Highly resilient people don’t look any different than others. You won’t find a big purple “R” on their lapel or special pair of shoes gracing their feet. Instead, their difference and strength comes from what happens in their heads—or, more specifically, their thoughts.
From the time you’re a kid, you start developing thoughts that help you make sense of what’s happening around you. Think of them as mental shortcuts, like thinking, “I’m no good at talking to people,” when you had a tough time socially in grade school. Unfortunately, these shortcuts may turn out to be inaccurate and unhelpful as you grow up and your circumstances change. If you stick with them, they are bound to make your stress levels worse (say, you still automatically think that you’re terrible at talking to people when you go to a work function).
Resilient people rewrite their habitual thoughts to be more supportive, realistic, and helpful. The great thing is that anyone can rewrite their thoughts; all it takes is practice. Here are five situations where resilient thoughts make all the difference in managing your stress.
THE DUMB MISTAKE
You accidentally CC’d your boss on a jokey email meant for a colleague.
Stressed thought: “I always mess up.”
Resilient thought: “It was simple mistake. Anyone could have made it.”
They see slip-ups and errors as just that—not signs of a deep flaw.
THE DAWN-TO-DUSK BAD DAY
It started with the alarm not going off, veered into painful family news, and ended with an overdue credit card bill.
Stressed thought: “My life is so hard.”
Resilient thought: “I’ve definitely had my share of obstacles, but I get through them.”
The key here is that the stressed person sees life as out of his control; the resilient person sees it as a series of things he needs to grapple with—and that he can do it.
THE TIME TRAP
You look at your calendar and nearly every hour for the week is booked (or double-booked).
Stressed thought: “I don’t have enough time.”
Resilient thought: “It may be time to rejigger my priorities.”
Stressed people see themselves as trapped. Resilient people can see that though the situation is tough, they have a choice to change it.
(Read more on how you have more time than you think.)
THE TIME YOU LET SOMEONE DOWN
You were supposed to take your pal/mom/kid to the mall for a special date together. And you forgot.
Stressed thought: “I’m a bad friend/parent/daughter.”
Resilient thought: “I will apologize and seek out the next opportunity to show up for the people I love.”
A resilient person acknowledges that they messed up, and then they focus on the best next action they can take.
(Read more on not letting one mistake derail your day.)
THE GLANCE IN THE MIRROR
You stepped to the restroom during lunch—the restroom with the full-length mirror opposite the door. Need we say more?
Stressed thought: “Gross. I look horrible, fat, tired, and old.”
Resilient thought: “Looking good!”
The resilient person eases up on self-criticism, and makes it a point to be as kind to herself as she is to others. She takes measures to boost her confidence, such as actively noticing and appreciating the good things about her appearance.