The Importance of Resilience in Challenging Times

Life has a way of throwing you a curve ball, right at the moment when you either least expect it, or at the worst possible time.

I am recovering from two unexpected illnesses, both which arrived within the space of three weeks.  Although I am fully on the mend now, I was surprised at how much they shook up my life.  They left me feeling (aside from in pain and horribly unwell) vulnerable, shaken and discombobulated.

I could feel the self-pity taking hold, and had to give myself a sharp talking to.  This was largely because my husband and I had to miss an extremely important event due to my illness.  Why me? Why now?

These are not useful questions.  Better questions are: ‘How do I ensure I recover from this in the best possible way?’  ‘What do I need to do to get myself back on track?  And for me, the most important question of all ‘What can I learn from this?’

Once I had recovered enough to consider my state of mind, I realized it needed some attending to.

When life is sailing along smoothly, we don’t tend to give much thought to our emotional or mental state.  However, throw us a challenge, take us out of our comfort zone and wham! then we will see what we are made of.   Resilience becomes of paramount importance. I was finding it hard to get over what had occurred.  I needed to be more resilient.

So, what is resilience and how can we cultivate more of it in our lives?

Resilience is defined as:

the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.’  

Also, ‘the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.’

Not easy, but worth considering. I believe that resilience is all together easier if we start with being self-compassionate.  Beating ourselves up about what we may or may not have done, or can and cannot do is futile.  I couldn’t help the illnesses I got (one was chicken pox over which I had little or no control.)

It is easier to be resilient once we stop the negative talk and fill our mind with more constructive feedback.  For example:

‘I won’t feel like this forever.  This too shall pass.  I just need to take one day at a time.  I can do small things that will make a difference.  I can and I will.  I can and I will.’

It is amazing how just talking to yourself like this for a few minutes can change your whole mindset.

If resilience is the ability to bounce back, we may need to challenge ourselves.  I forced myself out for a walk one day even though I felt unwell,  at the time it felt like running a marathon, but afterwards I felt a great sense of achievement.

You don’t have to set yourself a huge challenge.  Some positive self-talk and achieving some small task will go a long way to building resilience.

Adapting to change is also key to building resilience. Life is going to throw us challenges – that’s a fact, and yet when it happens it is easy to flounder around helplessly.  If you can prepare yourself for change and adapt to change, you will build resilience.

Another way to build resilience is to try and see the lighter side of life.  Hard as it may be, those who are most resilient open their hearts to humour and are able to see the absurdity of life.  This is definitely a challenge for me, but I’m working on it!

So next time life throws you a challenge, ask yourself what you can learn from it, and if there is any silver lining at all – grab it with both hands!

I leave you with a poem from the goddess of resilience: Maya Angelou.  She faced more difficulties than most people could even begin to imagine.  But she rose to the challenge with grace and courage, as this wonderful poem illustrates:

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.”
― Maya Angelou