Building Resilience: 7 Simple Steps
When you’re focused on building resilience during a moment of intense crisis or change, having someone tell you to just “look on the bright side” is the last thing you want.
No, what you need is a guide for what you can do to get through the challenges with grace, strength, and success.
So that’s what this post is: a how-to for effectively living through life’s hardest moments of crisis and change and building your resilience to come out stronger.
In this post, I’ll cover how to make the most of any moment of crisis, including what resilience really is and how you can build yours, ways to strengthen your mental health for a growth mindset, and simple tools that will help you create a positive outcome, no matter what life throws at you.
And we do it in 7 simple steps. Ready?
Building Resilience Means Embracing the Opportunity in Life's Challenges
There's an old saying that every crisis provides both danger and opportunity, so that's what we're focusing on in this post: how to embrace the opportunity and strengthen your resilience.
Whether somebody hurt your feelings or life has handed you some setbacks and disappointments, resilience is the ability to bounce back with a positive attitude.
And building resilience is kind of like going to the gym.
If you go to the gym and you pick up light weights, you don't grow in your strength.
If you want bigger muscles, you have to have bigger challenges.
Life is similar. You don't build strength unless you're facing a challenge. That's why challenge is a part of life. We grow through it. These difficult moments are opportunities to remember who you are and strengthen your ability to provide more to the world.
But you have to start with giving more to yourself.
Step One: Examine Your Reactions
Building resilience requires the ability to look between your reactions to life and your responses to life.
Reactions are automatic; responses are chosen.
But it takes work to notice our reactions and not immediately act on them.
Let’s say you have a disappointment or failure or someone rejects you, you don't want to spend the rest of your life feeling guilty, or angry, or sad. Nobody wants to feel those feelings. Those are feelings of pain.
And, as humans, we're naturally designed to avoid pain.
But what actually helps us in building resilience is embracing the pain inside of us.
If we want to strengthen ourselves and strengthen our mental health — particularly at times of crisis and change — we have to step to a higher level where we can embrace pain.
- For some people, their immediate reaction to pain is blame. They want to blame others, and they want to feel like a victim.
- Other people go into fear of the unknown. They worry about what will happen and the mind begins to spin.
- Other people feel guilt and ask themselves: "Why wasn't I prepared? I should have done it differently."
These are some of the dynamics that go on in our reactive brain. We have an emotional primitive reaction, all on automatic.
For example, let’s say I step on your foot.
Your reaction might be: "You hurt me. Now, I'm going to step on your foot and hurt you. Maybe then, you’ll understand and stop doing it."
These automatic reactions started as a way of communicating our pain at times when we didn't have words.
But today, we have words and what we can do with our words is powerful.
We can understand our reactions with words and use those words to self-reflect and self-correct.
Step Two: Get Curious About Your Feelings
If you have a negative emotional reaction, keep in mind that it’s automatic but from there you have a choice. You can choose to feel it, get curious, and learn. Or, you can run from it.
If you really want to work on building resilience then when pain comes up, don't run away from it or ignore it.
When people run away or ignore their emotions, they then develop unhealthy habits like:
- Eating too many sugars and too many sweets
- Taking drugs
- Drinking too much alcohol
But these are ways to burn up that reactive energy as opposed to building resilience.
Instead, feel the emotion associated with the feelings, and give it a word.
When you identify a negative emotion and give it a word, you're connecting with the prefrontal cortex (the front part of the brain). Then, blood flow goes there rather than the back part of the brain, where we're just reacting without thinking. Once you’re operating from your prefrontal cortex, you’re then capable of reflecting on what's going on and evaluating.
You can then ask yourself:
- How am I feeling?
- Is this going to be productive to act on?
- What would be the best thing to do?
- How can I self-correct?
Choosing self-reflection at times of crisis and change is what strengthens mental health. If we don't use that ability, then our stress levels just continue to increase, but finding the right words to define your emotions is critical.
Step Three: Find the Right Words
Generally, when you have a negative emotion, there's another one that you're hiding from. For example, if someone is angry, they're actually afraid.
But if you said to somebody who's angry, "I think you're afraid," they’d deny it.
Because they're not going to be able to be that vulnerable. Their anger exists to push people away but what they're actually feeling is fear.
The truth is that if they weren't feeling fear deep inside, they wouldn't get angry.
The reaction would be more like: "No big deal. Let's try to solve this problem."
So anger can be a cover-up for fear, hurt, or even sadness or disappointment.
If you’re angry, look for another negative emotion that might be behind it.
Give a word to your emotions, explore it, then give another word for another emotion.
You can go deeper by asking: "Why else do I feel this?”
Once you’ve named it, you can move onto the next step of building resilience: Self-correction!
If you're alone, what you can do is simply journal out your feelings or talk to a friend on the phone.
When you talk to a friend, let them know that feelings are coming up not to act on, but to just let go of.
A great practice is to think of all the worst things you're afraid of and get it out because fear is always in there.
Step Four (and Five): Get Clear on Fear
I’d recommend using a journal for this exercise.
You can prompt yourself by finishing the sentence “I’m afraid…” and then reframe it into “I don’t want…” statements.
So you’d start with something like:
- I'm afraid... I won't have enough money.
- I'm afraid... I'll get sick.
- I'm afraid... my family will have to take care of me.
- I’m afraid… I don’t know what my future will hold.
(Step Five) Then, you go back and you say what you don't want:
- What I don't want is to go broke.
- What I don't want is to feel alone all the time.
- What I don't want is to get sick.
- What I don't want is to die.
Literally, go and find the feelings of what you don't want.
From there, you can come back to what is it you do want and wish for.
Remember, where there's danger, there’s also opportunity.
Step Six (and Seven): Choose a Productive Response
Once you create awareness of your feelings, that opens the door for building resilience.
Feeling your negative emotions builds your resilience to crisis because it allows you to shift into connecting with what you do want.
When you fully feel your negative emotions, you can shift gears and fully feel the possibility of what you do want.
So your next step is to now, with full feeling, focus on what you do want.
You can prompt yourself by finishing the sentence “I do want…”
So you might end up with something like:
- I want to live.
- I want to be successful.
- I want to have money.
- I want to have abundance.
- I want to have creative ideas.
- I want to have a beautiful future.
- I want to find forgiveness for my partner.
Feel what it is that you want without thinking about how you're going to get it.
Just access that part of you that wants more.
Then, imagine having more and how good it would feel.
Step Seven is simple.
As you’re imagining having more, affirm with this phrase:
"I'm a strong, loving man (or woman). And I deserve to be loved just as I am."
You come back to that basic principle because when you are loved, people want to give to you, people want to work for you, people want to buy your products.
You will have more success in your life.
So your productive response starts by coming back to feeling that worthiness.
And with this gentle process, you will find your resilience at times of crisis and change.
You can come back to your higher self and become more grounded so that change doesn't throw you but rather focuses you toward productive responses that change your life for the better.
So How Do You Build Resilience?
The way you continue building resilience is:
- Notice your painful automatic reactions.
- Instead of acting on them, feel them.
- Name the feeling and connect with the fear underneath it.
- Get clear on your fears.
- Reframe them as what you don’t want.
- Then you can choose a productive response based on what you DO want.
- Affirm your worthiness.
By taking these steps in building resilience, you're really stepping into a whole other level of evolution.
You’re becoming a conscious being who is capable of self-correcting and responding to the needs of others in a productive way.
You can apply these practical tools using paper and a pen or pencil. I suggest writing it out because doing so helps bring it out of you, so your mind can have a little distance to reflect and come back to the present moment where you have opportunities for positive change.
Grow in love,
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