How to build a resilience muscle
Estimated Time To Read: 2 minute(s) 40 seconds
Parents are constantly urged to recognise the importance of raising children who are resilient, who have the ability to bounce back from adversity, which makes sense given the many mountains and obstacles we have to climb and consider throughout our lives.
Yet whilst the emphasis on building resilience in children is drummed into us as parents, it somehow then gets overlooked when we need it most, when a crisis hits us – as adults.
As financial planners we often deal with real-life adversity that is experienced by our clients. Forget about the money for a minute, which is a very emotive subject in itself, and think of getting through traumatic and stressful situations, such as losing a life partner, getting divorced, pending retirement, redundancy, or losing a parent or a child.
They’re distressing to go through and the majority of us aren’t equipped with the skills to negotiate our ways through them.
So, how can we make ourselves more resilient? According to Adam Grant, a psychology professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, there is a naturally learnable set of behaviours that contribute to resilience.
Essentially, Grant believes that we should see resilience as an emotional muscle that can be strengthened all the way through our lives. While it is extremely important to build up resilience in childhood, it is equally important to do so in adulthood.
Grant provides us with a few ways to build resilience before, after or during an emotional crisis:
■ Practice Optimism. Optimism is part-genetic, part-learned. Optimism doesn’t mean ignoring the reality of a dire situation. After a job loss you may feel defeated and think, “I’ll never recover from this” but by thinking positive thoughts and surrounding yourself with positive people you’re likely to cope with the situation a lot better. A job loss could, for example, give you a chance to rethink your life goals and find work that truly makes you happy.
■ Rewrite Your Story. Study after study has shown that we can benefit from reframing the personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. “It’s about learning to recognize the explanatory story you tend to use in your life,” says Grant. “Observe what you are saying to yourself and question it. It’s not easy. It will take practice.”
■ Don’t Personalise It. We have a tendency to blame ourselves for life’s setbacks and to reflect about what we should have done differently. In the moment, a difficult situation feels as if it will never end. To bolster your resilience, remind yourself that even if you made a mistake, a number of factors most likely contributed to the problem. Shift your focus to the next steps you should take.
■ Remember Your Comebacks. When times are tough, we often remind ourselves that other people — like war refugees or a friend with cancer — have it worse. While that may be true, you will get a bigger resilience-boost by reminding yourself of the challenges you personally have overcome.
■ Support Others. Resilience studies show that people are more resilient when they have strong support networks of friends and family to help them cope with a crisis. But you can get an even bigger resilience-boost by giving support.
“Any way you can help other people is a way of moving outside of yourself, and this is an important way to enhance your own strength,” says Grant.
■ Take Stress Breaks. The key is to recognise that you will never eliminate stress from your life. Instead, create regular opportunities for the body to recover from stress — just as you would rest your legs after a marathon. Taking a walk break, spending five minutes to meditate or having lunch with a good friend are ways to give your mind and body a break from stress.
There’s no denying it, life is stressful and so we encourage you to use all your experiences as a way to learn and grow. Practice these resilience building techniques every day until they become a habit. If you plan to live to 100 or older, you will, no doubt, have opportunities to flex your resilience muscles— time and again!