By Dr. Katy Kamkar, Clinical Psychologist, Work, Stress and Health Program, CAMH
Most if not all of us have experienced a variety of difficult and upsetting events and circumstances in our lives such as an illness, death of a loved one, financial difficulties, divorce, work related stressors. A range of emotions result from those difficult and upsetting events such as sadness, shock, anger, anxiety, feeling hopeless and feeling helpless.
How do we cope with those difficult life events? What can we do?
Resilience is about bouncing back from difficult life experiences or challenges. Building resilience is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process and while we go throughout the process, we experience emotional pain and distress and work on using strategies that can help us cope and adapt as best as we can to difficult event.
Here are some strategies provided by the American Psychological Association. Building resilience is individualized such that a strategy that might work for you might not work for another, so you can select the ones that might work best for you.
- Building good and healthy relationships with family, friends and community. It is about creating healthy social support network, seeking social support as well as helping others.
- Not seeing crises as unbearable. We can work on interpreting the events in such a way that could be helpful to us, make us feel less distressed or hopeless or helpless such that putting it into perspective, looking at any learning from the events, identifying any positives, and focusing on what is within one’s control and taking one step at a time.
- Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed. We can subsequently focus more on the situations we have more control over and can change which can help us feel less powerless, more self-confident and hopeful.
- Developing realistic goals. We can move towards our goals by taking gradual steps and appreciate each step taken.
- Taking decisive actions. Focus on taking an active approach and problem solving when possible as avoidance rarely makes problems go away.
- Looking for opportunities for self-discovery. Following difficult events, it helps to also identify any learning about self, our positives, strengths, or any healthy relationships we have developed.
- Developing confidence in self. Recognizing one’s own strength and resourcefulness help increase our self-confidence and ability to problem solve.
- Keeping a long-term perspective. Looking at the stressful event in a broader context helps to better evaluate the situation and subsequently help us make healthier decisions.
- Maintaining a hopeful outlook. Focusing on visualizing what one wants helps again move towards problem solving and take an active approach.
- Engaging in self-care. Taking care of self by paying attention to our needs and feelings, and exercising and relaxing.
We all have our own unique ways to build resilience. What strategies have helped you build resilience in your life?