A fun fact about me is that I love plants – I have many plants in my home. The interesting thing about plants is that each kind can handle various levels of neglect, lack of watering, and lack of sunlight. Some of my plants will completely wither up if I fail to water them, overwater them, or allow them to get too cold. However, others will thrive under those challenging conditions.
I see the same in people. For example, we can experience similar situations where we are “not watered well” or cared for in ways that truly nurture us. We may even go through time of direct harm or traumas. Some people will completely deteriorate under these trying bouts of life. On the other hand, others are much more resilient.
But the good news is that those who don’t relate to being naturally resilient can actually strengthen their resiliency through practicing some specific skills. Here are some ways to practice skills that highly-resilient people tend to possess:
1. Practice Flexibility
I grew up taking ballet classes, but I am not a naturally flexible person. In order to preform my best, I had to stretch daily. If I simply waited until a big recital to worry about my flexibility, I would have been left with sore muscles and a damaged ego. Similarly, if we wait until life throws us a really big curve-ball to practice flexibility, we can expect a similar outcome (I’m looking at you Type-A personalities). Therefore, we have to start with the small things. The store is out of an ingredient you need for dinner? Try improvising. A last minute change in plans comes up? Be flexible with your schedule.
2. Practice Gratitude
It can be so easy to hyper-focus on the have-nots in life. As people, we often spend so much time focusing on obtaining what we don’t have that we lose sight of what we do have. Consequently, when something tough in our life comes up, we may be so disconnected from our resources that we don’t even think to tap into them to get through the challenging season.
Practicing gratitude can look a million different ways, but a few practical ways that I encourage people (and myself) to practice is through journaling, prayer or meditation of thanksgiving, saying “thank you” for even the little things (like thanking the cashier for bagging your groceries), or starting your conversations with friends and family by leading with the good instead of leading with the bad.
3. Build Community
Community and social support systems play a huge role in our ability to grow and overcome. I think of community as the “roots” of resilient plants. For instance, the more established the root system is, the better the plant will fare in times of drought, storms, etc. The same goes for people – without the roots of a community, we have little to rely on outside of ourselves.
4. Practice Faith
Maybe for you, that means faith in self, faith in others, faith in God, karma, love, nature, a higher power of any sort. Regardless of “what”, faith fosters hope and hope is a key difference-maker when tough times hit.
Finally, if you feel like resiliency is an area in your life that is lacking, try implementing one of these skills slowly into your daily routine. Remember that growth takes time and consistency! You can also check out this article published by the American Psychological Association for more information on building resilience.
Allie Shivener is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Mental Health Services (LPC-MHSP) designation in the state of Tennessee. She specializes in counseling teenage girls and young adult women with negative body image, attachment and relationship issues, and adoption-related issues.
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