J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novel while she was jobless, struggling with poverty, and caring for her child as a single mother. Not to mention that after she finally completed the manuscript and submitted it to 12 publishers, every single one of them rejected it. Harry Potter is now one of the best-selling series of all time and this astounding level of success was surely due, in large part, to J.K. Rowling’s resilience.
Resilience is the ability to overcome setbacks and adapt to adverse circumstances. Just like how an elastic band will return right back to its original shape after being stretched thin, psychological resilience reflects an individual’s ability to bounce back after excessive stress. Importantly, resilience is something can be learned and strengthened.
What builds resilience?
Researchers suggest that resilience is comprised of 5 main elements, all of which can interact with one another:
The way we think about and interpret situations, along with our attitude and beliefs, influence how resilient we are. For example, one essential cognitive component of resilience is an individual’s optimism. Optimism involves believing that good things will happen to you in the future or having hope that the outcome of a situation will be positive. Engaging in this glass-half-full kind of thinking has meaningful benefits as research suggests that higher levels of optimism are linked to lower psychological difficulties and greater life satisfaction.
Emotional intelligence relates to the ability to perceive, use, and regulate one’s emotions. We all experience a range of emotions, both positive and negative, but being able to navigate our emotional states and experiences in an adaptive way allows us to keep going in the face of adversity. Emotional intelligence is an important coping mechanism for stress and has also been found to predict how individuals respond to trauma.
The actions we choose to take (whether automatic or deliberate) in response to how we think and feel are incredibly important. Put simply, our behaviour in various circumstances can serve to be one of two things: helpful or unhelpful. For example, if you wake up to realize you overslept and are running late for an important meeting, becoming irritable and throwing your phone across the room in a fit of rage is probably not the most helpful course of action. Instead, choosing to jump into action immediately and speeding up your morning routine would be much more helpful and might even give you the chance to make it to the meeting on time.
This refers to the activities we do for general health and wellness such as getting enough sleep, physical exercise, and making room for rest and relaxation. Maintaining adequate health practices and engaging in self-care is important for resilience as these practices help to buffer the impact of daily stressors.
Resilience is influenced by the environment surrounding us, particularly by the social supports we have in our lives. This includes family support, community support, and societal support. Having social support enhances resilience to stress and can even offer protection from trauma-related mental health problems.
We all have the ability to become more resilient
Resilience is what allows people to recover from the hardships of life but still be able to come back up at least as strong as before. Self-care, social support, as well as how you think, feel, and behave can all impact how resilient you are.
Some ways you can build resilience can involve practicing and encouraging optimistic thinking, improving emotional intelligence (see how to adapt to emotions better here), as well as maintaining self-care practices like getting enough sleep and prioritizing relaxation when it’s needed. Reaching out to others and strengthening your social support system can also help you to develop greater resilience (learn about the importance of social health here).