Resilience: A Skill That Can Be Taught
Many people perceive resilience to be an either/or thing – that is, you either have it or you don’t. The study of the brain and the discipline of neuroscience tell us that some individuals have an inherent capacity for resilience, fortunately for the rest of us, the brain has the capacity to learn and change beyond birth until much later in our lives. This is why we can change and learn almost as long as we are living.
In many ways, resilience is a skill that can be learned and teaching this skill is an important part of the peer support specialist’s role. For anyone in recovery from a substance use or mental health disorder, a lack of psychological resilience increases the risk of relapse, because when hard times come, the dilemma you’re always going to face is whether you revert to unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors or whether you work through the hardship to emerge even stronger on the other side.
For those in recovery resilience is essential. Recovery is not a single, linear process and there can be many ups and downs along the way. Peer support specialists need to know how to foster reliance for themselves and for their clients. Resilience is something that can be built and learned over time. There are steps that you and your client can take to improve your psychological resilience in preparation for the trials of tomorrow. Here are some tips that you can use for yourself and your clients to help develop resilience.
- Accept Change as Inevitable
While many people resist or fear change, the truth is that life does not always unfold according to our expectations. None of us can completely control our external circumstances, but you can have some measure of control over how you react to what happens to you. You can reduce your fear and resistance to change if you accept that it is going to happen whether you like it or not. Change is inevitable, but it only creates as much distress as you allow it to.
- Take Time Today to Strengthen Your Social Network
Social support goes a long way in helping you to get through tough times. Friends and family can make all the difference in getting you through a tough situation with your recovery still intact. Spending time and energy in creating healthy, positive relationships is a worthwhile investment that will pay dividends when you need it most.
- Realize that Things Will Get Better
When you are stressed, it can feel as though life has turned up the volume on everything. You can tend to feel things more intensely and it will take more effort to cope with problems. Because stress intensifies feelings, at these times, it’s easy to think things are worse than they are. If you can take some time to look at things more calmly, it will help you to put things in a better perspective. Then, you can recognize that things will get better. Believing that things will get better is the first step to making them get better.
- Take Action
It is natural in a crisis to have some negative feelings. Resilient people are able to respond to crisis situations by acknowledging these feelings, but not spending too much time in despair or anger. Truly resilient people have planned for problems that can be anticipated and know what resources are available to them to assist with solving such problems. When unanticipated difficulties arise, their mental attitude helps them to cope with the situation. To improve your psychological resilience, work on becoming more decisive and on taking appropriate measures to solve problems both large and small.
- Work Step-by-Step Toward Your Goals
People who understand that most goals in life are not met in giant leaps, but in small, steady steps, are generally much happier when they look at their own progress. This perspective can help in setting realistic, achievable goals, rather than goals that are lofty, but unattainable. In times of crisis, the ability to accomplish small steps of forward progress, even when times are hardest, is extremely beneficial.
- Stay Hopeful and Optimistic
Generally speaking, people who are hopeful and optimistic seem to handle problems better than those who have a more negative view on life. Having a hopeful outlook is consistently named as one of the indicators of resilience. This is one example of how your thoughts can shape your reality. Your past experience will tend to shape your expectation of future experience. The ability to believe in a better tomorrow is a vital component of resilience. When you are able to see beyond present difficulties to an eventual positive outcome, you are more likely to take action to achieve that outcome than someone who does not believe that their actions will result in positive change.
- Look at Failures as Learning Experiences
Resilient people see failure as an opportunity for learning to occur. New skills are acquired through trial and error before they are mastered. If you believe that you learn through your mistakes, then intense experiences, even negative ones, can result in positive personal growth. The key is to not let failure stop you from trying again.
- Take Care of Yourself
When you value yourself, you will take better care of yourself. A healthy mind and body are necessary tools to help you withstand difficult moments in life. If you do not take good care of yourself during the best of times, you are less likely to do so when things get difficult, yet this is precisely the time when self-care is most important. How can anyone muster the strength to overcome adversity when there’s just no gas left in the tank?
Video: How Can I Be More Resilient in Stressful Situations? (9:09 minutes)
Watch this video for some tips on becoming more resilient.
Action Points – Resilience
- As a person in recovery, you are a living example of resilience. Resilience is the capacity to bounce back after adversity.
- Four factors that contribute to resilience are:
- caring relationships
- high expectations
- adequate support
- opportunities to contribute
- Help your client to develop these key strengths that support resilience:
- social competence
- sense of purpose
- Resilience is a skill that can be taught. As a peer support specialist, you provide both mentoring and role modeling to help your client develop resilience.
Module 5 Activity: Resilience Reframe
Instructions: Click the box below to complete Module 5 Activity: Resilience Reframe.