We encounter the concept of resilience in many different contexts.
From being physically resilient against disease, infection and other physical threats, to being emotionally resilient against inevitable setbacks and disappointments. We can also consider resilience in regards to our long term financial health.
But what does it really mean to be resilient? Is resilience a trait we are born with or is it something we can learn to embody as we go through life?
Here we explore the true nature of resilience, why it is an ability we need now more than ever, and how we can cultivate resilience to support us throughout our lives.
What Does Resilience Look Like? An Acceptance Of The Nature Of Life.
This mindset may sound defeatist and pessimistic but actually, by not wasting energy and efforts trying to control the uncontrollable, which equates to more stress, we can redirect our attention to those areas we can control, thus giving us greater autonomy and power over the state of our lives.
Accepting that suffering is inevitable and that we simply can’t avoid the unpredictable and often unfair circumstances we find ourselves in is not easy, and requires practice and mindfulness to do so.
Some mental health experts also encourage an approach called Acceptance and Commitment Technique (ACT) - whereby challenges are faced head on, as a method to enhance psychological flexibility.
Whilst challenging, the reward for accepting ups and downs as part and parcel of the human experience, is the ability to better tolerate change and uncertainty, which is the hallmark of resilience.
The Capacity To Bend But Not Break.
This refers to our ability to adapt to challenge; think of a tree bending with but not breaking from exposure to the wind.
This doesn't mean we are striving for an emotionless and completely stoic state where we never shed a tear or get frustrated.
Instead, it is the capacity to experience suffering with greater ease and tolerance - the ability to handle things in this manner is a skill, and one which can be learnt just like any other.
Not Avoiding Difficulties.
It is beneficial to expose ourselves to manageable stressors - afterall it is the avoidance of stress which depletes our capacity to handle it, whereas with frequent exposure to the type of situations/ experiences we find personally challenging, but not overwhelming, we can reaffirm our resilience to cope and therefore reduce our fear of future difficulty.
Building Physical Resilience.
When we let go of our sadly futile efforts to control everything and anything, we free up our energies to create a physically, mentally and financially resilient state of being,
In this state, (which takes consistent action and effort) we can rest assured that we have the tools in place to overcome future obstacles and can therefore redirect our attention to the present moment.
In particular, if we can foster greater physical resilience we are better placed to endure not only physical threats but also emotionally demanding situations.
Just as we improve our stress tolerance by frequent, but manageable exposure, we build physical resilience by ‘stressing’ the body such that adaptation and growth occurs.
For example, whilst exercise is a form of physical stress upon the body, with consistent repetition and increasing intensity/ duration, the body adapts so it can tolerate more physical exertion efficiently.
If we avoid the ‘stress’ of exercise, we feel weak and tired just climbing the stairs- making us feel fragile and unhealthy.
Building resilience therefore often involves action, and gradual, incremental shifts towards physical, mental and financial flexibility.
The same approach speaks true for nutrition, as, when we make small sustainable changes in the direction of nutrient density, we make ourselves antifragile, against insults of illness and chronic disease.
We can easily become depleted of key stress supportive nutrients such as B Vitamins and Magnesium when we are under pressure. However, we can keep our levels topped up via supplementation as an easy strategy to increase our capacity to handle stress, whether physical or emotional.
We may even consider adding in an ‘adaptogenic’ herb such as Ashwagandha root, which, as the name suggests, helps the body to adapt to any stressors which jeopardize its homeostasis.
Financially speaking, resilience looks like building a number of income opportunities, outside or in addition to our main ‘salary’, this may be creating passive income streams via property investment, writing a book on our area of expertise or perhaps offering online courses.
We can of course also build a ‘pot’ of money to ensure that any unexpected events- job loss, moving costs etc do not overwhelm us.
Overall, It can be so easy to feel threatened by the barrage of assaults we experience in life, in whatever form they occur, with a sense that life is ‘happening to us’.
But we can do so much more than we realise to build the strong foundation required to weather the ever changing winds of life.
- To be resilient means that we can be flexible during periods of challenge and change
- By accepting the inevitability of difficulty we can focus our energies towards the areas we can control
- Moderate exposure to ‘challenge’ can encourage future resilience
- Physical resilience involves the willingness to stretch our bodies in order to gain strength and stability- which in turn improves our emotional endurance
- Financial resilience requires diversification of income streams as well as planning for the future.
- There is so much we can do to become ‘antifragile’, and resilience is a skill we can develop with practice.