“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”
I love this thought from the renowned poet, writer, and activist Maya Angelou! It speaks to her own resilience in the face of adversity and inspires me to remember that I, too, can determine how I will react to challenges.
This week on the Emotions Mentor podcast, my guests and I explored this topic, discussing what it takes and what it means to be resilient—to face trauma, tragedy, sorrow, and other pains but come out on the other side stronger, more empathetic, wiser, and optimistic about the future. The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that the most common factor among people like this—resilient people—is having a network of loving and caring relationships. But it is not the only factor, nor is it mandatory. There are a number of other factors, as well:
The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out.
A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities.
Skills in communication and problem solving.
The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.
The APA also notes that resilience can be built. It may come naturally to some individuals, but people who aren’t born with it can develop it. Likewise, once it’s developed, it can also be depleted if not nurtured.
Following are six ways to build resilience, either from the ground up or during times when you feel it waning:
1. Make connections with people.
On our podcast, my friend and positive-thought expert Terri Pace talked about the amazing healing effect and strength she acquired after her husband’s death when she allowed friends into her life. Despite not feeling like she wanted to do anything, Terri went with a friend to a ceramics class. She let that same friend just sit with her on other days. Eventually, the two of them scheduled a standing dinner date for Tuesday nights. Twelve years later, they still meet for that Tuesday night meal, and Terri credits this connection with getting her through trying times.
2. Maintain hope.
Envision the future. Plant a seed of faith. Spend time visualizing what you want and what things will look like once something has passed.
3. Accept change.
When trials come your way, you don’t need to ignore them or live in denial. It’s important to allow yourself some time to grieve and “live in it,” as my friend Danielle Daniel, LCSW, describes it. But once you’ve let the feelings, whatever they are—grief, loss, disappointment, failure, fear, anger, irritation—pour over and through you, analyze the feelings and recognize that life moves on. You can move on. Accept that change is a natural part of life and a chance to grow and learn.
4. Take action.
Rather than detach yourself from life or reality during times of stress, set goals. Act on situations.
5. Love yourself.
Take care of your own needs and recognize when the pressure gets to be too much and you need to relax or treat yourself for a time. Exercise to relieve stress. Read a novel. Do something you enjoy. Nurture your positive traits—make a list of the things you do well, remind yourself of the trials you’ve already overcome, list the things you’ve learned from past adversity. Forgive yourself.
6. Be flexible.
If the first thing you try doesn’t work, try again. Remind yourself that you can’t control most of the things that are going on around you, but you can control how you react to those things.
Essential Oil Tips
Use essential oils to support you in your journey to resiliency.
To feel grounded during times of stress: Diffuse 2 drops each of bergamot, lavender, Roman chamomile, sandalwood, and vetiver.
To promote positivity: Diffuse 4 drops wild orange, 3 drops lemon, 2 drops lime, and 1 drop spearmint.
To help you let go of shame, fear, and doubt: In a 5mL roller bottle, combine 15 drops tangerine, 15 drops wild orange, 10 drops ylang ylang, 4 drops patchouli, and 2 drops blue tansy. Top off with your favorite carrier oil. Roll on the back of your neck and rub between your wrists throughout the day.
To feel at peace: In a 5mL roller bottle, combine 16 drops lime, 12 drops bergamot, 8 drops doTerra Elevation blend, and 4 drops frankincense. Top off with your favorite carrier oil. Wear on your wrists throughout the day.