Have I come to the end of my resilience? Three things to think about

By:  Gail Wagnild

Time to Read:  3 minutes

Do you ever get tired of reading about resilience and how wonderful it is to be resilient? We’re told it will make us happier, more productive and successful and a better person all the way around. Well, what if you don’t feel particularly resilient? There are situations in life that really knock us over and it takes a lot of effort to keep going. I know because I’ve been there, too – many times. I’ve had colossal failures, betrayals, rejection, illness – you know what I’m talking about. During those times I’ve wondered, “Have I come to the end of my resilience? Is this all I’ve got?”

In my head I don’t believe that. But deep down I worry that I’ve finally gone and done it; I’ve destroyed and depleted what resilience I had. Just when I was feeling pretty bouncy and thinking that I could manage anything life threw me, down I went.

If you’ve ever felt this way, I know of three things that will help.

  1. If you’re going through some hard times right now, it’s probably safe to say, “This ain’t your first rodeo.” Start by thinking about 3-5 situations in your life that were difficult for you. Write them down. Remember what they felt like. Now write down what helped you get through. Sometimes it’s just takes time. If that’s true you can remind yourself that this too shall pass.  Maybe it’s friends, work, exercise, prayer, taking a vacation, etc.  Each of us has a unique list of things that work.  Put this list somewhere where you are reminded of what you can do to help yourself.  
  2. It’s maybe even more important to write down the things that didn’t help and may have even kept you down longer. I think of the times I have procrastinated or just felt overwhelmed and unable to take a step in any direction and froze in place. I know that sometimes there’s a need to retreat to a quiet place for a while, but enough is enough. I’m also referring to the things we do that are self-destructive like overthinking, catastrophizing, overeating, drinking too much alcohol, or slouching on the couch for hours. These things don’t help. Make a list of the things that didn’t help you.
  3. Here’s the third thing I learned. Beneath the pain, uncertainty, and weariness my resilience is still there. It doesn’t really disappear even though I’m not aware of it. Just when I’m thinking, “It’s all gone, I can’t see anything. It’s murky and dark, where is my resilience?” it’s really there. You know that coal under pressure produces a beautiful diamond of stunning clarity and brilliance. Maybe that’s a little too hoaky for you, but it’s true that when we go through difficult times and break through at last, we have more mental clarity, inner strength, confidence. In fact, our resilience has grown stronger, too.

Here are the quick steps again: Write down the events that you have successfully navigated in your life. What was helpful? What was not?  How did you feel about yourself once you got to the other side? This is how resilience grows. So, when you think your resilience is all used up, remember that it’s just getting started and will grow and get stronger throughout your life. It’s the way it works.