We all face hard times sooner or later in our lives.

When these times come, what can make us or break us is the amount of resilience we have despite our circumstances.

Some of the hard times in my life have been:

  • Job loss
  • Moving to unfamiliar surroundings
  • Divorce
  • Financial crisis
  • Illness
  • Death of a family member

I can remember in those times that life seemed bleak, and there was a limit to how much additional stress I could bear. I couldn’t see the end in sight, let alone imagine a better life for me down the road. Yet, each hard or stressful time did pass. What have you experienced in your life in hard times?

Over time, I have learned that change is constant in all of life. Nothing lasts forever while we walk on this earth. Even knowing this, for me, it hasn’t always been reassuring. When I was in the throes of a crisis, it wasn’t enough to know that it would pass. At some point, I stumbled on the topic of resiliency. The more I explored what resiliency was, the more I found it a useful concept and a powerful tool to wield. Sometimes I need reminders when I find myself stressed, but once I remember and practice ways to build resiliency, I always feel much better.

What is resilience exactly?

I envision it as our ability to stretch, like a rubber band, without snapping when times get tough. We are all unique and differ in our abilities to stretch. Some of us stretch more easily than others; some might find themselves stretched to the point of breaking under whatever conditions have caused us stress. Regardless of our current state of resilience or non-resilience, there is always room to grow and become pliable (resilient) in those times when the gale winds of life seem to be blowing hard all around you.

Here are some things I have learned to help me build my resiliency. I learned a lot of them when I was going through my SCUBA Instructor training. Ironically enough, these things helped when I got stressed over the SCUBA skills demonstration process – and they worked like a charm. I became a certified SCUBA instructor.

  1. STOP – take a moment to pause. Focus on the moment – for it is where you are now.
  2. Take a deep breath. Deep breathing, where you focus on the exhaling part of the process that helps rid your body of carbon dioxide, is incredibly calming. Physiologically, you slow down the Flight or Fight response that gets triggered in times of high stress.
  3. Once you have calmed down, identify what is in your control to change.
  4. Choose a course of action. Even inaction is a course of action.
  5. You cannot save others unless you first save yourself.

There have been a few other things that have also helped me.

  • Nothing lasts forever.
  • If your choices aren’t working, they can always be changed.
  • Keep your end goal in mind but be flexible in how it shows up – it may not show up exactly as you imagined.
  • Make every day meaningful – every day is a gift that can’t be regained once it has passed.
  • Reach out to others for support during your hard times.
  • Find joy in the small things, no matter how small.
Flowers blooming from the ground that is covered in ash.

If you’d like to read more about this, there are lots of websites out there. An easy to understand article by Positive Psychology is at https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-resilience/

Know that when you face hard times, you are stronger than you may know. Resilience is a muscle you strengthen every time you use it. Be curious of the unknown, the stresses you may feel, and your reactions to it. I hope there is something here that is helpful to you. I’d love to know when resilience assisted you through a difficult time. Please share your thoughts and strategies below.

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.” ― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Maureen Purcell
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