Ways to Build Resilience

Ways to Build Resilience

Make connections.

Isolation is often a response to suffering, but it doesn’t help. It takes courage during difficult times to make connections, and yet we are wired for it. Be brave. Make the first move. Connection will eventually be the medicine for your soul. Try any or a few of these suggestions: Call and arrange lunch with a friend, attend a support group meeting, ask a friend if you can join them at church, invest time and energy in a special child in your life, exercise with a buddy, join a small group or Bible study, take a class, or reach out and help someone else in need.


Stop trying to fix everything. Stop hoping the problem will go away. Stop fighting against yourself and the world. Stop controlling, care taking, or people-pleasing. Stop using “busy” to avoid feeling. What can you do instead? Ask for and accept help. Look around the room, in your friends’ circle, in your church, or at a12-step meeting for someone who has courage, peace, and empowerment. Ask them to help you. Stop believing you are supposed to have all the answers. Accept humility as part of the human experience. Be open to this reality: “Crisis is often a scary opportunity!” Surrendering means coming to very clear terms that what you are currently doing isn’t working and that you need help.

Take it one step at a time.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and your life can’t be rebuilt in one either. However long you think healing, recovery, and growth might take, it is going to take longer. This is not a race; it is a journey. Go slowly, be curious, and be gentle.

Stay in the moment.

Often our thoughts want to live in the past or in the future. The past can be re-traumatizing, and allowing our minds to stay there can keep the wound or suffering alive in our bodies, making us feel as though the trauma or pain is happening right now. Unhealed trauma wants to keep us in the past. Our brain thinks this will keep us safe. Seek professional help to resolve trauma. Consider modalities such as EMDR, Brain Spotting, Somatic Healing, or IFS. Letting our minds live in the future can cause chronic anxiety. We don’t prevent pain by trying to predict and control the future. We can’t change the past, and we can’t control the future. In the present, however, we have choices about our thoughts or our next action, which sometimes is choosing to slow down or even be still! Being in the present is about practicing acceptance of our lives and of our circumstances as they are. Only here in the present can we discern what we can change and what we cannot change.

Change your perspective.

This is one area of your life you have the power to change. An old saying by Bill Wilson states, “When I change the way I look at things, the things I look at change.” Maybe the one thing that needs the most change is perspective. Many people get stuck asking, “Why me?” Perhaps you might try asking, “Why not me?” Most of us are very attached to our story and how we believe it is supposed to go. When you get stuck, ask yourself, “How am I stronger right at this moment than I was before?” Also ask yourself, “What are a few good outcomes I notice from my difficult situation?” Changing your perspective is choosing to trust the process of living in the present.

Embrace change and flexibility.

We get really stuck in our ways. We like predictability, and change rattles most people. Big life changes can create temporary chaos, fear, struggle, and distrust, but “nothing changes, if nothing changes.” When my babies were born, when my youngest brother died suddenly, when my sons left for college, when my marriage needed to be rebuilt, I was thrown off balance for sure. I have found that being flexible solves most problems. When we are overly attached to outcomes, we get easily disappointed. When the friend cancels, what else can you do? When the job chooses someone else, what might God be protecting you from? When the dog gets sick, maybe this is an opportunity to cherish every minute with him. Being flexible means being able to bounce from change or disappointments without being consumed by them. Our circumstances don’t define us. Did you miss that? Our circumstances don’t define us. We can feel our feelings that arise with both big and small changes and still allow the change to grow and stretch us.

Set Attainable Goals with Steps.

You have probably heard the saying, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” If you want to go back to school, make a list of the action steps to make it happen. If you want to be a better mom, decide what is working and what is not working for you and your children and devise a plan with action steps to achieve this goal. If you are struggling with setting goals or achievable steps, work with a coach. They can be your thinking partner.

Take action.

“Love yourself enough to ask what it is that you don’t like about your life and have the courage to change it (Anonymous).” No one lives a life of purpose by staying on the couch, staying in the job where they feel stuck, or staying in the relationship that harms your spirit. Seek professional support in the form of therapy or coaching, follow the steps these professionals give you. Cakes don’t bake well if we skip important steps or if we don’t put them in the oven. Try what the expert suggests, work the steps, take the class, read the literature, apply for the new job, and set the boundaries. Be courageous, do what is uncomfortable rather than familiar.

Learn who you are and how you work.

Have you ever seen the meme where the girl leaves her therapist’s office and realizes for the first time that she is the problem! It is a pretty funny meme, but going inward is difficult work. Some people are in denial about their own habits and hang-ups, but typically we are our worst critic. Rather than take the time to make friends with our dark places, we try to disown them. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to do your own work: look at your childhood, look at your patterns, look at what serves you well in relationships and at what is not working. Nothing is more empowering than connecting with your intuition by knowing what sensations in your body mean and understanding how to identify when you are over-committed, numbing out, avoiding feelings, minding other people’s business, or telling yourself a toxic story. It takes honest hard work to become self-aware and to truly and deeply know who you are. By the way, here is where you discover how worthy, wonderful, and whole you really are!

Practice self-compassion and self-care.

Take care of you! I have found it takes a level of self-compassion (care and concern for one’s own well-being) to practice healthy self-care. We have all heard the buzz word self-care, and most people think that is a manicure or massage. It is possible those can be forms of self-care, but that word means so much more. Self-care can be boundaries with oneself and others. We can and should have physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual boundaries for ourselves. Setting and honoring our own boundaries may be some of the best forms of self-compassion you can provide yourself. Well-boundaried people are safer, happier, and healthier. If this concept of lovingkindness with yourself sounds a bit foreign, check out Dr. Kristin Neff and her work on self-compassion. If boundaries are a stumbling block, investigate Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. These three authors are brilliant.

Practice honest and hopeful thinking.

I added the word honest here because people can get stuck in thinking, “If I hope it will get better or be different, it will.” That alone, without actions rooted in hope, is not being hopeful. Living full of hope is different. To live full of hope, we believe that setbacks are not failures and that they don’t have to define us. To counter this slump or toxic mindset, take responsibility for your personal healing, set those needed boundaries, live in a way that honors your values, practice having an attitude of gratitude, surround yourself with people who believe in you, and give yourself permission to celebrate the small wins of the day. One of my favorite people in the world is Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist who has done amazing research on the brain. He says it best when he suggests we, “Stop trying to think positive[ly]. Think rationally and accurate[ly] (doc_amen).” Are your thoughts accurate and rational? If not, start there.

If you made it through all eleven, I think you are committed to being the best version of you! High-five to a willing heart!

Ellen Drews Coaching and Consulting