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Five powerful ways to build resilience

“Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” ― Robert H. Schuller

We have undoubtedly been knocked by a tremendous blow in recent times. Hurricane Irma visited our beautiful country and left lots of damage and destruction in its wake leaving some of our islands with a long road to recovery. One thing I know for sure is this: Hurricane Irma, as with storms of all kinds, gave us the ability to test the presence of an all-important trait called Resilience.

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. Why do some people bounce back from adversity and misfortune? Why do others fall apart?

According to the book, The Resiliency Advantage, “highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will.

Psychologists agree that some people seem to be born with more resilience than others. But they also assert that it’s possible for all of us to cultivate more of it.

According to top researchers, here are the five most powerful ways to build resilience.

1. Pump up your positivity

Resilient people have the ability to experience both negative and positive emotions even in difficult or painful situations, says Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, the author of the book Positivity. They mourn losses and endure frustrations, but they also find redeeming potential or value in most challenges.

Resilient people, tend to find some silver lining in even the worst of circumstances. While they certainly see and acknowledge the bad, Fredrickson says, “they’ll find a way to also see the good. They’ll say, ‘Well at least I didn’t have this other problem.’” One key to building resiliency, says Fredrickson, lies in noticing and appreciating the positive experiences whenever and wherever they occur.

2. Live to learn

The more you can leverage challenges as opportunities to grow and evolve, the more resilient you are likely to be. “Pain comes to all of us in life,” says David Sabine, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Wichita Falls, Texas. “What resilient people do is immediately look at the problem and say, ‘What’s the solution to that? What is this trying to teach me?’ Looking at pain as an opportunity to learn and problem-solve — and building the confidence and the habit of moving toward the pain instead of running from it — goes a long way in terms of building resiliency.” One strategy for cultivating a learner mindset is to

use “question thinking,” a method of problem-solving developed by psychotherapist and executive coach Marilee Adams, PhD. Question thinking encourages people to approach challenges and situations

with “Learner Questions” — neutral, nonjudgmental questions such as “What is useful here?” or “What are my available choices?” — as opposed to “Judger Questions” like “What’s wrong?” or “Who’s to blame?”

3. Open your heart

Being of service to others is a powerful way of building resilience. “In studies, researchers found that serotonin [the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being] is used more efficiently by people who have just engaged in an act of kindness,”. Acts of kindness can be formally organized, like regularly volunteering in a soup kitchen or they can be as simple as getting out there and finding people to smile at or speak an encouraging word.

Receiving and appreciating kindness from others may also be just as important as offering it up as gratitude turns out to be an important part of resiliency, according to clinical social worker Darcy Smith. When adversity strikes, gratitude for the things that are going right in your life helps put the tragedy in perspective. When you take stock of how things might have been otherwise, instead of just how they are, you’re using strategic positive thinking to increase gratitude, which then builds resiliency.

4. Take care of yourself

Good health — and a regular routine of healthy habits — are foundational to both mental and emotional resilience. Daily habits count: When you’re caught up on sleep, eating well and keeping stress levels low, you’ll be less fragile and less likely to fall into unhealthy patterns following a serious setback or tragedy.

Our physical resilience also depends heavily on our baseline mental and emotional well-being. And one of the best ways to nurture that, says Carol Orsborn, PhD, author of The Art of Resilience, is to take regular mental breaks. “It could be something as formal as a regular meditation practice or simply be letting yourself daydream.”

This also helps keep stress chemicals at bay, reducing the likelihood of feeling, or becoming, overwhelmed and reactive. Two other key self-care factors that help nurture resilience include spending time outdoors and surrounding yourself with people you enjoy.

5. Hang on to humor

Laughing in the face of adversity can be profoundly pain relieving, for both the body and mind. “Playful humor enhances survival for many reasons,” writes resiliency authority Al Siebert in The Survivor Personality. “Laughing reduces tension to more moderate levels,” he says. “Playing with a situation makes a person more powerful than sheer determination [does],” Siebert explains. “The person who toys with the situation creates an inner feeling of ‘This is my plaything; I am bigger than it . . . I won’t let it scare me.’”

As we face the weeks of recovery ahead, additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. To receive more tips on resilience email me at keshelle@keshelledavis.com

• Listed in The Nassau Guardian’s Top 40 under 40”, Keshelle Davis helps companies and individuals improve their productivity and performance. She is the CEO of The Training Authority, an entrepreneur and internationally recognized speaker and author. Formerly she served as executive director of the Chamber Institute – the education arm of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC), and has impacted thousands through her mission is to educate, empower and inspire. Contact Keshelle at keshelle@keshelledavis.com.

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