by JANET GREENWOOD, PHD, RN, LICENSED THERAPIST
Resilience is what separates those who can readily adjust and adapt to change and those who are immobilized. If you have lived long enough, you know first-hand that change is to be expected. Life currents can sweep away our greatest dreams, can thrust us into wonderfully challenging situations, crash us into the depths of loss and into the serene peaceful place of love and contentment. As a practicing therapist for four decades, a lot of my work with clients is about coping with difficult changes, creating positive change and being resilient. Simply put, being resilient is getting back up and bouncing back after being knocked down. Those who have dealt with adversity and bounced back develop a stronger resilience muscle and gain confidence that they will and can figure out whatever life challenge comes their way. I often talk to my clients about learning to surf the inevitable rough waters. It requires regaining balance over and over, looking ahead, being flexible and determined.
There is a Japanese proverb: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” Being resilient means brushing yourself off and getting back up again and again. Our perception and interpretation is a key element. It is through that lens of perception that we define a situation. Our feelings and behavior grow out of our perception and translation of an event, a comment or challenge.
Years ago, I took a wonderful class called “Awakening Joy” with a Zen approach. A simple statement that has always stayed with me was, change your perception, change your life. An example was the statement that people often say, “I have to go to work.” He said try saying “I get to go to work” and feel the difference. Language is powerful and our internal dialog can foster resilience, positivity, hope and humor, or not. My friend and business partner, Andrea Sims, recently talked about COVID as something that is not going to make her a victim but rather a victor. Now, that is resilience. COVID is a worldwide crisis and hideous in so many ways, however in other ways there are opportunities for us to grab onto as we work from home, have less distractions, more time for our priorities like love and relationships.
Research has shown that while some people seem to be naturally more resilient, these behaviors can also be learned. Whether you are wading through the muddy waters of a crisis now or want to be prepared for the next inevitable life challenge, here are eight behaviors you can use to foster your own resilience.