I want you to bundle that all up into a brief and beautiful self-love phrase! Here’s what I mean by that:
Olympian Georganne Moline is a fierce competitor; and like all competitors, she wants to win. But one thing that’s helped her both before and after races is realizing — no matter the outcome, she still has a lot going for her…
She’s a good friend, a good daughter, and a good person. With that in mind, she wrapped it all up into a self-love phrase:
“I am loved. I am enough. I am worthy.”
Repeating this phrase to herself before races lowers the stakes, allowing her to run with a clearer head; and it blunts the sting of a challenging finish, allowing her to bounce back with a healthy perspective.
Even if we quote unquote “fail,” our lives will go on. Our friends will still care about us. Our families will still love us. And most importantly, we should continue to love ourselves.
Develop a self-love phrase of your own, say it often, and feel your resiliency grow.
When a work is kicking our ass; when a significant relationship is on-edge; when LIFE, that fickle beast, blindsides us with a stone-cold uppercut — our instinct tells us to push through the haze with everything we got. I mean, that’s resiliency, isn’t it? Fighting back with all we’ve got?
Well, yes… sometimes. But do you know what else you have to do every now and then?
Lay on the couch and eat tacos. (yep, permission granted)
We tend to get so wrapped up in the stress of our challenges, both big and small, that we don’t think we have time to take breaks. We couldn’t be more wrong about that. In fact, NOT taking breaks when we need them can make our challenges even tougher to surmount.
Yes, self-care is a legitimate practice for mental health and building resilience. All it takes is a few minutes of doing something that relaxes or engages us to recharge emotionally and chemically (thanks to the release of the hormone oxytocin).
There you have it! Eight tools and exercises you can practice to grow your resilience and confidence, starting right now.