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The Oxford Dictionary defines resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape (Stevenson, 2010,). We can see an example of this with metals, for example, as wrought iron can be stretched and returned to its original position without breaking; it is resilient. On the other hand, cast iron is very tough but breaks easily; it is not resilient (Lazarus, 1993).
Something similar happens to the human being. As the American Psychology Association (2011) explains, resilient people adapt well to stressful conditions and life-changing situations. They are not exonerated of negative emotions, they relive traumatic events and get through those difficult times that threaten them with adversity. Taking action and choosing the right attitude is an important part of coping.
The great news is that resilience is not a trait exclusive to a handful of people. It can be trained, as certain factors can contribute in developing it, and we will explore different resilience exercises to do so.
Nevertheless it is important to take in consideration that, as every person reacts to adversity in unique ways (based on one’s personality, age, cultures, and other factors that play an important role), everyone can develop a unique strategy to awaken and enhance resilience.
The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions states that during times of stress people focus on pursuing novel and creative thoughts and actions. Barbara Fredrickson sees negative emotions as,
“one’s momentary thought–action repertoire by preparing one to behave in a specific way (e.g., attack when angry, escape when afraid). In contrast, various discrete positive emotions (e.g., joy, contentment, interest) broaden one’s thought–action repertoire, expanding the range of cognitions and behaviours that come to mind. These broadened mindsets, in turn, build an individual’s physical, intellectual, and social resources”. (Fredrickson, 1998, 2001).
Tugade and Fredrickson (2004) conducted a study to show the benefits positive emotions have on negative emotion regulation, and found that it was possible to find positive meaning in negative circumstances. Other research discovered that positive emotions provide optimistic, energetic approaches to life, and increased curiosity and high positive emotionality (J. Block & Kremen, 1996).
Taking in consideration the positive effects of resilience, I want to share some practical tips based on the perspective of the American Psychology Association (American Psychological Association, 2011). To make it easy to remember, I’ve turned my tips into acronyms.
- Accept help and support from those who care about you. It’s great to talk about your problems with someone who will sincerely listen.
- Focus on transcendence; assist others, you will feel wonderful for doing so. Be active in volunteer groups, faith-based organizations, or similar interventions that provide social support and hope.
E- Everyday effort
- Set realistic goals.
- Do activities every day that help you in achieving your purpose.
- See what you had learnt even in difficult circumstances.
- Focus on the gain that personal tragedy also brought. Sometimes it could be reflect on better relationships, strength even while feeling vulnerable, self-worth, spirituality or appreciation for life.
I-In perspective, everything is better
- See the forest, not just the tree. Don’t focus only on the problem in the present moment.
- Think in long-term perspectives.
L-Life could bring you good things, expect them to
- Visualize and focus on what you want instead of worrying about what you fear.
- Be optimistic, maintain a hopeful outlook.
I-In caring for yourself
- Pay attention to your own needs and feelings and your mind and body will be able to deal with tough times.
- Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.
- Exercise regularly.
E-End of the world? Not at all
- Focus on positive future circumstances, be optimistic. As Viktor Frankl, creator of Logotherapy, said, “The last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”
- Find ways to feel better even when you are dealing with bad circumstances, every detail counts.
N-Nurture a positive view of yourself
- Trust your own ability and instincts to solve problems.
C-Changes are inevitable, try to accept them
- Accept when circumstances cannot be changed, sometimes you won’t win.
- Focus on what you can change or what can be achieved.
E-Encouragements in taking actions
- Create an action plan and try to achieve it.
- Try as much as you can to help yourself to move out of situations that aren’t good for you.
Tips for developing resilience in children
The American Psychology Association (2015) proposes some practical tips to raise and develop resilience in children. Parents and teachers can guide them to reduce the effects of stress and build resilience:
Keep a routine and follow rules
- It’s important to establish and maintain routines for activities like meal times, homework times, hygiene routines and bed times or family traditions. Besides, when you set some rules, you let your kids know what you expect from them and what to expect if they don’t do what they are supposed to.
- Maintain the rules and the routines, as it will be helpful in reducing the negative effects of adversity or life changing situations on children. Also, this will be useful in establishing and maintaining structure in their lives.
In contact with emotions
- Discuss emotions expressed by characters in books, tales, movies, and make a comparison on how relatives, friends, or classmates can feel in similar situations.
- Don’t forget to express your own feelings. Talk with your son or daughter about their emotions. This will help you to recognize and regulate them.
Help them solve problems
- Train your kids on problem solving; take advantage of situations when they require you to come up with a solution.
- Ask them for ideas or suggestions to solve problems. Also, you can play games that require solutions from every participant, like table games.
- Children can learn fast but not in the same way as adults. You can play games that show them how to manage self-control, and also show its benefits.
- It’s important to teach them by showing your self-control as an example and how you expect them to act. When they face adversity they will know how to control themselves instead of react impulsively.
Tips for developing resilience in teenagers
Adolescents confront hormonal, personal, and physical changes during their developmental period. Facing adversity can enhance the regular levels of daily stress they face. I would recommend to take in consideration the initial 10 tips of resilience, but to have some more tips to consider, as recommended by the American Psychology Association (2011).
The routine must be included
- Adolescence is a time of change, it is important to have something constant that stays the same for them that doesn’t change.
- Keeping a routine will give a teen comfort, especially when they want to explore new activities or other things.
- When they are facing adversity, they might be feeling a conflict of emotions and that is why -expressing them is very important. Not every teenager uses the same type of expressions (e.g. like talking about with their closest friends), it can be done through singing, writing, or even drawing.
- It’s important to have personal space where you can put your stress and anxiety away. Caution: this could be very useful, but it is not a self-shelter. Loved ones may be allowed to get closer during this time of personal space. This breathing room helps build resilience.
- It would be very useful to put the effort and energy in something different than a problem that cannot be solved right away, like helping the community, friends, or neighbors. It makes them to feel better, and you can also provide help for the ones who need it.
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