Struggling with a difficult situation? Check out these three ways to be more resilient.
Just like you need to challenge your body with exercise to get physically fit, you also need challenges to develop resilience. Encountering hardships helps you realize you can overcome them. Being able to overcome hardships makes you stronger and this builds resilience. Resilience not only helps us handle difficulties in the future but also increases our self-worth and helps us gain a positive sense of self!
Here are three hands on, practical ways to work with challenges and build resilience.
1. Use emotional distancing
When experiencing a challenge, the ability to think about your experiences as if you were “a fly on the wall,” or as if you were someone else who is witnessing your experiences from afar, keeps you from getting stuck in your negative emotions. Emotional distancing also makes it less likely that you will replay the unpleasant details of the event, and as a result, you don’t feel quite as bad when bad things happen.
To practice this technique, first recall a recent stressful conflict you had with another person. Be sure to choose something very specific. For example, recall when “You got into a fight with John about forgetting your birthday.” Try not to think about fights with John in general.
Now reimagine the stressful event from an outside observer’s point of view — for example, from the point of view of a stranger on the street or a fly on the wall.
Ask yourself these questions to practice being a fly on the wall:
● Would the observer be able to understand why you are upset?
● Would the observer be able to see the other person’s point of view?
● How would the observer evaluate the situation?
● Might this observer view the situation differently than you do?
If you prefer, you can also practice this on social media. Next time you are reading about one of your friend's negative experiences on social media, practice switching back and forth from being in their shoes to being in your shoes. Try to notice how being an outside observer helps make the experience seem less intense.
2. Use temporal distancing
Another technique that can help you better handle stress involves thinking about the outcomes of stressful events in the relatively far future.
The ability to think about a future where your emotions are not as overwhelming and therefore will be easier to handle, helps you get through difficult experiences. It can reduce the intensity of negative emotions and the distress caused by the situation. So next time you are in the midst of a stressful situation, try to look back at the situation from sometime in the future.
Start by recalling a recent stressful event. Be sure to choose something very specific. For example, try to recall, “When I failed to get the promotion I was able to deal with it and it did not destroy my life, even thought I was very disappointed. Now imagine what your life will be like five years after this event. Ask yourself these questions:
● In five years, what will you be doing?
● How will you be spending your time?
● How will you be feeling?
● How will you feel about this particular event?
3. Find the benefits
Benefit finding can be used in negative, neutral, or positive situations. For example, you might say that the benefits of working a really difficult job are that you learn new skills and build character. But you might also say that the benefits of working a really easy job are that you feel relaxed and have more time to devote to other things you enjoy. With some practice, you can find the benefits to just about any situation.
To practice finding the benefits, first think about a slightly negative experience you had recently. Try not to choose an experience that is extremely negative — it’s important to choose an experience that’s not too bad when you are first learning how to use this technique. You can work up to harder experiences as you become more skilled. For example, maybe your car broke down, or you got in a small fight with a friend.
I know that at first it can be hard to find the benefits of these situations. But the more you practice, the easier it will get. Start by spending a few minutes thinking about the benefits of a negative experience. Try to really search for as many benefits as you can think of. Ask yourself these questions to brainstorm:
● Were there, or will there be, any positive outcomes that result from this situation?
● Are you grateful for any part of this situation?
● In what ways are you better off than when you started?
● What did you learn?
● How did you grow and develop because of this situation?
It’s human nature to want to run away from difficult things. Our brain is pushing us in that direction because it wants to keep us safe. However, we can choose to develop strengths and resilience when dealing with hard situations.