Have you ever noticed people who don’t seem very troubled by life’s challenges? Or wondered about people who bounce back quickly after life deals them a severe blow? How do they do it? Why do some people seem to make it through—seemingly unscathed—while others may take days, weeks, or even months to recover?
I think part of the key is resilience. These individuals have flexibility in their souls that allows them to roll with life’s punches. When knocked down, they get back up. They might need help getting up, but indeed they do rebound and are still able to maintain a belief in the principal ideals of goodness, hope, and love. They go on with life and do it with joy and serenity because those are just better options than misery and strife.
Emotional resilience is cultivated over a lifetime. Its development is contingent upon how we respond to stressful situations. Do we fall apart, or do we implement healthy coping skills to pull through? Are we so shattered that we can’t function, or are we able to step back and more objectively re-assess the series of events that brought us to the distressing juncture?
Coping skills are learned. Perhaps we observe them in action in someone else thereby enabling us to implement them through a not-so-perfect process of trial and error. Or maybe we consult a helping professional who teaches them to us. Either way, we learn which coping skills work well for us and which ones do not.
For example, having a drink or taking a Xanax every time we are stressed is probably not a healthy coping strategy over the long haul. However, taking a few moments to focus our breath can help us find our center and not be shaken by the upheaval all around. So can closing our eyes and viewing our predicament from the vantage point of a compassionate observer. We can ask ourselves: what would I tell a dear friend or loved one to do in this very situation? What kind of emotional support would I offer them? We then take that same empathy and return it to ourselves.
Developing healthy coping skills takes time but enables us to develop greater distress tolerance. Distress tolerance is our ability to ride out difficult emotions and crisis situations while remaining present for life, work, and the significant players in our lives. Distress tolerance is a sign of psycho-emotional growth and health.
As we grow in distress tolerance, we become far more emotionally resilient. I like to think of emotional resilience as those stretchy, gummy superheroes I used to have as a kid. My brother and I would stretch them as far as we could, and they would rebound to the same shape.
I think that’s the intended goal of psycho-emotional growth. When stretched to the nth degree, we rebound to the same form we were before—only stronger—with more hope, joy, and serenity to carry us forward on the journey of life.
O’Connor Professional Group (OPG) offers a breadth of behavioral health services to address the needs of individuals and families living with addictions, eating disorders, mood and personality disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and other behavioral health conditions. We can help you develop greater resilience to navigate the challenges that come your way. Contact us today.