Developing Resilience Through Life’s Hardships

Alyssa McCutcheon, LMSW

Family Service of the

Chautauqua Region

Chances are you can think of that one friend or relative you know that seems to radiate strength and resilience in times of hardship. Maybe they’ve been through an illness or major life-changing event, yet they continue to persevere and “bounce back” while others in the same type of circumstance seem to fall apart. These individuals may appear to have a natural knack for toughing out the hard times, but what if you were told that this is a strength virtually anyone can harness? You can be capable of calmly riding life’s ups and downs with implementing some practices throughout your daily life.

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common and typical in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress. However, there are things that can be practiced in your daily life to help with times of difficulty. The following are thoughts and suggestions on how you can foster your ability to be resilient.

Make connections.

One of the most important factors in building resilience is to make connections with others. Good relationships with close family members, friends or community members are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and are willing to listen, strengthens resilience.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems.

You can’t change the fact that difficult events happen, but you can control how you view and respond to these events.

Try looking beyond current difficulties to how future circumstances may be a little better. It also may be helpful to think back to past circumstances that seemed insurmountable at the time, but may now feel like small bumps in the road. Focusing on past experiences and sources of personal strength can help you learn about what strategies for building resilience might work for you.

By exploring answers to the following questions about yourself, you may discover how you can respond effectively to difficult situations in your life.

What kinds of events have been most stressful for me?

How have those events typically affected me?

To whom have I reached out for support in working through a traumatic or stressful experience?

What have I learned about myself during difficult times?

Have I been able to overcome obstacles, and if so, how?

Accept that change is a part of living.

Certain goals may no longer be possible as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on things that you are actually able to change.

Move toward your goals.

Develop some smaller, realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

Look for opportunities of self-discovery.

People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some way as a result of their struggles. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported improved relationships, greater sense of strength, and a heightened appreciation for life.

Keep things in perspective.

Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Make self-care a priority.

Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Recognize when additional help may be needed.

Some life events may knock even the most resilient of us to our knees. It is important to recognize when you could benefit from talking with a professional. If you are struggling with a major life event and need further assistance, please do not hesitate to call Family Service of the Chautauqua Region at 716-488-1971 for additional information and resources.

By implementing some of the practices mentioned above, you may surprise yourself with how resilient you are capable of being when life throws its next curve ball.


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