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  • Ann-Marie Covert, MSW, RSW

Resilience: Your Secret Superpower

Introduction


Mental illness does not discriminate; it impacts people from every race, culture, socioeconomic status, and every other demographic you can think of.


According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, one in three people will be diagnosed with a mental illness during their lifetime. With numbers like this, chances are that if we do not personally experience mental illness, we will know someone who does.


It is important to learn how to cope with mental illness and there are many skills we can learn to help alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. I teach some of these coping skills, and I believe they are essential.


Beyond Coping Skills


But there is something else, beyond skills and coping mechanisms, that we can also focus on. It will not only help us improve our mental health but may also help prevent developing mental health issues in the first place.


This something else is our secret superpower, and it is called Resilience.


The Secret Superpower



Resilience has been a relatively untapped phenomenon in psychiatry for many years, but recently there has been a great deal of research in this area.


In fact, the Word Health Organization has considered resilience to be a “key pillar” of our overall health and is part of their 2020 Health Policy Framework.


Researchers and mental health professionals are starting to realize the role resilience plays in our mental well-being, and it is time for us to tap into this superpower.


Defining Resilience


If we are talking about a rubber band, resilience would mean the ability of the rubber to spring back into its original shape after being stretched. The more easily the band bounces back, the more resilient it is.


In psychology, resilience is our ability to spring back or recover after a crisis. It is our ability to stand strong in the face of adversity.


What Resilience Doesn’t Mean


Being resilient doesn’t mean you are exempt from negative life events. In fact, emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have high resilience.


Also, resilience is not a trait that people either have or don’t have. The truth is we all have some level of of resilience, and resilience can be learned over time.


Why is Resilience Important?


Life has ups and downs, and we are all faced with different stressors and crises at different points in our lives.


We are almost guaranteed to go through difficult times. Some may have harder times than others, but none of us are immune to difficulty.


Resilience is important because it helps us tolerate adversity. Those who have high resilience tend to be more adaptable when life gets tough. Being resilient means that we can navigate crises well and have the capacity to recover quickly.


Lower resilience means we are more vulnerable to not recovering from difficulties, and this puts at risk of developing mental health issues.


Since we will all face adversity, and we know that resilience will help us get through, it is important that we focus on our resilience.


Ways to Build Resilience


Make Meaningful Connections


The American Psychological Association suggests that “connection” is the primary way to build resilience. Humans are not meant to be alone.


Unfortunately, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety cause people to isolate, and this depletes a person’s resilience.


The best thing we can do is seek out healthy connections with others. Look for a community that you can join.


See Obstacles as Something You Can Overcome


When I learned how to drive, someone told me not to look at the road immediately in front of my car, but to look at the road further ahead. New drivers are taught this because where we focus our gaze is where we will go.


It is similar with life challenges. If we focus on an obstacle and believe we cannot overcome it, we are actually going to be less likely to overcome.


However, if we look beyond the obstacle at the hopeful horizon ahead, we increase our chances of success.


Choose to look at challenges and crises as something you can overcome.


Accept Change as Part Of Life


If we didn’t know this already, I believe recent events have taught us that there are things in life beyond our control, and that change is constant.


If we resist change, we only cause undo hardship on ourselves. If we embrace change, we will do our mental health, and our resilience, a favour.


I have an entire video dedicated to navigating change well, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/HViEYY3IY2M


Move Toward Goals


People who are resilient tend to have goals to improve themselves and their circumstances. People are generally more successful and satisfied with life when they have vision and tangible goals to work toward their dreams.


Do yourself a favour, Google "S.M.A.R.T. Goals", choose some things you want to change, and start working toward these goals.


Look at these goals everyday, and set your sights on a hopeful horizon.


Look for Good News


We all see the world through a pair of glasses. These glasses are either a negative bias or a positive bias.


If we have a negative mindset, we will look for bad news, because this confirms our bias and reinforces how we see the world.


This confirmation of our bias makes us feel settled and safe, strangely enough.


If you struggle with a negative mindset, I encourage you to start looking for good news. Overtime this can change your mindset, and you will create a new bias – an optimistic one that is more resilient.


Regulate Your Emotions


Road rage is a sign of someone who struggles to regulate their emotions. They don’t know how to properly process their anger, and they actually put their life and the lives of others around them in jeopardy.


Emotions are not bad, but if we don’t know how to process them properly, they can rule our decisions and rule our life.


Regulating does not mean resisting emotions, rather it means embrace them, process them, and then move forward.


Change Your Mindset by Reframing


It is not easy to change your mindset, otherwise we would all flip the switch and do it right away.


However, as I said before, if we believe we can overcome, we are more likely to.


We need to believe we have power over our own mindsets. You can shift your mindset by reframing situations.


For example, if you have changes coming at your workplace: instead of expecting the worst, reframe and look for opportunities.


Maybe you could be part of brainstorming and finding solutions, maybe there will be opportunities for you to use your creativity. Choose to reframe.


Breathe Deeply


Babies breathe from their belly, and somewhere along the way we lose this as adults and start breathing from our chest.


If we can focus on our breathing, and start breathing from our belly (our diaphragm), we will actually reduce our stress and the outcome will be improved resilience.


Self-care


Exercise, hyrdrate, eat right, rest, and have fun. This is a recipe for increased resilience.


Help Someone Else


What we have been through is important, but don’t let adversity become your entire story.

Rather, let it become part of your story.


Channel that energy and use it to help someone else to become part of their recovery story. Taking our mind off ourselves by helping others makes us more resilient.


Where to Go from Here: A Call to Action


No matter the deck of cards we were dealt in life, we can all increase our resilience.


I strongly encourage you to pick at least three things from this article and start applying them to your life. Resilience is your secret superpower, your hidden weapon, so lets use it to strengthen ourselves today.


For more information on resilience and how to increase it, check-out my YouTube Video, Resilience: Your Secret Superpower






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