No one gets through life unscathed. We all face trauma, adversity and other periods of stress. And while it would be nice to think that we can all simply shrug off these events and move on with our lives, the truth is that it’s rarely that simple.
Repeated adverse events and protracted periods of extreme stress can change the way we see ourselves and the world around us.
Like weathering a severe thunderstorm, these situations can sometimes wear us down, uproot us, and leave us feeling shaken and disconnected. They can make us more anxious and distrustful, and they can lead to physical health problems.
The good news is: just as a plant can bend in the wind without breaking, we humans have the ability to weather these storms and even grow from them. This capacity is called resilience.
What is Resilience?
Life is full of surprises. Some are good, like a raise at work or the birth of a child. But others can be more difficult to manage, like the death of a loved one or a serious illness.
No one can completely avoid these types of challenges, but people with high resilience have an easier time facing these unexpected situations than others.
In physics, resilience is the ability of a material to absorb energy and then return to its original shape. In positive psychology, resilience is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
This ability to “bounce back” in the face of adversity is one benefit of cultivating positive emotions, and developing our psychological, social, physical, and intellectual resources.
People who are resilient often have several things in common:
They tend to be optimistic and have a strong sense of self-efficacy—the belief that they can control their own destiny.
They also have a supportive network—whether it be their family, their friends, their coach, or all of the above—and they’re able to draw on these relationships for strength in tough times.
Finally, resilient people are often resilient because they’ve faced challenges before and have learned from those experiences.
What is a Resilient Person?
It’s important to remember that being resilient isn’t a “gift” that some people are born with. Nor is it a trait that you either have or don’t have. It’s a skill that can be developed; intentionally or unintentionally.
People who are resilient are better equipped to cope with difficult situations and adapt quickly to change.
This ability is linked to their psychological health, as a resilient individual will be better equipped to deal with repeated negative events without becoming unbalanced.
This is because they have developed a stronger emotional foundation, which allows them to weather the storm more easily.
In addition, resilient people—though they may have experienced considerable adversity and trauma—are often more optimistic and have a greater sense of control over their lives.
As a result, they are better able to cope with adversity and emerge on the other side of it stronger than before.
Strengthening our emotional foundation in advance helps us to weather the strong storms that eventually come our way. But how can we do this?
How Can Individuals Become More Resilient?
Learning how to be resilient is an important life skill. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for becoming more resilient. Rather, it is a process that requires time, effort, and above all, a willingness to face challenges head-on.
But when trying to go through this process alone, individuals can get stuck or have difficulty making progress on the road to resilience.
For many, this progress can be significantly helped along by working with a coach. With time, perseverance, and intention—we can develop the strength we need to overcome anything life throws our way.
As coaches, we can help our clients develop their resilience, helping to transform traumatic experiences into positive opportunities and new directions in life. Individuals who are supported by personal coaching can become better equipped to face challenges in the future.
Regardless of the approach taken to develop resilience, it is important to remember that becoming resilient isn’t easy for anyone. In fact, quite the opposite; the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.
However, by persevering through difficult periods, we all have the potential to emerge stronger and become better equipped to handle whatever life throws our way.