Building ResillanceAfter being upset by situations beyond our control, it usually takes us 6-8 weeks to return to our “emotional set-point”. Use these steps to build up your resilience until you feel back in control. I have used these steps in working with my patients, who come to me when they are “blind-sided” by serious upsets: marital infidelity, job loss, separation and divorce.

In my work with service members in the military, I have learned how exposure to truly dangerous situations can be traumatic. I have also learned how fostering resilience buffers the impact of traumatic events.

All of us can learn to be resilient when facing adversity.

  1. Absorb the impact Accept that our balance can be upset by even minor things like a social embarrassment or an unexpected expense. Realize that situational stress is part of life rather than an insurmountable problem.
  2. Keep moving forward Avoid looking too much in the rear view mirror. Do the next right thing. Taking small steps help build up the confidence that you can achieve your goals.
  3. Put your problem in perspective Major life changes, like the loss of a job can lead to fears, which are normal. But you want to avoid “awfulizing”. Resilience involves learning to monitor your emotions so that they don’t cause panic and confusion.
  4. Hope that your life can be better. Hopelessness is like having a car that is full of gas, but the battery is drained so the car won’t start. Use counseling when all that you are doing on your own is not helping you get started.
  5. Increase your self care, particularly when you have responsibilities to care for others.
  6. Take action, as active problem solving usually is better than wishing that your problems will go away.
  7. Believe in yourself. Believe you can learn how to cope with problems that seem overwhelming. Believe that by living your life you can come to feel what life gives you, rather than what life takes away. Believe in your ability to tolerate stress.
  8. Make connections. Surround yourself with those that know you and accept you unconditionally. Find someone you trust and share what you are going through.

Adapted from “The Road to Resilience”, American Psychological Association.