Resilience is not just the ability to survive challenging times; it’s the ability to thrive in them. Those who learn to build their own resilience can enjoy their work, their relationships, and the daily bustle more than someone who gets knocked down by stress over and over again.
Anyone can learn to do this. But it takes practice. And stress is the ultimate catch 22. The more stressed you are, the less able you are to make the changes that would alleviate it. That’s why we view building resilience as a practice—something that you do daily, a little at a time, until the wellspring of resilience is part of you. That steady practice is what provides the big payoff.
Here are three ways to make resilience a practice in your life right now—and reap the benefits of being able to ride out any storm (or surf through it).
1. Put resilience on the calendar. The late Steven Covey said, “don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.” When you want to make something consistent in your life, you want to build your life around it rather, than trying to shoehorn it in.
What activities make you feel good? Energized? Positive? A friend of mine loves taking her dog to the local park every Saturday and doing laps around the track, rain or shine. It helps her clear her mind and get a little movement in. A co-worker spends 10 minutes in the morning at a cafe journaling. Whatever activity loosens the grip of stress should be part of your weekly routine.
2. Practice tuning into your emotion radar. When something in your life goes badly, what emotion do you tend to feel first? For example, if you’re in a long line at the grocery store at the end of the day, do you feel frustrated? Angry? Sad? Or guilty, thinking you’re a bad parent because you’re missing dinner time with your kid?
When you regularly feel a negative emotion, you likely have what we call an “emotion radar” for it. You’ve learned to scan for that emotion, even if there’s not really a reason to feel it! The good news is that awareness breaks their chokehold. Ask yourself: Is this a habitual response I’m having, and is it making the situation worse? This will help you pause and see if it’s truly warranted.
3. Use mistakes as a chance to practice resilience. Ironically, the very moments when you feel your resilience waning are the perfect times to practice it. The next time you lose your cool, snap at your spouse, stay up too late, or start emotional eating—resist spiraling into self-blame or disgust, and instead, choose to do something that will ease your stress and feed your resilience, such as talking a walk or calling a supportive friend.
Of course, there will be times when stress gets the best of you The key is to remember that practice makes perfect. Every single action your take towards feeling more resilient and positive, however small, is a win.