How can a soldier facing insurmountable odds behind enemy lines come out victorious saving the lives of his comrades? How can an entrepreneur still have the courage to bootstrap his next venture and actually succeed even after facing multiple failures in previous businesses? How can a single mother work two jobs while simultaneously going to college to provide a better life for her family?
How can these people have the mental fortitude or toughness to go on, when many of us would have fallen victim to our circumstances or quietly accepted defeat? What separates these juggernauts from most people? The answer is that they have invested their time and effort, consciously or unconsciously into developing an extraordinary level of mental and emotional resilience.
What is Resilience
Resilience simply put, is the ability to cope under pressure. It is the ability to keep focus on your goals in spite of going through stress, trauma, or adversity, which may take many forms – stress at work, loss of a loved one, serious health issues, financial troubles, or some other unique unfortunate situation that you are going through. It is inevitable that such difficult circumstances will come in each of our lives. It’s not a question of “if”, but “when”. Afterall, such is the rollercoaster of life. Therefore, developing a resilient mind that is able to overcome these pressure situations is key to achieving personal and professional success in one’s life.
Resilience physically alters the human brain
Different parts of our brain are responsible for different functions. The amygdala, a part of the brain composed of a group of cells at the base, is responsible for regulating our emotion. After a traumatic experience, prolonged electrical activity is seen in the amygdala which stretches out negative emotions that we feel. Dr. Richard Davidson in his study on resilience demonstrated that quick transference of electrical signals from the prefrontal cortex to the amygdala and vice-versa was the marker of a resilient brain. The ability to regulate and turn down signals in the amygdala during times of stress, is the physical manifestation of resilience at a neurobiological level.
In another study, MRI scans confirmed that people who demonstrated signs of advanced resilience have more white brain matter (connections between neurons) in the region lying between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Developing and increasing one’s capacity for resilience, increases the white brain matter in this region.
Resilience- an important key to personal development
Developing our resilience involves developing new behaviors, enhanced cognitive capabilities, and better management of our emotions, decisions and actions thereof, Therefore, developing a resilient mind also becomes an important ingredient to achieving personal and professional growth and success in one’s life.
Having said that, each one of us has our own reaction to stress, trauma or to the challenges of day to day living. Becoming aware of what triggers stress, us, how we learn to commit ourselves to shifting to positive behaviors and mindsets, and what techniques and tools work for us in finding our internal power is a very personal process. Finding and embracing our own unique recipe can help build and strengthen new neural pathways faster and more effectively.
So how can we develop resilience in our daily life?
Rome was not built in a day. Similarly, building up our resilience is a gradual and continuous process that we can undertake each day. Here are some things to be mindful of in your everyday life to become mentally resilient.
- Relationships are key
Meaningful connections with the people that matter in our life is priority number one to build up a resilient mentality. The most hopeless feeling that one can experience while under stress is the feeling of being all alone – it breaks people. Meaningful relationships with loyal, trustworthy and compassionate people provide us with the support system that reassures you that you are not in the fight alone. It is the most important thing that gives us the courage to go on when the going gets tough. Communities or special interest groups provide us useful connections with like-minded people.
- Take care of yourself
Taking care of ourselves involves both mental and physical well-being. Proper nutrition and exercise have been scientifically demonstrated to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness practices like mediation, journaling, yoga, among others have also been shown to have similar positive effects.
In simple terms, when you start working on yourself, you send your brain subconscious signals that enable it to work positively towards building resilience. At the same time, habits like smoking, drinking, drugs can interfere with this process. They offer nothing but short-term escapes, which ultimately push us backwards and away from your resilience journey.
- Lead a purposeful life
A life without a purpose is like a rudderless ship getting swept along with any violent waves it comes across, perhaps never reaching the shore. Having a big vision is important, but also identifying meaningful goals that matter to you and breaking down the path towards achieving them into simple short steps are critical to work. The more specific and time-bound they are, we have something tangible to focus on as an inspiration to steer us through stressful times.
- The art of letting go
As the stoics rightly say, focus on the things that you can change, and let go of the things you can’t – they will drain your energy meaninglessly.
For e.g., after being laid off from work, focusing on polishing up your resume will help you find a job much faster than fixating on how you were victimized and unfairly fired. A big part of resilience is a balancing act between letting go of things beyond your control and taking ownership of things you can control.
- Keep a positive attitude
How do you eat an elephant? Well, one bite at a time. Stop getting intimidated and viewing problems as insurmountable.
Instead, like we discussed earlier, break it down into simple achievable steps which will give you confidence to gradually move towards the end goal. Keeping a positive outlook is the most basic requirement to develop resilience is one’s life.
- Develop the art of the third person perspective
Oftentimes, when we are in the midst of a crisis, it can quickly overwhelm us and make us lose our sense of objectiveness. During these times, it is an invaluable skill to be able to detach yourself from the situation and mentally look down at it from a third person perspective. It makes the situation look a lot less tarrying and normal, and allows us to come up with an innovative solution where there seemed to be none earlier.
This can be a difficult thing to do – but is achievable, can be learnt and integrated into they way we adapt to life situations
Resilience is not passive, but an active quality
The quality of resilience is not only rare amongst humans, but amongst other creatures such as mice also. A laboratory experiment was conducted upon mice by researcher Dr. Eric Nestler wherein a docile mouse was kept with an aggressive one in the same cage separated by a glass screen, which was opened for a few minutes a day. Therefore, the mice were significantly under stress throughout the day. It was seen that about two-third of mice developed symptoms akin to depression in humans. But, about one-third of the mice did not develop these symptoms. These were the resilient ones.
It was found that the resilient mice had developed unique genetic modifications to cope with the stress. Increased neural activity was seen as a result of stress in both groups of mice. However, it was found that after reaching a stress threshold, the resilient mice started responding with compensatory changes, and used more genes to combat the situation. Similarly, in another study conducted by Dr. Ming-Hu Han, it was seen that for every 100 genetic adaptations in mice susceptible to stress, 300 genetic adaptations occurred within the resilient ones.
In other words, just passively ignoring a stressful situation, or desensitizing oneself can only go so far until the threshold is reached. Developing true resilience requires us to face the situation and actively develop coping mechanisms to overcome it. The more we do this, the more intelligence we are building in us to deal with similar situations and the more we open ourselves up to newer challenges
Some people may naturally be a little more resilient than others, but resilience is just like any skill that can be taught or a muscle that can be developed through proper training and guidance. At Dewdrops Coaching, we offer you a coaching program wherein,
- You can self-check your current resilience levels on 6 critical parameters based on neuroscience
- You get the support of live coaching sessions with the Dewdrops Coach.
- You can also subscribe to our AI based support program for a small cost, available to you for 12 months to work daily, consistently on your emotional, psychological growth and fitness.
Join one-on-one coaching sessions with your personal life coach,Coach Latha Iyer Today.