Surviving Tough Times By Building Resilience

Published on December 9th, 2021

Updated on January 3rd, 2024

Surviving Tough Times By Building Resilience

Going through tough times is a scary and challenging experience. Tough times are often unexpected and come with little warning before you realize that you need to adapt to your changing circumstances. Change in itself can be difficult, and when that change is unexpected or you cannot clearly predict how much the change will impact you, it can be hard to feel safe and secure and trust yourself to take care of yourself.

Because adversity and stress are an inevitable part of life, it is up to us to choose how to handle them. Through building resilience, you can better navigate troubling times and regain a sense of calm and control.

What Causes Tough Times?

There are many different circumstances that may cause you to suddenly struggle to cope with your day-to-day stressors. Many different things can happen that could negatively impact your sense of safety and self-trust. Building resilience will be especially important during tough times, along with trusting yourself to be able to persevere through your challenges and overcome the obstacles you face.

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Recently, the world seems to be experiencing one crisis after another. We are enduring a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political and social unrest, along with a range of natural disasters. Add all of that to whatever personal issues you are dealing with, and this unprecedented time has likely left you feeling overwhelmed.

The following are examples of unexpected challenges you may face that can cause you to fall into tough times:

Each of these experiences and more can cause you to suddenly fall into tough times. Those tough times will cause you to have many different feelings. You may feel afraid and insecure, sad, angry, overwhelmed, or you may find yourself in denial. You may be confused, stunned, ashamed, and may even go through a grieving process. No matter what your initial reaction is to falling into tough times, it is important to build resilience to the new and recurring stressors in your life. Building resilience will help you boost confidence, regain a sense of self-trust, and teach you new methods of coping with stress.

Becoming Authentic

What Is Resilience?

Resilience can aid in your ability to deal with strong emotions, have a more positive outlook, and improve your mental health and overall wellbeing. It is the ability to cope with or adapt to difficulty, change, and loss. Resilience is what allows you to overcome and bounce back from tough times, and helps you feel less afraid of new experiences. With resielience, you will feel better prepared to face the uncertainties of the future. Resilience can also help you cope with feelings of denial, grief, and depression.

How To Build Resilience

While certain factors may make some more resilient than others, resilience is not a trait that only some possess. In fact, we all have the capacity to develop or increase our resilience. But building resilience is like building a muscle, it is not something that happens overnight. By practicing certain strategies, we can all cultivate a healthy resilience to stressors.

Tough times do not last, and things often work out for the best, but you also hold the responsibility to ensure that you do what you can to take care of yourself and the situation you face. There are steps you can take to build resilience when going through tough times. Consider adopting the steps below to help yourself build resilience when you are going through tough times.

Build Your Support Network

When going through tough times, one of the most helpful resources you can have is a supportive network. Knowing that there are people who care about you and are in your corner can make a big difference when building resilience for tough times. Whether the people in your life offer services, emotional support, financial help, or are simply there to cheer you on and offer encouragement, utilizing their support can help you feel empowered to overcome the challenges you face.

There are many different types of people that can be in your support network. Of course, family and friends are often the primary source of support. They can be instrumental in offering resources, guidance, insight, and emotional support.

There are also people outside of friends and family who can offer you support. The tough times you may be going through may require help from professionals. Considering this, professionals can also be a source of support when facing tough times. The following professionals can be helpful when facing tough times:

There are also sources of community support that you may have available to you. Community is important to people because it helps us feel connected and wanted. They offer security that you are a part of something that is bigger than ourselves.

Build Connections

A sense of community is considered one of the most vital aspects of overall wellbeing. Even having just one other person in our lives with whom you can talk can make a big difference. Many of us tend to shut down and isolate ourselves during tough times. But taking the step to connect can help support the skill of resilience. This can be done in many ways, whether it be face-to-face, over the phone, or even through text message or online support networks.

The following communities can also offer support if you feel comfortable and it is appropriate to open up to them about your tough times:

For those who do not feel they have anyone to turn to, there are ways to build new connections, such as joining a group. There are so many options for joining a group these days, from general support groups to 12-step programs, and even faith-based groups.

Practice Acceptance

Acceptance means seeing reality for what it is, rather than fighting it or denying it. Many of us fight our reality when it is something that we do not want, did not wish for, or do not like. Fighting reality can look a lot of ways. Complaining, wishing/wanting things to be different, or trying to manipulate or control things that are out of our control, are all behaviors that prevent us from accepting the truth about your situation.

Example: We may have thoughts of denial that do not seem like thoughts of denial. Such thoughts could be disguised as “why is this happening to me?” or “this is so unfair”. These thoughts prevent us from accepting the reality of the tough times we face.

When you turn toward acceptance, you no longer waste energy focusing on the negative (which keeps us stuck), and are freed to focus on the things we can control. The skill of acceptance is important, as these days there is so much out of your control.

Ask For Help

Feelings of helplessness in reaction to tough times are hard to live with, so it is important to build comfort in asking for help from the people in your life who care about you. Knowing how to ask for help is a great method of challenging feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that you may experience during tough times. It reminds you that you are not alone and that there are people who care about you. It also broadens your methods of managing the stress that comes with your life challenges.

No single person will be able to support you 100%, but that does not mean that you cannot ask for their support. Asking for someone’s time and energy is not burdensome if it is within reason. A way to challenge your hesitation in asking for help is to ask yourself this: “If the roles were reversed, would I help my loved one in the same way that I am asking of them?”

It also helps to think about the different people in your support network and what kind of support each member may be able to offer. Your support network does not have to be big, it just needs to have people who care about you and want to be there for you to show you support. Asking for help from members of your inner circle is okay, even if it feels humbling or uncomfortable in the moment.

Be Realistic About What You Can Handle

When going through tough times, you may need to accept that things that you used to be able to handle may not be in the cards for you right now. It can be challenging sometimes, but setting limits to what you take on and setting boundaries with yourself and others is an important part of building resilience against the stress that you face.

When facing tough times, it is important to build comfort in saying no to things you used to say yes to. You have more stress than you had before, which means that you may need to make temporary or long-term lifestyle changes. Trying to ignore or minimize your stressors is not sustainable, and can impact your progress with building resilience against tough times. Be realistic about how much can you realistically take on, and when you need to to accept the limits that the tough times have imposed on you.

Prioritize Time For Self-Care

Living through tough times can take a toll on you, both physically and mentally. Over time, heightened states of stress can impact our immune and digestive systems, disrupt your sleep cycle, and leave you in a state of mental exhaustion. To combat this, practicing self-care is a must.

Practicing self-care means focusing on healthy lifestyle factors such as proper nutrition, hydration, adequate sleep, and exercise. Using self-care can help you adapt to stressful situations and reduce depression and anxiety, thus allowing for better resilience.

Manage Your Media

When going through tough times, it is imperative to be aware of the kind of media you are consuming. The news you read, movies you watch, and radio you listen to can actually exacerbate negative emotions. This does not necessarily mean you should never read the news or watch a disturbing movie.

It does mean you should be aware of how you feel after you read that news or watch that movie and make more decisions that support your resilience moving forward.

Life Is Tough But So Are You

Think Healthy Thoughts

The thoughts in your mind can significantly impact how you feel. By identifying irrational, catastrophizing, or unhelpful thoughts, you can begin to challenge those thoughts and establish a healthier, more balanced way of thinking.

Many of your most unhelpful thoughts occur when you are ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. The more you can stay present, the more likely you are to have thoughts that support your resilience. Practicing mindfulness can train the brain to be more present.

Confront Your Feelings Of Hopelessness

Feeling hopeless can feel suffocating. It brings about many different emotions, like anxiety, irritability, and even a depressed mood. Hopelessness is scary and can cause you to feel out of control. Because it is such a challenging feeling, finding methods of coping can be a struggle at times.

Feelings of hopelessness come from a number of factors, including anxiety, frustration, fear, and grief. They also can come from your imagination, as you envision different ways things can either go wrong or get worse. Learning how to take control of your feelings so you do not feel so hopeless is challenging, but possible. Just because you are feeling hopeless does not mean that you are hopeless, or that the situation that is upsetting you is not going to get better.

Let Go Of What You Cannot Control

Not being in control of things in your life can cause stress. That stress is difficult to cope with because there is nothing you can do to change things that are out of your control. The stress of feeling out of control can cause other feelings like:

Even though it is frustrating when things are out of your control, it is important to not allow the feeling of being out of control to consume you.

It may seem easier said than done, but letting go of what you cannot control can reduce feelings of frustration. When you let go of what you cannot control, you can shift your attention away from the things that are causing you stress. This allows you mental space to focus on the things that are within your control. The best method of letting go of control is to accept the things that are not in your power to control. Then, you can shift your focus onto the things that are in your control.

Get Back To Basics

Feeling overwhelmed can impact your resilience. Overwhelmed feelings can consume you when your mind is so filled with depressed, anxious, and stressful thoughts. When working on your resilience, it is important to get back to basics. Focus on your basic needs, like food, water, exercise, rest, and fun.

When focusing on your basic needs, you can take time to take care of yourself, spend time with family, or just get away from the environment that is making you feel more rested and resilient. Getting back to basics means that you shift your focus away from the stressors in your life and focus only on what you need to get out of your head and feel grounded.

Be Mindful Of What If Thoughts

What If thoughts are thoughts you have when you are thinking about all of the ways that something can go wrong. When you focus on What If thoughts, you become consumed by your anxiety, which affects your resilience. Something that is important to keep in mind is that what If thoughts are often due to imagined scenarios, and not real-life threats.

A great method to stay aware of and challenge What If thoughts are to take time to breathe and critically think about each thought. Ask yourself these questions:

Focus On Your Strengths

When facing tough times, it is easy to focus on what you are lacking, and what circumstances make you feel helpless against the circumstances that are challenging you. Keep in mind that there is a difference between feeling helpless and being helpless. Stress can cause you to forget your strengths, but remaining aware of those strengths is an instrumental part of building resilience.

Take time to focus on your strengths. What are you good at? What stressors are easy for you to handle? What qualities and skills do you have that can help you build resilience during tough times? Each of these questions is important to consider and can help a great deal when building confidence to be able to get through tough times.

Seek Counseling

For some, the approaches listed above are adequate in building resilience. But for those who feel stuck on their journey toward resiliency, it is important to remember you do not have to do it alone. Seeking outside support could help. Licensed mental health professionals (like therapists or psychologists) are trained to assist people in getting “unstuck” and continuing to build resilience.

Therapy can be challenging to start sometimes, but having a therapist to talk to can help you by providing you with a safe space to feel what you need to feel. A therapist can also teach you how to cope with your feelings of helplessness, and even help you feel more hopeful about your future.

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