Grow it-Series: Resilience 

Resilience as defined by The American Psychological Association is “the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands”. 

Life has ups and downs, obstacles, and mental health struggles that are inevitable. Everyone goes through a difficult season or experience at some point in their life. It is the way that we handle the rough bits of life that count.

How can we create more resilience to better cope with the problems that we encounter throughout our days and lives? 

Why Resilience is Important

According to therapist, Joshua Miles, resilience has a multitude of positive factors for your mental health and the way you can handle stressors in everyday life. Miles notes that “greater resilience leads to improved learning and academic achievement, is related to lower absences from work or school due to sickness, contributes to reduced risk-taking behaviors including excessive drinking, smoking, and use of drugs, and can encourage one to be more involved in any community or family activities.” A high level of resilience can even support a lower chance of mortality and a healthier physical health. 

Clearly, resilience can work wonders for your entire world, from your mental health to your physical health. Oftentimes, a human response to uncomfortable or challenging situations is to step away from them, pretend that they are not happening, and bottle them up to bury them deep within us. The Kentucky Counseling Center emphasizes the damaging effects of internalizing difficult emotions, explaining that “your physical and mental health is greatly affected when you repress your emotions. Bottling up negative emotions like anxiety and anger can disrupt the normal function of your stress hormones called cortisol. This results in lowered immune function and an increased risk of developing a chronic illness.” 

A great way to look at the way that your emotions and mindset work in regards to resilience and stressors is through a tool called the enneagram. The enneagram is “one of the most powerful and insightful tools for understanding ourselves and others” and “helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge.” There are nine different enneagram types and every single human possesses some of the qualities of all nine types. However, generally, one number is used to encompass the majority of our being, the way that we process, and the way we face problems. 

For example, I am a seven on the Enneagram. The seven is defined as “the enthusiast”, which means that I value having a wide range of experiences, have a tendency to be impulsive or spontaneous, and would rather not address the tougher or deeper emotions that pop-up in life. Sevens are the poster child for ignoring emotions and negative experiences, because they want to be “happy” all of the time. The result of this can be shallow, surface-level relationships, thoughts, and an overall lack of self-awareness. 

When a seven is healthy and takes steps in the direction to improve, they grow towards the enneagram type five. Fives are the deep-thinking, professor-type personalities that have great insight, observations, and awareness about themselves and the world around them. Fives, therefore, have higher levels of resilience and abilities to handle conflict. 

Throughout the past seven years, I have been trained in the wisdom of the enneagram and have done ample work on myself to create a healthier life balance by addressing conflict head-on, and expressing a range of emotions and thoughts, positive and negative included. This has allowed me to cultivate a higher sense of self-knowledge, more compassion and empathy for others, and overall more ease to battle life’s challenges, hardships, and confrontations. 

The ability to grow resilience allows for more growth in many other areas of your life, such as gratitude, compassion, patience, and deeper, longer-lasting relationships.

How to Grow Resilience

Let’s grow more resilience, shall we? 

  1. Get outside. Environment and Behavior published a study that found that “children who are exposed to higher levels of nature in their day-to-day life showed higher resilience to life stresses.” Gardening is a great way to get your Vitamin D, get in daily movement, and persevere through rainstorms, hot days, as well as trial and error – tending to and maintaining a garden requires resilience! 
  2. Start a gratitude practice. Gratitude can be practiced in many different ways. Whether it is meditating in the mornings, journaling five things you are thankful for every evening, or simply sitting outside in the sunlight, you are growing gratitude and joy. Another way to grow gratitude is through gardening.
  3. Gain a new perspective. When we expose ourselves to ideas, issues, and perspectives different from our own, we are able to foster a more expansive worldview. Many times, stepping out from our bubble can open up our minds to new possibilities and aid us in minimizing stressors, whether large or small, in day-to-day life. 
  4. Volunteer. Similar to gaining a new perspective, volunteering can open up new gateways to understand other people, build empathy, and allow you to see resilience firsthand. 
  5. Talk to a counselor or therapist. It is important for everyone to have someone that they confide in, an unbiased opinion and ear to open up our lives to. Therapy is a great way to release and get support from a professional to build resilience.

How to Instill Resilience in Our Children

When we begin practicing and building resilience earlier in life, we are better equipped with the tools to face problems that arise later in life and pursue them head-on. Instilling resilience in children early on can give them the needed strength and awareness to be a healthier adult.

How can we instill resilience for children

  1. Encourage positive thinking. Your kids are always watching you. You are the primary caregiver in their lives, the person they base and form their values from, and the role model for how to live, treat others, and see the world. If you have a tendency for negative self-talk or have a pessimistic viewpoint in everyday stressors, your kids will follow suit. So, do you and your child a favor by learning to laugh at yourself, brush off the small stuff, and look at the world with bright eyes.
  2. Spend time outside with your kids. As we know, spending time outside does wonders for one’s mental health and physical health. Children who spend too much time behind a phone or television will start to create bad habits of a sedentary and inactive lifestyle. As mentioned above, your kids are watching you. If you spend more time outside, whether gardening or throwing a football or riding a bike, your kids will want to do the same. Go enjoy the beautiful outdoors around you with your loved ones!
  3. Let your kids fight their own battles. Do not be a helicopter parent. As difficult as it is to see your child struggle, children need to learn to be able to communicate and think through their confrontations and stressors. You can always be there as a guide and support system, but encourage your kids to stand on their own two feet. 
  4. Give your children grace. Discipline and tough love are mandatory parts of parenthood. We all want our children to grow up to be kind, respectful, and hardworking individuals. However, we need to let them fail, learn from their mistakes, and develop their own ambition and self-starter energy. 
  5. Encourage expression. Resilience is best nurtured when we can express ourselves and our emotions. Try starting up intentional conversations at the dinner table or on the way home from school with a little bit more depth than, “How was your day?”. A rose, bud, and thorn is a discussion activity that can push you and your children to think deeper than the surface level to create more gratitude, emotional awareness, and excitement about the days. 

You’ve got this. 

Grow some gratitude this week.