Ever wonder where resilience comes from? Do you get a certain amount of it when you’re born, and when you run out, it’s game over? Are you able to build resilience or nurture it?
You may know of people who are able to get from one point to another without much effort. Perhaps you are wondering how they manage it. But then, maybe you cross paths with them later in life, and they don’t have any more “get up and go” left. What’s happened? Is their resiliency gone? Is it possible to get their resilience back?
I recently spoke with Andrea Marcellus, life coach, fitness expert, and author of self-help book, “The Way In” to explore these questions and discover new ways to keep building that all-important resiliency muscle.
What does it mean to be resilient?
We all face rejections, betrayals, or disappointments from a young age—whether in our family of origin, in our schools, or in our communities. There are ways we can get back up. The ability to recover is called resilience.
We can use resilience to deal with stress, loss, and pain without feeling helpless. Think of a rubber band, and how it snaps back into shape after it’s stretched. It is an indicator of resilience. Except, what doesn’t work about the rubber band metaphor is that resilience does more than help us return to our original shape; Andrea defines resilience as “the capacity to expand.” Perhaps a better metaphor, then, is bread dough, that is stretched and kneaded by our experiences.
Mentorship in the face of adversity
We all have a natural survival instinct, but our level of resiliency has more to do with how we’re raised and the amount of adversity we’ve had to face. In other words: Our upbringing, and the experiences we’ve had in life are more important than our genetic makeup when it comes to our resilience.
Andrea says that Andrea’s key question is What did you do to learn how to support yourself in the face of adversity through mentorship?
These statements may be true in some cases.
- The space was there for you to be yourself and let your heart ache.
- It was taught you how to handle and deal with disappointments.
- It was a great experience to be able to look at life from a wider perspective with all of its highs and lows.
- You learned to reframe failures without resorting to defensive stances such as “They didn’t deserve me anyway” or downplaying them by saying, “I didn’t really care that much.”
If you don’t know the answer, one or more of these possibilities may be true.
- You were raised to “suck it up” or “push through”, getting into a habit of getting by on willpower.
- You heard that life is a battlefield filled with winners and losers, so you became adversarial, and all the language around your efforts was about “the fight.”
- As you know, the one who strikes first is victorious. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to deal with problems using knee-jerk reflexive words and actions.
- As a child, you were taught that the virtue of suffering is silence. Talking about your problems is complaining.
We can all build our resilience, regardless of our backgrounds. Andrea shares three tips for creating a climate that fosters resilience.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” ― Thomas Edison
A strong purpose
What is your “why” in life? You have the right to lead a life that excites and motivates. But it’s easy to get stuck in malaise, get sidetracked by egoic ambitions, or lose the plot on what you really love and care about.
According to Andrea, you need to find “focus and purpose and a constant journey that’s above and beyond your occupation. Your mind will be more forward-thinking when it’s activated by purpose. It’s creative, it’s curious, and it’s non-judgmental.”
A strong sense of purpose is directly related to resilience. Maybe we should update the phrase, “When you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life” to “When you love what you do, you build resilience for life.”
Training your brain
Recent research has shown that brain health does not decline as we age.ContraryIt is. Andrea says that our positive brain centers: the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the prefrontal cortex—can be trained, just as the body can, so that you have the ability to pull yourself out of any downward spiral.
Tara Swart, Neuroscientist, MD, Executive Advisor, Author of “The Source,” offers up these IdeasTo support brain resilience and improve our ability to think clearly:
“Start with the physical foundations: Rest your brain with 7-9 hours sleep per night. Your neurons need half a liter water per 30 lb body weight to hydrate them. You can oxygenate your brain with a daily walk of 5000-10000m and an aerobic workout of 150 minutes per week. For 20 minutes, meditate each day. You can take the supplement that suits your needs. As much as you can of oily fish, eggs and nuts, as well as green leafy veggies, olives and coconut oil, as you like. Drink four cups of green tea per week.”
It’s too difficult to live life alone. Trust is key. We need to be able to trust others and share our struggles with them.
These are some of our tips and tricks:
Make sure that you’re surrounded by people who won’t try to minimize or always expect you to see “the bright side,” and who support you in the ways you need to be supported.
- You can create a network of allies where no one is pressured to smile after a loss or hardship, but instead are supported as they go through the process.
- Try to model your resilience after others. Look at how these people manage their disappointments and lives. You will notice that their motivations are not driven by boastfulness or pride. They have an inexhaustible sense of inner authority and personal power.
Creating a supportive community can become pseudo-resilience for when you need to take a moment before you can tap into your own, or, as is often said, the “strength of others give us strength.”
There are setbacks, hardships, and no one can escape this part of life. It’s healthy to feel your feelings and communicate these with others in the aftermath of a loss or failure. Sometimes we all need to step back to find our balance again and get that focus. Three things that can be done to ensure a positive rebound are having a purpose and training your brain.
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