In a recent column in the New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope tackles the issue of adult resilience. Much has been written about how to enhance the resilience of children, but what about adults? Parker-Pope lists 7 ways to build resilience in our middle age.
■ Practice Optimism. This is not about ignoring reality. Rather it’s about reflecting on what makes us truly happy and working toward that goal. It is important to make a distinction between working toward happiness and working toward “getting back what you lost.” These may be the same thing but chances are they are not. It also means trying to surround yourself with people who are also building their lives in an attempt to find happiness.
■ Rewrite Your Story. “Study after study has shown that we can benefit from reframing the personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves.” I know this to be true. Again, rather than attempting to fight back and right all of our wrongs, creating villains who thwarted our success, we help to craft a new story for our lives. Our lives can have more than one story line and many more chapters. There is no reason we cannot find a new theme to excite and animate our passion.
■ Don’t Personalize It. Mistakes do require taking responsibility, owning up to our portion of the blame. But that blame is rarely 100%. Often there are a multitude of factors and our decisions and actions only a part of that. It is important to keep that in perspective.
■ Remember Your Comebacks. Resilient experts say that even though it may feel better in the short term to compare ourselves with those who are worse off it is more helpful in the long term to remember a time in our lives when we “came back” and recovered from a setback.
■ Support Others. “Resilience studies show that people are more resilient when they have strong support networks of friends and family to help them cope with a crisis. But you can get an even bigger resilience boost by giving support.” Can I get an Amen? I have always believed, and preached, that while support networks help us when times are rough nothing gives us a bigger boost than being a part of something larger than self. That connection to others reminds us how our life makes a difference and the meaning that is inherent in the human condition. This larger cause need not be huge, a mission can be very intimate. But connecting to others reminds you that you are part of something organic and purposeful.
■ Take Stress Breaks. While we can never overcome stress, and in fact we need some stress to stimulate ourselves, we can take a break from stress. It is highly effective to take a break from your stress and go on a walk, sit in a park, listen to some music, just move yourself away from the stress, if but for the moment.
■ Go Out of Your Comfort Zone. “You can build your resilience by putting yourself in challenging situations.” In my case I signed up to sing in a musical, knowing I could not sing a lick. In seminary I took an intensive pastoral counselling course knowing it would force me to go deep into the world of feeling, not my favorite thing to do by a long-shot. These experiences taught me I was capable of what I did not think I could do and thus building into my mindset the reality that I could face a setback and keep going.